Thailand is a popular holiday destination among Indian and foreign travelers. It is an ideal beach destination to relax or party, to explore street food or fine dining, for fun or cultural experience. The temples in Thailand gives it a unique character and identity. Everywhere you go, there will be a Wat in Thailand. The local name for a temple complex is Wat. Thailand is predominantly a Buddhist country and according to an estimate, there are approximately 30,000 temples in Thailand.
These temples are in different sizes and design but have a distinctive in style. The term “Wat” is used for the whole temple complex, which consists of ordination hall known as Ubosot, the Viharn where images of Lord Buddha are kept and Chedi in which relics related to Lord Buddha are kept. These temples play an important part in the socio-economic structure of Thailand. Most Thai people are Buddist and they visit these temples on a regular basis for religious & spiritual purposes.
Basic etiquette for visiting temples in Thailand
* Women should wear full-length skirt or pants and shoulders should be covered. Men should also wear full-length trousers and shirt or T-shirt with sleeves.
** Remove footwear and sunglasses before entering the prayer area in Wat.
* Check for the signboards inside the temple to make sure if you can take photographs with Buddha’s statue or not.
** Do not sit with your feet pointing towards the statue of Buddha. Always fold your legs.
* Don’t touch monks (Especially women). Greet them by bowing your head.
The temples of Thailand are more than religious places. These temples are must-see places when in Thailand. They are beautiful, decorated with intricate designs and most of the time very colorful. Here are some of the best temples to visit in Thailand.
Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok
This is the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand and its official name is Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram. It is situated inside the grand palace complex in Bangkok. The temple was built by King Chao Phraya Chakri, who is popularly known as Rama I. He decided to build a Wat inside the grand palace compound and house the statue of Emerald Buddha in it. This statue is considered as the most sacred object, which protects the kingdom.
There are several stories regarding the origin of the statue of Emerald Buddha. Some believe it was originated in India, then sent to Sri Lanka and later on reached Ayutthaya in Thailand. It is not possible to establish its origin because no one is allowed near this. Only the Thai king is allowed to touch the statue for changing costumes of the statue during the change of season ceremony. Which takes places at the beginning of summer, rainy and winter season.
There are sound 100 small and big buildings inside the Wat. Two big statues of Yakshis guard the entrance of the temple. Other than these there are 3 Pagodas, 8 towers, a library, model of Angkor Wat, a Hermit statue, and elephant statue are the main building in Wat. The walls of the Wat are decorated with Thai murals based on Indian epic Ramayana.
It is indeed one of the most beautiful temples in Thailand.
Here is my Bangkok itinerary for 3 days to explore the best places.
Wat Arun in Bangkok
The official name of Wat Arun is Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan and it is also known as Temple of Dawn. This temple is dedicated to Hindu God Aruna, who is known as Sun God in India. The temple is situated on the bank of Chao Phraya River.
The distinct feature of Wat Arun is its spires, which are known as prang. This is a prominent feature of Khmer style temple architecture. There is four small spires/prang around the main spire. These spires/prangs are decorated by seashells and small pieces of porcelain. There are statues of Chinese soldier and animals on the lower walls of prangs.
This temple has lots of Hindu influence like other temples in Thailand. The main spire is symbolizing the Mount Meru in Hindu mythology. There is a statue of Hindu demigod Indra with his elephant Eravat on the terrace and top of the main spire has Trident of Lord Shiva.
Another important place in Wat Arun complex is orientation hall. The statue of Yaksha, white figure Sahassa Deja, a green statue of Thotsakan and demon Ravana are some other things to see in Wat Arun complex.
The six pavilions on Riverside are known as “Sala” are with landing piers for boats, which shows the Chinese influence.
Wat Pho in Bangkok
The official name of Wat Pho is Wat Phra Chetuphon Wimon Mangkhalaram Rajwaramahawihan and it’s popularly known as the temple of reclining Buddha. It is the largest figure of Buddha in Thailand, it’s 15 meters in height and 46 meters long. Buddha is in reclining pose or sleeping, this statue depicts that he is Nirvana. The 108 bronze bowls in the corridor of the temple represent the 108 auspicious characters of Buddha and visitor drop coins in it for the good fortune.
Wat Pho is the oldest and biggest temple in Bangkok. Phra Ubosot is the ordination hall, where are Buddhist rituals are performed during the festival and other ceremonies.
Phra Rabiang is the most photographed area in Wat Pho. There are around 400 images of Buddha, some of them are in standing position and some of these in sitting position. There are four towers at each corner of the bot, which are known as Phra Prang. Other than these there are four large stupas, each 42 meters high, which are known as chedis.
Phra Mondop, Phra Chedi Rai, Sala Karn Parien, Sala rai, Phra Viharn Kod and Tamnak Wasukri are some of the other important structures in Wat Pho complex.
Wat Pho Thai Traditional Medical and Massage School inside the complex is the first Thai medicine school in Thailand. Different courses of Thai medicine and Thai massage are offered to the students here. The tourists can also take a Thai massage or a Thai therapy in this school after taking an appointment.
Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai
Alina from Happy Kid recommend Wat Rong Khun, which is popularly known as The White temple
The White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) is the main landmark in Chiang Rai, Northern Thailand. Famous for its unconventional architecture and symbolism, you must see it yourself to understand its complexity. It is fascinating in ways that cannot be described or understood from pictures! It actually reminded me of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
The White Temple can be visited on a daily basis. Thai people are admitted for free and there is a fee of 50 Bhat for foreigners.
Privately-owned, the White Temple is actually an art exhibition in the form of a Buddhist Temple. It was designed by a local artist, Chalermchai Kositpipat. Even though the work started more than 20 years ago, it is not yet considered final. The owner accepts small donations for his work, as he doesn’t want to be influenced by the money received and does not expect to finalize the project anytime soon. He explains that “only death can stop my dream but cannot stop my project”.
The all-white temple is decorated with shiny mirror glass fragments and strange sculptures. The access is done through a bridge representing “the cycle of rebirth” which ends in the “Gate of Heaven”.
The Usobot shows unexpected elements, together with Buddhist and Hindu symbols. Some of the images are really strange for such a location and it is difficult to understand their meaning. Among demons and flames, you can observe characters like Neo from Matrix, Harry Potter or Hello Kitty, together with nuclear explosions, oil pumps or terrorist attacks. There are various interpretations of the meaning, all centered around the good and bad in the modern world.
Wat Chalong in Phuket
Laura & Charlie from The Travelling Stomach recommend Wat Chalong in Phuket, Thailand
Phuket is well known for its beach resorts and party atmosphere, but inland you can also find an array of beautiful temples and architecture. One of the best examples of these is the Wat Chalong. Less famous than some of the other temples around the country, but still impressive for sure!
Regarded as one of the most of important out of the 29 Buddhist temples dotted around Phuket alone, a visit to Wat Chalong could easily be combined with a sunrise visit to the Big Buddha (perfect timing to avoid the biggest crowds!). Dotted around the Wat you will find many ancient statues, such as those of ex-abbots of the temple, as well as the main Grand Pagoda that dominates the temple’s skyline throughout.
The temple is open from 7 am in the morning through to 5 pm in the evening. If you can get there for sunrise when it opens you’ll be rewarded with fewer visitors and some dramatic Thai colors in the sky as a backdrop to the visit.
As with many temples around Thailand and the rest of Asia, you’ll be expected to dress appropriately, meaning long trousers or dresses and covering your shoulders. You’ll also be expected to take your shoes off when you enter, so be prepared to leave them by the entrance whilst you explore!
Wat Plai Laem in Ko Samui
Anna Paananen from Hammock Stories recommend Wat Plai Laem in Ko Samui
Koh Samui is more of a laid-back and beachy tourist destination but it does, however, have some Buddhist temples and statues to get a glimpse of authentic Thai culture and religion. Wat Plai Laem is a newish yet beautiful temple area that I’d definitely recommend for you to visit. It’s in the Northeastern corner close to the famous Big Buddha statue and closeby to the major tourist hubs of Fisherman’s Village and Chaweng. You will need about one hour here give or take.
One thing though, please respect the temple rules and dress code. They have signs reminding you of the correct code. Nevertheless, last time I saw a lady with a tight dress not covering her knees nor chest. I could not help myself and went to tell her to respect the rules. They will borrow you a sarong if you don’t have your own.
Anyway, the temple grounds have a few different temples, a souvenir shop and a few simple Thai cafes where you can find food and drinks. It can get very hot walking on the tiles as they absorb all the heat. It’s open every day and it’s free. You can buy some fish food though to feed the big fish.
The main statue is Guanyin, the goddess of compassion and mercy with her 18 arms and she rests on a pavilion on the water. Her worship can be dated back to China and the statue also holds Chinese influences like Thailand, in general, has, too. There are other impressive statues also, such as the big Buddha and other beautiful temples with skilfull Thai paintings.
Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon in Ayutthaya
Florence Shih from Yoga, Wine & Travel recommend Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon in Ayutthaya
The historic city of Ayutthaya was the second capital of Thailand, or what was once known as the Siamese Kingdom. The city was an important center of diplomacy and commerce from the 14th to the 18th century, and Ayutthaya is now an archaeological ruin and UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring well-preserved temple complexes, towers, and pagodas. It is one of the best day trips from Bangkok and you can spend hours exploring your way through the ancient ruins.
Of the dozens of temples that you can explore, make sure you add Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon to your itinerary. Also known as the Great Temple of Auspicious Victory, the Buddhist temple dates back to 1357. Temple derived its name from the chedi (or stupa) built to commemorate the victory of King Naresuan over the Burmese invasion in 1593.
What I loved about this temple is the beautiful small statues of the Buddha surrounding the main chedi; the Buddha statues are often adorned with brightly-colored yellow robes by devotees who donate to the temple in the hopes of receiving good fortune and karma.
The temple complex is compact but has plenty of nooks and crannies so take your time exploring. Don’t miss seeing the resident turtles that live in the river directly in front of the entrance. Entry costs 20 Baht and it’s important that you cover your shoulders, midriff, and knees as it is a living temple.
Wat Rong Suea Ten in Chiang Rai
Florence Shih from Yoga, Wine & Travel also recommend Wat Rong Suea Ten in Chiang Rai
Chiang Rai is the northernmost large city in Thailand and was a former capital city of the Lanna Kingdom in the 13th century. It is also sometimes referred to as the “Art Capital” of Thailand. It was the birthplace of several prominent Thai artists who have not only produced unique artwork. Also designed famous Buddhist temples including the iconic White Temple, Wat Rong Khun.
A former student of the artist who designed the White Temple went on to create Wat Rong Suea Ten. Also informally known as the “Blue Temple” thanks to its radiant royal blue-colored facade. Though Wat Rong Suea Ten is a relatively new temple and was only completed around 3 years ago, it has quickly become one of the most popular places to visit in Chiang Rai. Its name means “Temple of the Tigers Jumping Over the Channel” as Tigers supposedly used to live in this region.
The deep blue color of the temple’s exterior symbolizes the sky, and the interior features paintings detailing the life of Buddha. The main gates and courtyard feature intricate statues of nagas, Buddha and door guardians. Once you are in the main temple, ensure that you keep your voice down and sit down or kneel if you are taking a photo with the Buddha statue. Like all Buddhist temples in Thailand, you must dress appropriately and cover your knees and shoulders; at this time, there is no entrance fee or ticket needed to visit the Blue Temple.
Wat Chaiwatthanaram in Ayutthaya
Fiona from Passport and Piano recommend Wat Chaiwatthanaram in Ayutthaya
Wat Chaiwatthanaram is a magnificent Buddhist temple in the ancient city of Ayutthaya. The temple sits on the west bank of Chao Phraya river and it’s one of the most impressive temples to see in the city. It was built in the traditional Khmer style in 1630 by the king Prasat Thong.
Wat Chaiwatthanaram means the temple of long reign and glorious era. It was the first temple built by King Prasat Thong, and it celebrates his mother’s residence in the area. The temple was restored in 1987 and its now one of the most visited attractions in Ayutthaya Historical Park.
The central prang of the temple is 35 meters high. It’s built on a rectangular platform with 4 smaller prangs. Surrounding the center prangs are eight chedi- shaped chapels.
The remains of 120 Buddha statues can be found on the wall that surrounds the temple. Its thought that these were once decorated in black and gold. The colored stonework of the temple is beautiful, and the intricate layers of the bricks are highly decorative.
The easiest way to visit Wat Chaiwatthanaram and Ayutthaya city is by train from Bangkok. Trains depart regularly from Hualamphong station, and it takes approximately 1.5 hours.
When you arrive at Ayutthaya station, there are plenty of tuk-tuk drivers waiting to take you on a tour of the city. Its easy to negotiate an hourly rate. May be you can stay in Ayutthaya.
The Wats of Thailand is the most beautiful places in Thailand to experience a different side of Thai culture. They are not only religious places but also beautiful monuments for any traveler. These are some of the popular and best temples in Thailand.