A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to spend a few days vacation in Bangkok with my wife and some friends. Despite the extremely hot weather (averaging 38°C in the afternoons), we visited two of the more popular temples in city. Bangkok is a big, crowded and cosmopolitan city, and quite different from rural Chiang Mai, where I visited some weeks earlier. Its temples are likewise also different from their northern counterparts, but what they lack in terms of intimacy and charm, they make up for in scale. These two didn’t disappoint – although next time I probably wouldn’t want to come in the peak of summer!
Wat Pho is also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, and the birthplace of traditional Thai massage. The temple complex is one of the largest and oldest in Bangkok, and is located adjacent to the Grand Palace. It houses an enormous golden image of a reclining Buddha, 15m high and 43m long. Throughout the temple grounds there are also numerous chedis (stupas or mounds), and the complex also contains a working Buddhist monastery.
The Temple of Dawn, Wat Arun, on the west bank of Chao Phraya river is probably the most well-known (and photographed) landmark of Bangkok. It looks enormous from a distance, but is even more impressive up close as you can see the intricate detail of the carvings and paintwork. The large spires (prang) are decorated with bits of coloured porcelain and shells. The tallest spire is 250 feet tall, and contains two levels that can be ascended via a series of narrow (and very steep) steps. From the top level, there is a great view of the river, the surrounding structures, and the rest of the city. Just be aware that coming back down is much more nerve-racking the climb up!