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Tuesday, 7 June 2016

The Emerald Buddha

There are many different places to see whilst you're travelling around Thailand, but, If you'd really like to experience the Thai culture, visiting a Buddhist Temple is a must! Out of the population in Thailand, 95% of the people are Buddhists. The culture is influenced hugely by Buddhism and you'll find Temples are extremely important and highly respected by the locals. Wat Phra Kaew in particular is very popular, located in the heart of Bangkok, the temple is regularly visited by both Thai people and tourists.

Wat Phra Kaew, also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha is a sacred place built inside the grounds of the Grand Palace. The temple is delicately designed with shimmers of gold vibrant tones all around the complex. The architecture of the temple is beautifully structured with extraordinary detailed decoration and fine artwork. Looking around, you'll see a 2000 metre wall surrounding the temple consisting of a magnificent mural painting telling the story of the Thai version of the Ramayana art.

You don't have to be a Buddhist to enter the Temple, but as it is a place of worship, visitors are asked to dress appropriately. Before entering, all visitors are asked to wear a non sleeveless top, and an item of clothing covering your legs. By dressing modestly, you're showing your respect to those who've come to pray, and also to the Buddha images around the temple. Avoid wearing ripped clothing, anything see through and a top that bares your shoulders. Understandably if you haven't packed any trousers don't worry, there's a facility inside the Grand Palace where you're able to borrow sarongs/trousers at a price. Or if you'd rather buy, there are plenty of little local shops outside the temple selling Thai style trousers for around £3 each (and you can always haggle for less!). It's actually cheaper buying the items from the locals outside, and you'll probably end up wearing the trousers for most of your holiday anyway!

The Emerald Buddha

As you walk up to the entrance you'll see the elegantly detailed decoration around the main temple. As soon as you walk into the temple, the atmosphere around you changes. The room is quiet, calming and very peaceful. Many Buddhists visit this part of the temple to pay their respects and pray to the Emerald Buddha. You'll find the Emerald Buddha in the centre of the room, sat in a meditating position on the highest platform. During different seasons, the robes of the Emerald Buddha is changed 3 times a year by the King. I visited Thailand during their summer season, and you can see here the Buddha wearing a gold garment with a delicate headpiece.

The 'Yak' (Giant) are the guards of the temples
A part of the mural painting along the inner walls of the Temple

Once you start walking towards the exit of the Temple, you'll come across the beautiful Palace gardens and the Grand Palace itself. 

On your way to the exit, you'll also find a small museum holding artifacts and pieces collected from the temple. Even the bones of the King's white elephants are kept here.

Another beautiful temple is Wat Pho, the home of the famous reclining Buddha. Wat Pho is located right next to Wat Phra Kaew and is only 100 baht to enter. If you've been to a temple before, you'll have noticed the difference in Buddha images, from standing to reclining to the meditating seated position. For each day of the week, there are 7 different Buddha images to represent each day, and at Wat Pho, you can find all 7 Buddhas there. Depending on which day of the week you're born, you'd pay your respects to the Buddha image that represented your day.

Make sure you're set to travel before midday if you're planning on getting there by taxi, as traffic can get very busy after 12. Otherwise the sky train or a short boat ride is a quick (and cheap!) way to get you to your destination.

It can get extremely hot when you're in Bangkok so make sure to bring a bottle of water with you to keep yourself hydrated throughout the day. Wat Phra Kaew is a tourist landmark with many people visiting, so just keep in mind it can get busy. With all the noise and the crowds outside, you do feel a sense of peace and serenity when you're inside the temple. It is definitely a place not to be missed.

Price for Ticket : 500 baht per person . Ticket allows you to visit the Emerald Buddha Temple and walk the grounds of the Grand Palace.
Opening times: 08:30 - 15-30

Photography: Trairat Songpao

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