Wat Traimit, Temple of the Golden Buddha
We hired a guide to take us to both these temples. You could certainly visit them on your own, but our guide bought the tickets for us and explained what we were looking at which made our visits a lot more educational and meaningful.
Located in Bangkok's Chinatown, Wat Traimit, or Temple of the Golden Buddha, is aptly named. The Buddha dates to the 13th or 14th century and weighs a hefty 5.5 tons. That's a lot of gold! At some point in its history - experts believe in the early part of the 18th century - the buddha was covered in stucco, presumably to protect it from thieves. It remained covered until 1955 when, during a move from one location to another, some of the stucco chipped off exposing its true golden composition.
The outside is impressive, too.
Look at the long fingers. They represent wisdom and knowledge.
The long ears represent longevity.
If you go, make sure you look up at the beautiful ceiling.
This door in the temple was carved out of teakwood.
Our guide told us that the bells don't have a particular significance, but they were lovely to see and hear. Everything that appears to be gold is gold!
Wat Pho, Temple of the Reclining Buddha
I had read a lot about the reclining Buddha and was anxious to see it. At 151 ft. long and almost 50 ft. high, I was surprised that it's the only the third longest reclining Buddha in Thailand. The reclining position signifies that Buddha is about to enter Nirvana. It's really striking!
This photo doesn't give you a full appreciation of how massive it is! Again, notice the beautiful ceiling in this temple.
The pillows are encrusted in glass mosaics.
Notice the long fingers.
The soles of the Buddha's feet are three feet high and encrusted in mother of pearl. In my opinion, they were the most striking feature.
Each sole is divided into 108 panels. This circle represents the chakra, or energy point.
The detail that went into this is incredible!
Along the sides of the temple are 108 bronze containers into which visitors can drop coins to bring good fortune and to contribute to the maintenance of the temple. There's a desk in the temple manned by people who will change your paper money into coins.
Some of the beautiful inlay work on the temple walls.
These two temples are amazing and shouldn't be missed in Bangkok; we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to each one.
As an Aside...
Did you notice the portrait of the king in the photos in front of the Temple of the Golden Buddha? It's King Vajiralongkorn (pronounce it at your own risk - as most words in Thai). His portrait and that of he and his new, fourth wife are absolutely everywhere in Bangkok! There were a lot in Chiang Mai, too, but they were much more prevalent in Bangkok. You can't travel a tenth of a mile in the city without being reminded that he's the king.
Also, we learned that Thailand subscribes to something called lèse-majesté, a French term meaning "to do wrong to majesty". It's illegal to defame, threaten or insult the king, queen, heir-apparent or regent in Thailand. Doing so may result in up to 15 years imprisonment. It's thought that this is the most restrictive such law in the world. Until I found that out, I was going to ask the friendly front desk manager at our hotel in Chiang Mai what he thought about the king as there had been much recent publicity about his taking a consort, but I decided not to put him in that position.
➜ Top Tips
Hire a guide who will be able to give you information and insight. It will be a better experience for you rather than going on your own.
Wear correct clothing; both men and women must have their shoulders and knees covered.
Both temples can be easily combined into a half-day visit. Try to arrive early to avoid the crowds.
Wat Traimit - 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Wat Pho - 8:00 am - 6:30 pm
Don't disparage the Royal Family - at least in public!