Recently a reader suggested I do a series of posts with short tourist itineraries for various Thailand locations. I thought that this was a great idea…Thanks Richard…and will now have a new series called “3 Days in…”. Basically it will give you itineraries for short stays in a variety of Thailand destinations. Some will be single posts and some, like Bangkok obviously, will be a series of posts with each one focusing on a single activity. Mix and match as you like.
You’ll see a new category from now on called “3 Days In…” reflecting this change and I suggest you subscribe so you don’t miss any of these information filled posts or at the very least visit often to check out this new category. Let’s start now with 3 Days in Bangkok – Wats and Temples.
Bangkok is home to hundreds of Wats or temples some as large as the Wat Phra Chetuphon or Wat Pho which is the largest and oldest of Bangkoks temples and some as small as a corner shop, tucked away in small side soi’s. If you’re interested in the temples of Thailand you can easily spend 3 days taking in all of the rich and beautiful temples in Bangkok.
Before you head out for your three day Thai temple tour please remember the following:
Thai temples are sacred places and you should dress and behave accordingly. Do not come to the temple in shorts, sleeveless shirts or other revealing clothing. Think of it the same way as if you were visiting a church in the west and use your best judgment.
Also for you ladies…Monks are not permitted to touch or be touched by women. So if you want to give something to a monk you can either hand it to a male to give to them or you can place a cloth on the ground and then place the item on the cloth for the monk to pick up.
Day 1: Hopefully you’ve chosen a hotel in Chinatown as that will put you closest to the major temples in Bangkok. Most of the hotels include a breakfast buffet with your stay so fill up before you head out so you’ll have plenty of energy for the day. The Shanghai Inn is a nice boutique hotel choice in the area or check out the Grand China Princess Hotel which has great service and reasonable prices too.
Once you’ve fueled up head outside and grab a taxi to Wat Phra Chetuphon or Wat Pho. I’m making this the first stop because in addition to the temple the Wat also features the oldest and possibly the best massage school in Thailand. A massage is always a good choice when you first arrive in Bangkok to shake off the jet lag. Wat Pho is very impressive with gold everywhere and huge colorful spires that you’ll find under closer inspection are covered with thousands of small pieces of colored glass. Thanks to a recent remodel everything inside Wat Pho is in excellent shape. The reclining Buddha is the largest of it’s kind and is completely covered in gold leaf. So impressive! In addition, the feet of the statue are layered with mother of pearl showing amazingly detailed murals.
Take your time looking around the grounds of the Wat and then head to the backyard area of the Wat where you’ll find the massage school. The massages are 120 baht for a ½ hour and 200 baht for an hour which may be a bit expensive for Thailand, but still not expensive at all by western standards. And it’s a great way to both invigorate and relax at the same time! Total time for Wat Pho = 2 – 2 1/2 hours
From Wat Pho you can head out to the main road of Thanon Sanam Chai and turn left towards the Grand Palace. Once you get close to the Grand Palace you’ll see loads of little shops and restaurants across the road. Take some time to browse and get a snack if you’re hungry, I recommend the roti which are like crepes and they are delicious! It shouldn’t be too hard for you to find a street vendor making them.
Next you’ll head off to the Grand Palace and the National Museum which will be a good place to spend part of the afternoon since it is air conditioned! The Grand Palace is open until 3:30pm and you’ll be here for the rest of the afternoon as it takes about 3 hours to see the Grand Palace and National Museum together. Did you take my advice to have some roti?
The Grand Palace encompasses several acres and contains many buildings. It is located next to the Chao Praya River and is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Bangkok. It is easily characterized by its gleaming golden temples, hundreds of spires, and brightly colored tile roofs – most of which are a prominent orange color. Tickets to enter are 200 baht and you will be inspected for proper attire before being allowed to enter. At the main gate you’ll find brochures available in several languages. This brochure provides a map inside and also describes in detail the history of the buildings and the palace.
Some of the highlights of the Royal Palace include the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the Royal Throne Hall (Chakri Maha Prasat) and Coronation Room. There are also some very cool weapons museum rooms to see before leaving the Grand Palace and going into the National Museum.
It’s likely been a very busy and tiring day, so head back to your hotel for a nap or a refreshing dip in the pool and get ready for the night. If you’ve got the energy head out to Khao San Road for dinner and some drinks. Keep in mind you’ll be up early the next morning though.
Day 2: Day 2 will start out close to home base in Chinatown at Wat Saket or the Golden Mount. It is easily recognized in Banglampoo by the golden spire of the chedi and also by the fact that it rises some 80 meters above the city. During late October/early November there is a temple fair here with a carnival atmosphere erupting around the temple. The Wat has great views of the surrounding city. Time to visit is just 30 minutes.
Next we’ll jump in a taxi to Wat Benchamabophit or the Marble Temple. It is a bit out of the way, but is one of the more beautiful of the Wats in Bangkok. It is not a traditional Wat as it was built in the late 19th century and is made entirely of marble (hence the name), but it is not to be missed. There is a huge collection of Buddha statues and both the Wat and the grounds surrounding it are wonderful. Don’t forget your camera! Time to visit 60-90 minutes, but plan on an additional 60 minutes travel time.
Take a break for lunch. The Thai restaurant Saewana is nearby. Dishes are around the THB50-100 mark, and include favorites such as Pla Kung (spicy shrimp salad) and Tom Kha Gai (chicken and coconut soup). 348/3 Soi Rachawithee 34, Rachawithee Road
You may want to head back to your hotel at this point to rest and freshen up. Bangkok is really no fun in the heat of the afternoon and a nap and shower or a swim is always a good choice.
After resting it’s time to go to Wat Arun which is the Temple of the Dawn, but is actually just as nice and much less crowded at sunset. The Wat closes at 5:30 so you should leave your hotel earlier enough to get there and have 30-45 minutes to explore.
From there it’s off to something a bit different. Go see the show Siam Niramit, it’s a huge spectacle type show with over 150 performers, special effects and costumes that is sure to amaze you. The show starts at 8:00pm and there are a variety of restaurants on the grounds so you can get something to eat before the show. It is recommended that you book tickets at least 5 business days before the show so go online and book your tickets here before you leave for Bangkok.
Day 3: Now that you’ve seen the “must see” temples take some time to visit some of the smaller and less well known, but no less beautiful temples of Bangkok. Since this post has now gone over 1500 words I am not going to highlight them myself, but direct you instead to this page which contains descriptions of 10 lesser known Thai wats, all in the old town or Rattanakosin area of Bangkok.
One suggestion I will make is that if you go to visit Wat Chanasongkhram in Banglampoo you should stop at the Indian Spice restaurant for lunch or dinner. It is located in the small soi located behind the Wat and the food here is outstanding. Golf and I eat here at least once every time we’re in Bangkok. If you’re interested in tandoori get there early as they only make so much and it sells out quickly.
So there you have it. 3 days of wats in Bangkok. Needless to say there are many more temples not just in Bangkok, but throughout Thailand for you to visit. I’ve read estimates as high as 31,200 wats in Thailand. If you’re interested in learning more about the wats of Thailand this site http://www.chimburi.com/ has pictures and descriptions of 769 different temples in Thailand.
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