Wat Phra Kaew
Location: Na Phra Lan Road | Phra Borom Maha Rajawang, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand
Reason to visit: the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand
Our ratings: ★★★★
Entrance fee: Entrance to the Grand Palace (500 baht for foreigners) includes entrance to Wat Phra Kaew.
Opening Hours: Open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; the ticket office for the Grand Palace closes at 3:30 p.m.
Wat Phra Kaew, commonly known in English as the Emerald Buddha Temple, is considered as the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand. You may get surprised by the small size of the Emerald Buddha statue – it is only 26 inches (66 centimeters) tall, but you will understand the greatness once you see it. The Emerald Buddha is the most important representation of the Buddha in Thai Buddhism. The temple is embellished with elaborate carvings, paintings and pagodas throughout, and is aesthetically pleasing. One could spend an entire afternoon exploring and trying to capture every detail that was put into the making of this historic temple.
History of Wat Phra Kaew
The construction of the Grand Palace began in 1782 when King Rama I was in power. Shortly after in 1785, Wat Phra Kaew began to build. Despite the name, the Emerald Buddha isn't actually made by emerald. It was made by green jade or jasper. No one knows certainly because the element and composition has never been analyzed.
According to legend, this Buddha image originated in India where the sage Nagasena prophesied that the Emerald Buddha would bring "prosperity and pre-eminence to each country in which it resides". Therefore, the Emerald Buddha deified in the Wat Phra Kaew is deeply awed in Thailand as the protector of the country.
The Main Shrine Hall
The highly respected Emerald Buddha statue is placed in the Main Shrine Hall. Only the King of Thailand (or highest ranking royal family member if the king is not present) may touch the sacred object. The King of Thailand changes the golden garment during a formal ritual three times a year(hot season, cool season, and rainy season) with the help of an assistant.
The two Buddha statues in front of the Emerald Buddha statue represent King Rama I and King Rama II, each weighs 38kg. There are murals on all sides of the temple - the front and the back sides are completed during the reign of King Rama I, the left and the right sides are finished during the reign of King Rama III and King Rama IV.
Boromphiman Hall is a western-style building located in the north of the Main Shrine Hall. It was built by King Rama V in 1909 for the Prince. It serves as the guesthouse for heads of state and the royal family. It is generally not open to visit except for April 6th each year.
The Scripture Library
The Scripture Library of Wat Phra Kaew is a magnificent and glorious place. The eaves are in the shape of a special crest, and all four doorways are guarded by the Yaksha. In front of the Scripture Library, there are some small pavilions displaying the white elephants and national emblems which represent each King Rama. There is a small and realistic Angkor Watt Model built by Rama IV located in the north side of the scripture library.
Celestial Being Sculptures
There are a total of 7 pairs of celestial being sculptures on the high platform. For example, 'The lion fairy', the head and upper body is a female human and the lower part of the body is a lion. A Kinnara is a paradigmatic lover, a celestial musician, half-human and half-horse.
The Hallway Art
Painted by Rama I, there are 178 paintings and verses on the hallway of the entire Wat Phra Kaew. It mainly tells a myth. The green monster is evil and likes to grab people's wives, while the white monkey is kind and good. Once the white money saved the queen and protected the whole city with his extraordinary power.
The sacred temples in Thailand follow a dress code, which is strictly followed. Men must wear long trousers and sleeved shirts and shoes; women must wear long skirts. Visitors who arrive dressed otherwise may rent appropriate clothing items at the entry area of the temple. It is compulsory to remove the shoes before entering the temple, as a sign of respect of the Buddha, as is the practice in all other temples in Thailand. While offering prayers before the Buddha image, the sitting posture should avoid any offensive stretching of feet towards the deity; the feet should be tucked in towards the back.
How to Get to Wat Phra Kaew
Wat Pra Kaew are in the Banglamphu area of Bangkok - the 'Old City'.
You can take a taxi or Tuk Tuk.
Also, the following buses will get you there:
Bus Number: 1, 35, 44, 47, 123, 201
Air-conditioned Bus Number: 2, 3, 7, 8, 12, 25, 39, 44, 82
To find out more, please visit our Bangkok section.