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Wat Phra Kaew Visit, AV #38
Before returning to Wat Phra Kaew, Brad and I were talking about it quite a bit. We were actually knocking it pretty hard which pushed our expectations to an extreme low. I distinctly remember us talking about the fact that it was not very big and just not that impressive. Perhaps these were our memories from our previous trip altered by the unbelievable size of the sites we had just seen in Myanmar. Or, maybe we were just in a bad mood. Regardless, we were wrong.
Wat Phra Kaew InformationWat Phra Kaew is often referred to as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The Temple of the Emerald Buddha is regarded as the most sacred Buddhist Temple in Thailand and is located within the same grounds as the Royal Palace. While it is true that the main temple on the property does house the famous Emerald Buddha, there is much more to this site.
The property contains over 100 buildings and is over 200 years old. Built in the Rattanakosin style (Old Bangkok Style), Wat Phra Kaew is not only a religious monument, but is simply beautiful and full of art. Other than the actual temple of the Emerald Buddha, there are several other important buildings and monuments within the grounds such as – Phra Si Rattana Chedi (The Main Stupa), Phra Mondop (The Library), Prasat Phra Thep Bidon (Royal Pantheon), and even a model of Angkor Wat!
Emerald Buddha Legend and HistoryThe legend of the Emerald Buddha is quite extensive and goes something like this. A saint in India named Nagasena, along with the help of Hindu god, Vishnu, and demigod Indra, had the Emerald Buddha made from the precious stone of Emerald 500 years after Buddha attained nirvana. After 300 years in Pataliputra, the Buddha was moved to Sri Lanka. Next, the Burma King Anuruth, in 457 CE, sent his people to Sri Lanka to capture the Emerald Buddha in order to promote Buddhism in his own country. While returning with the Buddha, the Burmese ship lost its way in a storm and crashed somewhere on the shore of Cambodia.
About one thousand years later in 1432 CE, when Angkor Wat was captured by the Thais, the Emerald Buddha was taken into Laos and finally to Chiang Rai, Thailand. And then, in 1434 CE, in a lightning storm that struck the Wat Pa Yia, the Emerald Buddha fell from the ceiling and was cared for by monks. The Emerald Buddha was then moved around Northern Thailand and then to Laos where it remained for about 250 years.
Finally, the Buddha was captured in 1778 when Chao Phya Chakri defeated Vientiane. Once taking the title of King Rama I, the Emerald Buddha was moved to Bangkok along with the Capital and Royal Residence. Since this time, the Emerald Buddha has been housed at Wat Phra Kaew.
As for the history, art historians believe that the Emerald Buddha was cast in the 14th Century in Thailand itself. All claims have been discounted though as historians have been unable to get a close look at the Buddha. However, it has been confirmed that the Buddha is made out of Jade, not Emerald!
Here is a map showing where Wat Phra Kaew is located:
And here is a detailed grounds map of Wat Phra Kaew from Wikipedia:
2. Twelve Salas
3. Gandhara Buddha Viharn
4. Ho Phra Khanthararat
5. The Hermit
6. Ho Phra Ratcha Koramanuson
7. Phra Phothi That Phiman
8. Ho Phra Ratcha Phongsanuson
9. Chao Mae Kuan-im
10. Than Phaithi
11. Phra Si Rattana Chedi
12. Phra Mondop
13. Prasat Phra Thep Bidon
14. Two Golden Chedis
15. Model Angkor Wat
16. Two Decorated Chedis
17. Mythological figures
18. Monument to Rama I, II and III
19. Monument to Rama IV
20. Monument to Rama V
21. Monumnet to Rama VI, VII, VIII and IX
22. Western Porch
23. Southern Porch
24. Phra Sawet Kudakhan Wihan Yot
26. Ho Phra Nak
27. Ho Phra Monthian Tham
28. Eight Phra Atsada Maha Chedis
29. Ramakian Mural Cloisters
30. Gate No. 1, Koei Sadet (Front) Gate
31. Gate No. 2, Na Wua Gate
32. Gate No. 3, Phra Si Rattana Satsada
33. Gate No. 4, Hermit Gate
34. Gate No. 5, Koei Sadet (Rear) Gate
35. Gate No. 6, Sanam Chai Gate
How We Saw Wat Phra Kaew
With a fairly steep price tag of 500 Baht ($17/person/visit), we thought through the best way to see Wat Phra Kaew, but honsetly there are not many options. The hours were 8:30AM to 4:30PM so we decided to take on the Temple of the Emerald Buddha twice.
For our first visit, we went in the afternoon from about 2:30PM to 4:30PM. It was hot and crowded, but surprisingly the light was quite nice for this time of the afternoon. For our second visit, we left around 7:30AM to arrive no later than 8:00AM. This had us at the entry gate 30 minutes before the grounds opened and ensured us we would be one of the first at the ticket booth. For this visit, it was cooler, but still hot. We had the place almost to ourselves for the first 15 or 20 minutes, but after that it was tourist mayhem. We stayed from about 8:30AM until 11:00AM.
Tips For Seeing Wat Phra Kaew
For most, seeing Wat Phra Kaew once is enough. We highly recommend going in the morning and getting there at least 30 minutes early. You do NOT need a tour guide unless you are extremely interested in the history of the grounds and its contents. Once at the gate, you may have to be a little aggressive and/or hold your ground to make sure you are one of the first through. After the guards let people in, walk immediately to the ticket office – you will see the signs. Pay your entry fee and get inside to enjoy 15 or 20 minutes of peace.
Upon entering, our suggestion is to walk down the center aisle admiring the buildings on your left and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha on your right. Circle around the back to your left and pay attention to all of the detail that surrounds you. This will take you around 10 or 15 minutes. After this, quickly make your way to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, slip off your shoes and go inside for a moment of silence with the Emerald Buddha himself! After this, slow down a bit, put on your patience cap and enjoy all that is around you. Sit down frequently in the shade and don’t rush.
Here are a few more tips for the perfect visit to Wat Phra Kaew:
- Go when it opens. This is the best time to go.
- Tickets go on sale at 8:30AM. Get there no later than 8:00AM and move towards the front!
- Make a dash for the ticket counter so you can be one of the first people in
- The light is better for photography at this time than mid-day
- Go for the last two hours. This is the second best time.
- The temple closes at 4:30PM, make sure you get there by 2:30PM
- The weather is cooler than the middle of the day, but will still be warm
- The light is good for photography
- Be patient. There will be a LOT of tourists, be prepared.
- The Emerald Buddha
- The incredible paintings on the inside of the exterior wall
- The jeweled statues
- Entry for foreigners is 500 Thai Baht per entry
Wat Phra Kaew Impressions
So, what did we think of Wat Phra Kaew? Unlike our last set of mixed emotions at Bagan, our feelings for Wat Phra Kaew are clear – we like it … a lot!
As mentioned in the intro, we had lowered our expectations for this site after reading a lot of rants about tourists and perhaps being a little pessimistic ourselves. However, with all of that behind us and some clear focus on Wat Phra Kaew by way of two separate visits to the site, we are proud and excited to share why we think Wat Phra Kaew is a place you absolutely must visit.
First and foremost what blows us away about The Temple of the Emerald Buddha is the incredible detail. There is detail every single place you look – tiled walls and buildings, stairways, doors, painted walls, and gardens. Secondly, the combined importance and history. Whether you believe in the legend or the history of the Emerald Buddha, it is still an incredibly important symbol of Buddhism and Thailand. Lastly, the statues! The statues are some of our favorite in the world. They are pristine works of art that will surely draw you in as well.
The CrowdsWat Phra Kaew is often times attacked due to the massive crowds it draws. Yes, there are thousands of people at the site, but you just need to out smart them and add a little patience! The out smarting can be done with our number one tip of going first thing in the morning. Be the first person in line for tickets and we can almost guarantee you’ll see this site with very few tourists for a solid 20 minutes.
We know 20 minutes is not a lot of time and this is where the patience comes in. There is no way around it – be patient. Unless you are also a travel blogger trying to make a name in an already extremely competitive market, you shouldn’t be in any rush. Take your time. Sit down in the shade a couple of times and take a break. The mayhem of the crowd is typically due to the schedules of the large tours. Let them be rushed and let yourself enjoy.
The Name, Wat Phra Kaew – Temple of the Emerald BuddhaThe name of the site is very confusing to us. It is always referred to as Wat Phra Kaew which in English means Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Our problem with this is that the site is MUCH more than just the Emerald Buddha. Yes, we recognize the importance and symbol of the Emerald Buddha, but there are dozens of other buildings, hundres of statues, and the entire Royal Palace to boot. How Wat Phra Kaew ever stuck as the official name of the site is either a testament to the importance of the Emerald Buddha or a confused Tourism Officer.
Final ThoughtsWat Phra Kaew won’t be getting moved from the #38 ranking on the AbsoluteVisit list any time soon. The site is incredibly detailed, has high importance and historical value, and has some of the most beautiful statues we have ever seen. PLEASE go check this site out on your next or first trip to Bangkok. With some planning and patience we can assure you’ll have a wonderful time.
Wat Phra Kaew Photos
Now it’s time to show-off just what we have been raving about. You’ll find photos of the buildings, the Emerald Buddha, the details, and the statues sectioned off below. DON’T forget to check-out the video at the very end for a first hand view of just what it looks and feels like to explore Wat Phra Kaew!
Wat Phra Kaew Buildings
Wat Phra Kaew Details
The details absolutely blew us away at Wat Phra Kaew. Some of them are hard to capture, but the jewels, colors, and patterns are out of this world and will make your head spin! Check it out …
Wat Phra Kaew – Temple of the Emerald Buddha
The namesake of the site is an actual temple inside the grounds and is a remarkable building on its own. The Garudas on the outside wall are a true trademark of the site – don’t miss them!
Wat Phra Kaew Statues
The statues that are all around Wat Phra Kaew are a must see. Again, take your time in checking out the different statues that are all over the place! Some are absolutely massive, others smaller, and others covered with jewels.
Wat Phra Kaew Paintings
One thing we have not mentioned too much are the incredible paintings which cover the inside of the exterior wall. These paintings tell many stories and history about the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. We did not get a guide to explain everything, but simply looking at these paintings is an endless task in itself. Stunning work.
Wat Phra Kaew Video
Finally, check-out a quick tour of Wat Phra Kaew for yourself through the lens of our camera. We sincerely hope this pushes you over the edge and on to a flight headed for Bangkok!