Touring the Temples of Bangkok
With over 400 temples scattered throughout the city, Buddhism is a vital part of Bangkok and Thailand as a whole. Visitors to the city most certainly include a few of these glittering wats (temples) in their trip. The fifth day of our trip was devoted to the temples tour in the Thai capital.
Wat Phra Kaeo and Grand Palace
The first stop on the temple tour was the Wat Phra Kaeo, is the temple of the Emerald Buddha. ‘Wat Phra Sri Rattana Satsadaram’, is its real name. This was the biggest, busiest and most expensive temple we saw. It is not easy to describe the temple and I think everyone should see it when in Bangkok. The Temple is far and away the most sacred and important temple in the entire country thanks to the cherished relic it contains. The Emerald Buddha, carved from a single jade stone, is said to have been created in India in 43 BC.
Be warned there is strict dress code. Ensure that the legs and shoulders are covered. Who does not wear long clothing can rent them here (unfortunately many people do this and you have to wait in line accordingly). This is applicable in most of the temples in Bangkok.
After seeing impressive, sprawling temple complex that’s well worth half a day, we headed straight to the Grand Palace. The former home of the monarch, the Grand Palace is located right beside the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. There’s plenty to feast the eyes on. The grounds contain more than 100 buildings, all beautifully decorated with gold and diamonds in different colours in old-Bangkok style, separated by manicured gardens and courtyards.
After Grand Palace tour, it was time to cross the river, so we jumped on a cross-river ferry near Tha Tien Pier to go to Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) , located on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River.
This is my favourite temple in Bangkok. In the middle of this temple lays its most prominent characteristic, a 82 m high beautifully decorated Khmer-style tower where you can walk up the steep stairs and admire the view of Bangkok and it’s rivers. Ah, I love this temple! Unfortunately when we visited, the temple was under renovation so we could not climb up.
It is most impressive after dark when it is lit up and looks a bit magical and like a fairytale. Unfortunately, it closes before nightfall.
Our next stop was Wat Pho, this is the oldest temple in Bangkok and houses the Reclining Buddha, a 45-metre-long statue which depicts Buddha entering Nirvana. The building also houses a thousand images of Buddha, more than any other temple in Bangkok.
The temple is also the earliest centre for public education in Thailand, and still houses a school of Thai medicine. It is known as the birthplace of traditional Thai massage which is still taught and practiced at the temple.
There are 108 bronze bowls in the corridor representing the 108 auspicious characters of Buddha. Visitors may drop coins in these bowls as it is believed to bring good fortune, and it also helps the monks to maintain the place. You can purchase a bowl of coins at the entrance of the hall which you can drop in the 108 brown bowls.
One can have temple fatigue by end of the tour, so we decided to spend second half of the day doing shopping therapy followed by indulgence in Thai cuisine. This time we headed to Pratunam district where shoppers can get lost in time while enjoying a maniacal buying spree. Pratunam market is an open-air market consisting of many narrow walking lanes and a wide variety of clothing, while the other malls like Platinum mall feature comfy air-conditioning selling fashionable clothing. Everything can be bargained, so use haggling skills while buying things here.
Just about an hour from Bangkok is Thailand’s most impressive zoo/animal show, Safari world. Last leg of our Thailand tour was spent with animals of all kinds. The Safari World Open Zoo and the Marine World is Thailand’s biggest Zoo. Safari World is a drive-in zoological park divided into two parts. The first part is Safari Park, an open zoo with wild animals. The second part is the Marine Park where there are a variety of marine animals and shows of trained dolphins, birds, seals and apes.
We visited the Marine Park first. Once we purchased the tickets, we were given a map and show time information. Our English speaking guide took us to watch the Animal shows. As he was an experienced guide, he was able to time the animal shows well so that we wouldn’t miss the Safari world zoo. They have many shows to catch throughout the day (one after another, only some time allowance for you to walk to different venue) and there is only one timing for all the shows. You can’t catch them again once you missed it.
You’ll need a good lunch too, as the park is absolutely packed with stuff to do and fills up a full day without having time to see or do everything. Our day tour package came with an International buffet lunch inside Safari World. It sounded glamourous but expect nothing more than our Indian desi food.
The safari portion of Safari World is a drive through open sort of zoo with lots of exotic grazing animals, birds, and a handful of ferocious predators. It was truly worth a visit. As we booked a private van, we were able to go real close to the animals. The van provided us with a good height for photo shooting too!
After this unforgettable experience, we headed back to our hotel.We had a flight to catch in the night.Thailand trip ended with authentic Thai massage at our hotel backyard. This is another signature activity you just cannot afford to miss in Bangkok.