Wat Phra Kaew & The Emerald Buddha
Nestled within the Grand Palace complex, Wat Phra Kaew is one of Thailand’s most sacred sites, which enshrines the highly revered Emerald Buddha. The temple itself boasts intricate, gilded architecture adorned with vibrant mosaics and mythological creatures.
Name (Eng): Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram
Name (Thai): วัดพระแก้ว
Address: Grand Palace, Na Phra Lan Road, Bangkok
Opening Hours: 8:30 to 15:30 daily
Entrance Fee: 500 baht
Length of Trip: ~30 minutes
Trip Type: Cultural / historical
Age Restrictions: None
Dress Code: Modest and conservative
The history of the Emerald Buddha at Wat Phra Kaew is a tale that spans several centuries and involves a series of significant events and historical figures.
The origins of this remarkable Buddha image can be traced back to the 15th century in Chiang Rai, northern Thailand. It is believed that the statue was crafted in 1434 during the reign of King Sam Fang Kaen of the Lanna Kingdom. The statue was named “Phra Kaew Morakot” in Thai, which translates to the “Emerald Buddha” due to its striking green hue. The exact material of the statue has been a subject of debate, with some theories suggesting it might be jade stone.
In 1552, during the reign of King Setthathirat of Lan Xang (present-day Laos), the Emerald Buddha was taken from Chiang Rai to the Laotian capital, Vientiane, where it remained for over 200 years. In 1778, King Taksin of Thonburi (a kingdom situated on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River) successfully defeated the Burmese invaders and brought the Emerald Buddha to Thonburi. After his death, the statue was relocated across the river to its current home, the Wat Phra Kaew within the Grand Palace complex, by his successor, King Rama I, in 1784.
The image holds immense significance not only as a revered religious artifact but also as a symbol of Thai sovereignty and unity. The Emerald Buddha remains a focal point of devotion and cultural pride in Thailand, and its history is a testament to the nation’s enduring heritage. Today, it is meticulously dressed in seasonal garments by the Thai King in a revered ritual, symbolizing the unity between the monarchy and Buddhism in Thailand.
The Ramakien murals that encircle the ubosot (ordination hall) of Wat Phra Kaew hold profound cultural significance in Thailand. These intricate and vibrant murals depict scenes from the Ramakien, which is Thailand’s national epic and an adaptation of the Indian epic, the Ramayana.
The origin of these murals can be traced back to the reign of King Rama I (1782-1809), the founder of the Chakri Dynasty. King Rama I ordered the creation of the Ramakien murals as a way to celebrate Thai culture and demonstrate the legitimacy of his newdynasty. The choice of the Ramayana, an Indian epic, served as a symbolic bridge between Thai culture and its Indian roots.
The murals themselves are a visual masterpiece, spanning the entire exterior of the ubosot. They narrate the epic story of Rama, the hero, and his quest to rescue his wife, Sita, from the demon king Ravana. The scenes are richly detailed, with vibrant colors and intricate compositions. The characters are portrayed in traditional Thai attire and set against the backdrop of a stylized Thai landscape. The narrative of the Ramakien, reinterpreted in a Thai context, is not only an artistic masterpiece but also a reflection of Thai values, ethics, and cultural identity.
The presence of these murals at Wat Phra Kaew serves as a reminder of Thailand’s cultural heritage and its unique interpretation of the Ramayana. Visitors to the temple can appreciate not only the artistic mastery but also the historical and cultural significance of these murals in shaping Thai identity and pride.
By MRT (Subway): When using the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system to reach Wat Phra Kaew, begin by taking the MRT Blue Line to the Sanam Chai Station. This station was opened specifically to provide easy access to the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew. After exiting the Sanam Chai Station, you’ll find yourself in close proximity to the palace complex.
The station’s location is strategically chosen to make it convenient for tourists visiting this iconic landmark. From here, follow the signs and the crowd toward the Grand Palace entrance. The walk is relatively short and pleasant, and you’ll soon reach the revered temple.
By Taxi: Using a taxi to reach Wat Phra Kaew is a common and accessible option in Bangkok. Taxis are readily available throughout the city, and most drivers are familiar with the Grand Palace’s location. When hailing a taxi, ensure that the driver agrees to use the meter to calculate the fare, as this is the standard and fairest practice in Bangkok. If the driver refuses to use the meter, consider negotiating a fare beforehand to avoid any surprises. Once in the taxi, inform the driver that your destination is วัดพระแก้ว.
Visitors to Wat Phra Kaew are required to adhere to a strict dress code out of respect for its sacredness. The dress code guidelines are as follows:
Clothing: Both men and women should wear clothing that covers their shoulders, arms, and knees. Sleeveless tops, shorts, and short skirts are not allowed. It’s best to wear long pants or a long skirt and a shirt with sleeves.
Footwear: Shoes must be removed before entering the temple buildings. Visitors should wear socks or go barefoot while inside.
Hats & Sunglasses: Hats and sunglasses should be removed before entering the ubosot.
Modesty: Visitors should maintain a respectful and modest demeanor while exploring the temple grounds. Loud conversations and disruptive behavior should be avoided.
It’s advisable to dress conservatively and carry a scarf or shawl with you in case your attire needs to be adjusted before entering the temple. Failure to adhere to the dress code may result in being denied entry to the temple. It’s essential to respect the religious sanctity of this revered site.
After experiencing the grandeur of Wat Phra Kaew, a visit to Wat Pho serves as a perfect complement. Wat Pho, known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, offers a contemplative contrast to the bustling grandeur of the Grand Palace complex. Here, you’ll find not only the magnificent Reclining Buddha, but also a tranquil atmosphere that encourages introspection.
The sprawling grounds of Wat Pho feature beautifully manicured gardens, intricate temple architecture, and an abundance of historic and religious artifacts. Exploring Wat Pho provides an opportunity to delve deeper into Thai culture, spirituality, and artistry, making it a fulfilling and enlightening continuation of your temple-hopping journey in Bangkok.
Wat Phra Kaew, also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, derives its name from the revered and iconic Emerald Buddha image enshrined within the temple’s sacred confines.
“Wat” translates to “temple” in Thai, and “Phra Kaew” refers to the Emerald Buddha, which is considered one of the most sacred and revered Buddha images in Thailand. The temple’s name encapsulates its primary purpose and significance as the spiritual and religious center dedicated to this precious statue.
Entry to Wat Phra Kaew is included in the admission fee for the Grand Palace, which is 500 baht. This fee provides access to both the palace complex and Wat Phra Kaew, making it a comprehensive ticket that allows you to explore these iconic sites in Bangkok.
Additionally, the ticket includes entry to a 30-minute traditional khon (Thai masked dance) performance at the Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theater. Furthermore, the ticket offers access to the Bang Pa-In Palace in Ayutthaya, a historical site located outside Bangkok, and this privilege is valid for 7 days from the date of purchase.
The best time to visit Wat Phra Kaew is in the early morning. Arriving early in the morning, shortly after the temple opens, allows you to explore the complex with fewer crowds and cooler temperatures. Additionally, the soft morning light can enhance the beauty of the temple’s intricate details.
Absolutely, Wat Phra Kaew, or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, is undoubtedly worth a visit. This iconic temple complex encapsulates Thailand’s rich cultural and spiritual heritage. The sheer magnificence of its intricate architecture, the historical significance of the Emerald Buddha, and the mesmerizing Ramakien murals create a captivating experience.
However, it’s important to consider the crowds and the strict dress code. Despite these factors, the chance to witness such an important symbol of Thai Buddhism and explore the stunning temple grounds make a visit to Wat Phra Kaew a memorable and culturally enriching experience that should not be missed while in Bangkok.
Wat Phra Kaew has a rich and venerable history that dates back to the late 18th century. The temple was built during the reign of King Rama I in 1782 when he established the new capital of Thailand on the eastern bank of the Chao Phraya River, marking the beginning of the Rattanakosin Era.
The construction of this sacred temple complex was a central part of the king’s vision to establish a grand capital that would symbolize the majesty and cultural significance of the Thai monarchy. Wat Phra Kaew was designated as the royal chapel and an integral part of the Grand Palace complex, serving as the primary spiritual center for Thai monarchs.