For a taste of the spiritual in the sprawling chaos that is Bangkok, most visitors to Thailand plan to visit at least a few Buddhist temples. The Thai capital has literally thousands of temples, from large royal-grade wats to small neighborhood shrines. Here's a list of the top five temples to visit when you are in Bangkok, Thailand.
You might be surprised to see The Temple of the Emerald Buddha, at Bangkok's Grand Palace, only rank in at number five. It's a beautiful and impressive complex, but Wat Phra Kaew is always hot and crowded, and with a 500 baht admission fee for foreigners, it can be expensive if you are traveling to Thailand on a budget.
I don't want to say that Thailand's most important holy site is overrated, but while housed at an undeniably beautiful temple, the legendary Emerald Buddha itself can be a little disappointing if you are expecting a large impressive statue. In fact, it's only about two feet tall.
The Emerald Buddha is the holiest relic in Thai Buddhism, and may only be approached by the King. The statue has three different golden "outfits" corresponding to the Thai seasons (hot, dry, and monsoon), and are changed thrice annually in a special ceremony.
Get away from the crowds and explore the outer areas of the temple. Especially notice the beautiful fresco murals on the outer walls, depicting scenes from Hindu-Buddhist mythology.
4. Wat Pho - Temple of the Reclining Buddha
Referenced by Murray Head (... muddy old river or Reclining Buddha...), Wat Pho may be, after Wat Phra Kaew, the most famous temple in Bangkok.
The image of the Reclining Buddha depicts the peaceful death of Siddharta Gautama as he prepares to enter Nirvana.
Entry for foreigners only costs 50 baht, making it much more affordable to visit on a budget than Wat Phra Kaew.
3. Wat Arun - Temple of the Dawn
Just across the river from Wat Pho and Wat Phra Kaew sits Wat Arun, the Temple of the Dawn, and one of Bangkok's most iconic landmarks.
Named for the Hindu god Vishnu, personification of the sun, Wat Arun lies on the western side of the rifer. Despite its name, it's actually best viewed at sunset, when the sky behind it is lit up firy orange and red.
The main Khmer-style spire is inlaid with tiles made of broken porcelain pottery. Visitors can climb the steep steps to the upper level for nice views across the river.
Look at the back of a five-baht coin to see the main wat of the beautiful Marble Temple.
Built of Italian marble and incorporating beautiful stained-glass windows, the Marble Temple was constructed according to the specifications of the Thai king in 1911.
With its steep eaves, pillars, and lion statues, the Marble Temple is the image of the quintessential Thai temple, and one of the most beautiful in Bangkok. It's much less crowded and more peaceful than Wat Pho, Wat Arun, and Wat Phra Kaew.
One of the best experiences in Bangkok is visiting the Golden Mount at Wat Saket. The most stunning historic temples in Bangkok's Old Town, the Golden Mount is unlike any other temple in the city.
The main stupa is at the top of a hill overlooking the city. Wind your way up the cool jungle path to the top of the temple, ringing prayer bells along the way.
The top of the temple has one of the best 360 views of Bangkok. Bells jingle and prayer flags crack in the breeze as worshipers circle the main golden stupa offering prayers.
There is also a coffee shop about halfway up. Grab an ice-cold Thai tea and enjoy the relaxing and beautiful atmosphere of one of Bangkok's best temples.