For most backpackers, a trip to Bangkok would not be complete without taking in some of the cultural and historical highlights that the city has to offer, and with the epic Grand Palace, and countless wats (Wat is the Thai word for Temple) scattered around, it can often be difficult to choose which ones to visit.
Please remember to dress appropriately when visiting wats, to conform to cultural and religious expectations. Also be prepared to remove your shoes and leave them outside the temple complex, as footwear is not permitted inside. If you are worried about theft, bring along a plastic bag in which you can carry your shoes around with you whilst sightseeing.
This is my guide to a few of the very best wats in Bangkok:
Wat Pho (or the one with the Reclining Buddha) is located next to the popular Grand Palace, and as such is one of the most visited wats in Bangkok. Wat Pho is named after a monastery in India where Buddha is believed to have resided, and actually has over 1000 images of Buddha within its temple compounds – including the famous Reclining Buddha. It will cost you around 100Baht per person for entrance to Wat Pho, and this includes a free, small bottle of water.
Wat Arun (or the Temple of Dawn) is another Buddhist temple situated on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. The temple is so-called because supposedly the first light of morning shines off the temple and gives off a renowned glare. As such, watching this event at dawn is a popular pastime. Wat Arun has a famous central prang, which is built in Khmer style, and it is possible to ascend the very steep stairs to the top, to get some good views over the river. This central prang is surrounded by four smaller prangs. At Wat Arun, you can be expected to be charged 50Baht for admission.
Wat Traimit (or the one with the Golden Buddha) is located near Chinatown in Bangkok, and is famous housing the world’s largest golden statue, weighing in at 5.5 tonnes. The origins of this Buddha statue are unknown, although now they are a highlight for any backpacker’s itinerary while in the city. It will cost you 40Baht to see just the Golden Buddha, and a further 100Baht to see other areas of the temple.
Wat Saket (or the one with the Golden Dome) contains a chedi made of marble and is situated on a steep artificial hill. It actually has its origins from the Ayutthaya era, although it has been rebuilt since then. In November of each year, a Buddhist candlelight procession is held here, up the hill to the chedi. Entrance to Wat Saket compound is free, although nowadays they charge a small amount (10Baht or so) to see the chedi itself.
There are of course many other wats scattered around Bangkok, many of which can be read about over at Thaiways Magazine. I hope I have now assisted you choose what wat – and remember to have a great time in Bangkok wherever you visit! Also, this article of mine is intended to be a sister article to this piece: What wat? A guide to Chiang Mai’s temples.