My favourite temples and shrines in Bangkok.

The temple (called a "wat" in Thai) is a holy place, and there are specific rules to be observed on temple grounds. Read more about do and don't in a Thai temple on the Sidebar >>>

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Chao Mae Tuptim Shrine (ศาลเจ้าแม่ทับทิม)

On the grounds of the Nai Lert Hotel, this shrine was originally dedicated to the female spirit Tuptim. As the legend goes, a woman who prayed to the shrine for a baby conceived shortly thereafter, and returned after the birth with a statue of a carved penis to thank the spirit. Over the years many women who wanted to conceive have donated penises to the shrine, so that there's a whole collection of stone, wooden, ceramic, and plastic penises in all shapes, colours and sizes, and the shrine is now known as a shrine of fertility. [Somkid Road, grounds of the Nai Lert Hotel (Swissotel)] More photos

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Wat Yannawa (วัดยานนาวา)

The original temple was founded hundreds of years ago, but the part that is built like a Chinese junk was ordered by King Rama III in the mid 19th century. It looks quite strange as you can imagine. The junk can be climbed, and upstairs are 2 shrines for different gods and a footprint of the Buddha. Most of the other buildings are not in good shape.

However, the meeting hall is a surprise. It's air-conditioned and the inside looks like a mix between a luxury shop and a museum. Everywhere glass chedis and displays with relics that, according to the inscriptions, contain parts of flesh, bones and brain of the Buddha. In a formal atmosphere, people choose one of the sheets with prescribed prayers and walk around the relics reciting them. Shrines for a variety of gods are everywhere. It is a truly strange experience walking around here. [Charoenkrung Road, near Thaksin Bridge] More photos Wat Yannawa (in Thai)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Wat Pasi (วัดภาษี)

Located next to one of Bangkok's canals at the corner of Ekamai, lies Wat Pasi temple. The temple is about 160 years old and has a totally different atmosphere and different decorations than any other temple I've seen in Bangkok. On top of the square building a handful of smaller and one big spire that make the temple look more like a mosque than anything else.

Inside typical banners with the 12 Chinese astrological signs everywhere. People buy a banner, write up their name and the name of family members and hang them somewhere in the temple. They remind me of the flags of a Tibetan temple. Also a few god and Buddha statues that light up when you pour holy water, a coin-operated machine that gives you a number linked to a description of your life, feeding the fish, some big turtles, a footprint of the Buddha, metal trees where people can hang golden and silver leaves, lots of shops with religious articles etc. Well worth a visit. [Corner Ekamai - New Petchaburi Road] More photos

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Wat Pho (Wat Phra Chetuphon) (วัดโพธิ์)

Wat Pho is one of Bangkok's oldest temples and of great beauty. A big attraction is the 46-meter long reclining Buddha. Note the extensive decorations on Buddha's feet, they are really amazing. Another attraction is the traditional Thai massage that is given in the form of normal, herbal or foot massage. More photosVideo [Sanam Chai and Maharaj Road, next to the Grand Palace] Wat PhoWat Pho Massage

Wat Prayurawongsawat Worawiharn (Turtle Temple) (วัดประยุรวงศาวาสวรวิหาร)

The front part of this Thai-Chinese temple has a rock garden, little waterfalls and a small artificial hill with stupas containing the ashes of people that were cremated. A lot of turtles (hence the name) and big fish are hanging out in some pools. Feeding is allowed and encouraged. The water is not very clear and the pools seem overpopulated, but walking here feels like being in a fairy tale. The actual temple in the back and has a high white chedi. More photosWat Prayurawongsawat

Wat Indravihan (วัดอิทราวิหาร)

Another impressive Buddha is the modern statue at Wat Indravihan. This one is 32 meters high and sticks outs from every other building in the surroundings. When I saw it for the first time I really held my breath. [Wisut Kasat Road] More photos

Wat Dhammamongkol (วัดธรรมมงคล)

This massive but shabby chedi (95 m high) contains a large Buddha image made of 1 big piece of jade. Inside the chedi you can take the elevator to the 12th floor. On that floor you will find dusty collections of old hand-held fans, jewellery, pots etc.. 2 floors up, the walls are decorated with silver tiles. This is the holy part of the chedi where they keep a hair of Buddha. The higher floors also offer a good view of the surrounding area. In a separate, more modern pavilion, another big statue of jade is on display. This is the Chinese Buddhist goddess Kwan Yin. The ceiling relief depicts the life of Buddha.[Sukhumvit Road, Soi 101] More photosWat Dhammamongkol (in Thai)

Wat Saket (Golden Mount) (วัดภูเขาทอง - วัดสระเกศ ราชวรวิหาร)

Wat Saket looks like a fairy tale, especially in the evenings with all the lights on. The temple is on a small man-built hill and an easy climb. Your reward will be a view of old Bangkok, including the Royal Grand Palace. The mountain itself is used as a burial ground for urns, so don't forget to walk around its base to have a look. [Corner Lan Luang Road, Ratchadamnoen Road] More photos

Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) (วัดอรุณราชวราราม)

When seated on the Tha Tien ferry pier you will enjoy the view of Wat Arun. This is the image that is always presented as Thailand. You can take the ferry to cross the river and visit the wat. Up close the wat is less pretty and you can not enter the buildings. However, the surrounding gardens are a relaxing place to sit and watch the ships go by.

Scam warning: be aware that you will have to pay 40 baht if you take a picture with the cutout Thai figures positioned in the gardens! The price is indicated, but very small. The sales people are usually hiding behind the trees, but will come out and demand money after you have taken a picture. Temple of Dawn (in Thai)

Wat Phra Dhammakaya (วัดพระธรรมกาย)

Everything about this temple is big, rich and modern. The modern building style of some of the buildings is very interesting, but less beautiful than the traditional ones. On the temple grounds we saw monks being driven around in a BMW and living in quite luxurious apartments. The abbot has been discredited because he actively pursued gifts from followers (land, buildings, money) and registered them it under his own name. The temple is very famous and attracts many followers, who all dress in white for the service. The temple is actually in Pathum Thani, just north of Bangkok. Photo: dhammakaya.or.th Dhammakaya Foundation

Wat Maha Put / Mae Nak Shrine (วัดมหาบุศย์)

The shrine of Mae Nak is the special attraction just outside this temple. Mae Nak is the main character of a popular ghost story, in which she dies at childbirth while her husband Mak is away at war. Her love and devotion for him are so strong, that when Mak returns from the war, ghosts of her and the child are still waiting for him at home. Her statue wears a wig, a TV is directed towards her statue, away from us, continuously switched on, people burn candles and pray, she has lots of dresses and people give her clothes and toys for the baby. Toys are sold in the temple.

The temple itself is a traditional-style temple, with turtles and fish to be bought and freed in the canal, lots of little statues, a shrine to the famous Chinese Goddess Kwan Yin, fortune tellers and lottery ticket sellers. [Sukhumvit 77, Soi 7, Phra Khanong] More photos

Friday, November 21, 2008

Poy Sian Shrine (ศาลเจ้าโป้ยเชียน) [CLOSED]

This interesting shrine at the entrance of Chinatown near the China Gate is a typical Chinese-Thai shrine, with many gods, a big smiling Buddha and lots of decorations. The first floor looks like a cave and has a very special atmosphere. The cave is in honour of the statue of the Chinese Goddess Kwan Yin. [Charoenkrung Road @ the China Gate roundabout, behind Wat Traimit]

Erawan Shrine (ศาลพระพรหม)

One Bangkok's most famous Hindu shrines was built in 1956 to calm the spirits that were supposedly causing problems with the construction of a new hotel at that spot.

There's always a flurry of activity, covered in clouds of incense; dozens of worshippers, temple dancers, vendors in and outside the shrine selling religious objects and after payment releasing birds from little cages. Benches surround the shrine area, so sit down and watch the action, or observe from the BTS walkway above. Video [494 Ploenchit Road] Erawan Shrine