The Buddhist Temples Of Bangkok

One of the best things about going to Bangkok is visiting the Buddhist temples. The word for “temple” in the Thai language is “wat.” The Thai temples are incredibly beautiful and there are hundreds of them. As you travel around the city, you see their gleaming gold pagodas shining above the surrounding walls. Some are so big they look like cities unto themselves. The largest and most famous temples are huge tourist attractions. We weren’t eager to be surrounded by crowds of tourists so we tried to find a temple that fewer people visited. Someone recommended that we go to the Temple of the Dawn, which isn’t exactly a small temple, but it is on the other side of the river from the main area of Bangkok so it’s slightly off the beaten track.

Going there gave us another opportunity to take the river taxi, which we soon realized was our favorite experience in Bangkok. Well, maybe second to eating. Once you’re out on the water, the energy of the city subsides, you feel much calmer and clearer, plus you get to see a lot of Bangkok without being snarled up in traffic. The water taxi is definitely the way to go whenever you can and it only costs 25 cents. What a bargain!

Gliding along the river, you have a great view of the beautiful buildings on the shore. It was an overcast day but, as the river taxi approached the Temple of the Dawn, the sun broke through the clouds casting dramatic rays of light down on the temple. It looked like the heavens had opened up and were bestowing a blessing of divine light on the temple.

The Temple of the Dawn is an amazing place. From the river it looks like a huge missle launch pad. As soon as we arrived, we knew why we’d chosen this as the first temple we visited in Thailand. First of all, consider the name, the Temple of the Dawn. The name of our spiritual organization is The Universal Fellowship of Light, and here we were appropriately at the Temple of the Dawn. The temple’s actual name is Wat Arun and it’s named after the Indian god of the Dawn, Aruna.

Entering the temple grounds, we first came to a very old banyan tree, wrapped with multi-colored cloth. We mediated under the tree, basking in the inner light. The main feature of the temple is an 82-meter tall spire that is decorated with colorful floral murals made of glazed porcelain. The temple is decorated with many beautiful statues and murals. Tara especially enjoyed the angels that surround the temple.

Our next stop was Wat Pho, the oldest and largest temple in Bangkok. It also has the distinction of housing the longest reclining Buddha and the largest collection of images of Buddha in Thailand. The temple dates from the 16th century and it was the earliest center of public education. That tradition is being kept alive today by the temple serving as the national headquarters for the preservation of traditional Thai medicine. Within the temple grounds are large massage pavilions for the public and a massage school across the street.

The Wat Pho grounds are really huge and the many buildings extremely beautiful but the main attraction is definitely the reclining Buddha that illustrates the Buddha’s passing into Nirvana. It is 46 meters long and 15 meters high.

Visiting Buddhist temples was one of the highlights of our trip to Bangkok. We only had time to visit a few out of the hundreds of incredible temples that exist throughout the city but here’s a tip just in case you ever go to Thailand and are looking for a super special experience.

Friends of ours, who used to live in Thailand, told us about the ultimate temple trip, but it was way beyond our budget. It’s a three-day boat trip on the nautical equivalent of the Orient Express train. You travel up the river from Bangkok on the Manohra 2, a boat that has been transformed into a luxury cabin cruiser, complete with antiques and Persian carpets. The boat docks overnight next to a temple and then continues the next day to the ancient city of Ayuthaya.

Ayuthaya is located at the confluence of three rivers and was the ancient capital of the Siamese Kingdom. It ruled the area for 400 years until the Burmese, using battle trained elephants, conquered the city in 1767. There are several museums in Ayuthaya, including the outstanding Chantharakasem National Museum. One of the most photographed sites in Thailand is also located in Ayuthaya, the famous Buddha head surrounded by tree roots that you’ve probably seen on postcards.

If you’re looking for an exotic travel experience, the river trip to Ayuthaya is one to include on your to do list. The cost of the three-day boat trip is $850-1150, which was out of our range, but if you can afford it, it’s an experience you’ll never forget. For more information, see

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