To be honest after our first day of touring Bangkok I wasn’t completely convinced that Temples were my thing at all. They seemed pretty unexciting and each one we visited seemed exactly the same as the previous one, however after seeing some of the amazing architecture in Kanchanaburi and the historic ruins of Ayutthaya and Sukhothai I was quickly converted into a ‘snap happy’ Temple Lover.
On our first visiti to Bangkok we didn’t have enough time to cover the main temples (as denoted by Lonely Planet), so when we came back the second time we made sure our clocks were set to the right time and we got up bright and early to ensure we had enough time to cover all of them as we were leaving for Ayutthaya that evening.
After decking ourselves out in long trousers and tops covering our shoulders (this is necessary to get into the major temples, some people will also tell you to wear closed toe shoes but this did not seem to be required) we were ready to start exploring. All of the Temples were in walking distance of our Hostel, Sawasdee House and therefore we had no worries about getting caught up in another Tuk Tuk scam.
First on our list was the infamous Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew. We had been told to arrive early to beat the crowds, and by our standards, we did this, arriving to the Main Palace by 9.30am. Unfortunately there was already a huge queue for tickets so we took a few quick snaps and decided to move on to Wat Pho, (the second Temple recommended to us by LP) which was just around the corner.
When we arrived, Wat Pho was much larger than we expected. All we had previously heard about this Temple was that it housed the largest reclining Buddha in Thailand, however around the Temple it seemed there were 8 other important features. We took our time strolling around the grounds, passing hundreds of smaller golden Buddhas on our way and some interesting stone statues which we believe are the infamous ‘Wat Pho Giants’.
We finally found our way to the huge temple housing the Reclining Buddha and we were amazed with the size of it (46 metres in length by 15 metres in height). It was so large that it was near on impossible to fit it all into one photograph.
Whilst walking around and soaking up the culture we were interrupted by a ‘clanging’ sound echoing throughout the room. We decided to walk around and see what was going on. There was a long line of metal pots along the back wall of the Temple and an area where you could change your notes up for one Baht coins. After changing up the coins there was a queue of people dropping one coin into every pot.
Our next destination was Wat Arun, which means ‘Temple of Dawn’. To get to Wat Arun we had to board a ferry across the Mae Nam Chao Phraya (river). To get to the pier we took the scenic route (….. we got lost again) through the back streets, where we came across a great local food market.
When arriving at the Ferry we were amazed that it only cost 3 Baht per person. Seeing Wat Arun in the distance was a refreshing sight. This temple appeared more like a well-preserved ruin, as opposed to the constant gold, white and red that we had been surrounding ourselves with.
The ferry ride took about one minute and when we stepped off and walked into the ‘Temple of Dawn’ the first thing I noticed was how narrow and steep the steps were. I was thinking “how the hell will I get up there?” and then when I finally reached the top I realised that it would be even harder getting down!
The main design feature about this Temple is the sheer 82 metre height of it, however there were many other interesting aspects as well.
After leaving Wat Arun we were headed back to the Grand Palace, hoping that the crowds from the morning had died down, however unfortunately this was not the case, if anything the Temple and Palace were even busier now. We decided that since we are back in Bangkok at least 2 more times during our trip we will go and visit again at a later date (at what the rest of the World deems as early!)
In Bangkok, we also visited the Golden Mount, which was supposed to be the best place to view the sunset in Bangkok with its 360 degree views of the city. However after climbing up the winding staircase of 400 steps, we were told that the Temple closes at 5.30pm and therefore unfortunately we would not able to witness this. On our very quick descent back down (we were literally pushed by the staff at the Temple), we did witness the start of the sunset which did look pretty promising. The Golden Mount does not have much to offer in terms of Giant Buddhas etc, however the view alone is enough to warrant a quick visit at least.
Since our Bangkok tour and further trips around Thailand’s historical cities we have become quite knowledgeable in the meanings of certain Buddha poses as well as the uses of certain rooms within the Temples…..I must say that my interest in Temples, especially the ruins (which I will post about later) has really surprised me and even after 16 days of pretty much constant sightseeing I AM NOT YET TEMPLED OUT!