When talking about beautiful temples in Thailand, it is almost impossible not to mention Wat Phra Kaew. Also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Wat Phra Kaew is one of the most sacred and famous Buddhist temples in Thailand. Located in the Grand Palace in the heart of Bangkok, it’s probably one of the easiest temples to visit in the country.
From a brief history to dress code, we’ve compiled everything you need to know about visiting Wat Phra Kaew below.
A brief history of Wat Phra Kaew
The Temple of the Emerald Buddha was built in 1785 when King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke (King Rama I) moved the capital of Thailand from Thonburi to Bangkok. Unlike most temples in Thailand, Wat Phra Kaew does not have living quarters for monks. Instead, it’s filled with sacred buildings and items. You can find elaborate paintings, sculptures and pagodas all over the temple.
What to see in Wat Phra Kaew
Wat Phra Kaew is a beautiful complex with ornate buildings. Considered one of the largest temples in Bangkok, you can find Buddhist statues, towers, and temples here. However, the highlights of the temple are as follows:
The Emerald Buddha
The main attraction of Wat Phra Kaew is, of course, the Emerald Buddha. It is located in the main hall of the temple, otherwise known as Ubosot or ordination room. Don’t expect to see a giant Buddha statue, as the Emerald Buddha is actually quite small. The statue, representing the Buddha seated in meditation position, is only 66 cm high. Despite its size, it is one of the most sacred objects in Thai culture.
Also known as Phra Kaew Morakot, the statue is not actually made of emerald. It was carved from a single block of jade and is decorated with garments encrusted with pure gold jewelry. Only the King of Thailand can touch the sacred statue. Three times a year, the king changes the golden garment in a formal ritual with the help of an assistant. The clothes correspond to the three seasons of Thailand: hot, cool and rainy.
The model of Angkor Wat
Along with the Emerald Buddha, the model of Angkor Wat is also a must-see when visiting Wat Phra Kaew. Angkor Wat is an ancient temple complex in Cambodia, and the detailed model was built under the order of King Rama IV. Legend has it that King Rama IV wanted to move the temple complex from Cambodia to Bangkok. However, as this was not feasible, he ordered the construction of a detailed model of Angkor Wat instead.
Starting from the north gate and continuing clockwise around the compound, you can find 178 murals depicting the story of Ramakian. It includes representations of Rama (the hero) and Sita (his bride) and Hanuman (the monkey king).
How to get to Wat Phra Kaew
Wat Phra Kaew is located on the premises of the Grand Palace in the old city of Bangkok. One of the cheapest and most unique ways to reach the temple is by river taxis. You can take a boat from Chang Pier and cross the Chao Phraya River to get to the temple.
You can also take a regular taxi to Wat Phra Kaew. However, be aware that some drivers will try to overcharge you and even try to rip you off by telling you that the Grand Palais is closed for the day. If you don’t want to take a taxi, taking a bike or a car can also be an ideal option.
Wat Phra Kaew entrance fees and opening hours
Unless there is an important ceremony, the temple is open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. every day.
There is a 500 Baht entrance fee to the Grand Palace, which gives you access to attractions inside the palace. These include Wat Phra Kaew, Royal Thai Decorations and Coins Pavilion, and Queen Sirikit Textile Museum. The ticket also gives you free access to the Vimanmek Palace Museum.
Dress code for visiting Wat Phra Kaew
It is essential to keep in mind that Wat Phra Kaew is a sacred temple. Therefore, there are strict dress rules that you must follow. Here is a general guideline for dressing when visiting the temple:
– Knees and shoulders must always be covered.
– No tight or transparent clothes.
– Avoid yoga pants, stretch pants and sleeveless tops.
– Clothing depicting religious themes and themes related to death are not permitted.
– Torn clothes are not allowed.
– If you have Buddhist or Hindu tattoos, be sure to cover them up.
You will not be allowed to enter the temple (and the Grand Palace) if you do not follow the dress code guidelines. However, you can hire appropriate clothing at the entrance if you forget to wear appropriate clothing.
Other things to keep in mind when visiting Wat Phra Kaew
Since Wat Phra Kaew is a sacred place, you must follow specific rules and etiquette.
– Always speak quietly. Avoid laughing or shouting inside the temple. You shouldn’t run around the temple grounds either.
– Be respectful. Try not to interfere with people who might visit the temple to actually worship.
– Do not chew gum, eat snacks or smoke cigarettes inside the temple.
– Do not wear any accessories like hats, sunglasses or headphones when exploring the temples. In addition, you will be invited to enter Wat Phra Kaew.
– Avoid turning your back, pointing fingers and touching Buddha images.
For more temples to visit in Thailand, check out our article on the 5 best temples to visit in Thailand and the 5 best temples in Bangkok.