Exploring Royal Temples in Bangkok

We dedicated the second day in the old royal district, Ko Ratanakosin area to exploring the famous temples in Bangkok, Wat Pho and Wat Arun.

As we had split our visit to the Grand Palace and the temples across two days (read post here), this post is part II of our series, where we had ample time to stroll the temple grounds and also watch the sunset by the river while sipping on our drinks…

The best way to get acquainted with Bangkok is through Nancy Chandler’s maps! We cannot recommend this enough – it has by far the BEST tips, hidden places, restaurants and great details displayed in a fun graphical manner! 🙂 . It even comes with a little booklet with lots of practical information about places for shopping, eating, sight-seeing, all of it! We used these maps in Bangkok and Chiang Mai and found lots of hidden gems!

For transportation to the main touristic sites along the ChaoPhraya river, use the river taxi boats, AKA. rua duan (unless of course, you’re close enough to walk). As one would expect of any big city, the traffic on the roads in Bangkok can be horrendous, and the river taxi-boats get you there in a fraction of the time. Just be sure to buy a ticket (mostly on the ferry) and don’t be intimidated by the crowds, or boat-conductors with shrill whistles! 🙂

Travel Tip: There are two main types of boats/ferry:

Express Boats (watch out for the flag): Orange – THB 15 (6am -7pm), Yellow – THB 20-29, Green – THB 13-32. All of these only stop at certain piers, so pay attention to the maps at the pier or better yet, ask someone! They’re very helpful.

Local Line Boats: No flag! THB 10-14.These stop at every numbered pier, daily 6am – 6pm

We fluctuated between the Orange and the Local depending on the closest pier and timing! (skip the tourist boat as they may be more crowded, infrequent and expensive)

Ferry stop
Rushing to get the next ferry out – hop on the right boat!

We hopped on the orange flag from pier N1 (Tha Oriental) and headed towards pier N8 (Tha Tien) – right at the gates of Wat Po!

Cutting through traffic!

Wat Pho (or Wat Po) may also be known as the temple with the most superlatives in Thailand; one of the LARGEST temple complexes in the city, BIGGEST reclining Buddha, MOST Buddha images under one roof (more than one thousand) and a leading school for Thai massage.

Ticket: THB 100; Timing: 8am – 5pm

Upon entering the temple, we were first greeted by a giant gong – an auspicious ring to our visit!

Buddhist prayer gong
Close up view of the Buddha’s head
The reclining Buddha – full view

We made a beeline towards the highlight of the temple; the reclining Buddha covered in gold leaf, with his head resting on his right arm and a gold block/pillow. An impressive 15 meters high and 46 meters long, the majestic image really does take you by surprise since it seems almost “squeezed – in” the long hall. 

The walls and pillars of the hall are covered with beautifully painted and colorful murals depicting scenes from the Buddha’s life. We walkd around enamored by the sheer detail in these paintings.

The view upto the ceiling – walls with murals and brightly painted ceiling
A close up view of one of the murals
His head is resting on a pillow (block) with a combination of textures – gold mosaic inlay on the front, glass mosaic at the back
Close up view of the feet with illustrations in mother-of-pearl

The feet of the Buddha are 5 meters long (height) and inlaid with mother-of-pearl illustrations of the 108 various characteristics of the Buddha (laksanas).

Beautiful illustrations – look at the detail!

The temple has several references to the number 108 that has much significance in Buddhism; 108 positive actions and symbols that led the Buddha to perfection.

Down the hall covered with brightly painted pillars, there are also 108 small bronze bowls lined to the right…these are wishing bowls!

The large hall lined with 108 bronze wishing bowls

Purchase a bowl of pennies from the entrance (there’s a guy to the side) and drop them in the 108 bronze bowls to make a wish and pray for good luck! (The money for the bowl also goes towards helping the monks preserve the temple which is always nice)

Drop pennies in the wishing bowls for good luck!

We explored the grounds in search of the numerous Chedis and gilded Buddha statues that we had read in the books… and came across these (almost comical) statues at one of the gates! These Chinese statues were once used as ballasts on ships – not much of a religious significance!

Chinese statues at the gates

The temple grounds are dotted with stupas/mounds with intricately carved details and colorful little flowers decorating the doors and Chedis. We walked through the doors to see the gilded statues of the Buddha sitting in the lotus position…

Buddha statues in lotus position
Gorgeous view late afternoon

As we admired the view of the Chedis (Stupas and mounds) with their peaks glimmering gold against the warm sun’s rays, there were these two cute little children busy playing on the side,  completely oblivious to their surroundings and the tourists! It was so interesting to watch them engrossed in their game that we had to take a picture 🙂

Two cute little kids busy with their game

Since Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn) is under restoration until 2016, they have limited access to the structure and grounds, and it did not make much sense to cross the river and see it up close with all of its scaffolding-glory! So instead… we followed Nancy Chandler’s advice, and decided to watch the sunset on the Chaophraya river across from the Wat Arun.

We walked over to Amorosa (restaurant above the Deck, Arun Residence). This is an EXTREMELY popular spot for dinner, and you should most definitely get a reservation. We got lucky and found a spot right at sunset (early dinner)! By this time, we were cranky tired, hungry and thirsty…

The food here was absolutely delicious – pomelo and shrimp salad, and garlic prawn curry; Chang beer for the Mr. and Thai-Iced coffee for the Mrs. – Yummmmmmmmm!

Daddy long legs – don’t play with your food!

And while we ate…Did someone say party on a boat?! The music from this Chaophraya Princess cruise boat was loud and a bit obnoxious, but entertaining all the same as it took laps across the river!

Lots of tourists aboard the ChaoPhraya Princess boat

But most of all – This view of Wat Arun should NOT be missed! INCREDIBLE against the pink hues of the sunset…

Beautiful view of Wat Arun against the sunset
Long tail boats as private taxis glittering in the river

Stay a little while longer after the sun goes down. The view of a city lit-up against the dark sky, and several glittering long tail boats floating across the river against the temple, makes for a very picturesque dinner indeed! ❤

One last look at the beautiful Wat Arun

 

Hope you enjoyed reading!

xo, -A&A

Have you taken a tour of the temples? What did you think? Send us your thoughts and comments!

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