It is a well known fact that religion and faith play significant role in the life of Thais. It is felt immediately, as soon as your foot touches the Thai land. All these rituals, tributes to the spirits, traditions and customs – all of these let us form an opinion about the attitude of local people to the matters of faith. Today we decided to devote the whole day to a visit to the temples, which Bangkok is famous for.
First of all, I should mention that there are loads of them – do not even try to visit them all in one day: you will get incredibly tired, and especially your little companions will get exhausted, if you are traveling with children. That’s what happened with us, because we did not have well planned “program”. We had read on the internet about some of the temples and had a fuzzy idea of how to get there, but if we had planned all these activities more carefully, the whole day would not have been so chaotic and stressful for children. Although, in general, everything was very interesting and informative, we have got a lot of vivid impressions of the day.
Our main goal was the temple Wat Arun – one of the most famous temples of Bangkok. I do not know why, but since the very first day it attracted me, and when we took a walk along the river Chao Praya, we could not but notice it on the opposite side of the river.
On the internet, we read that in order to get to the temple, you need to get a ferry to the Memorial Bridge, which is what we tried to do. It was morning, about 9:00, we took Sky Train to the Saphan Taksin station and boarded the ferry there. Everything was pretty unclear around us there were many people speaking different languages, who loosed lost and puzzled. The girl who we bought the tickets from, showed the map, we have indicated our stop, she told us the price – and that’s it. By the way, the cost of the travel by ferry is 40 baht per person. Our boat arrived, we got on board, and went on a short trip. As it turned out, tickets can be purchased on the ferry, there is also a map with the stations, but for some reason we didn’t actually stop at all the stations indicated on the map. We passed the Memorial Bridge, and did not stop. We disembarked at the next stop Rajinee. There was a museum, and when we tried to ask several people about the temple we were interested in, no one could give a clear answer. One girl told us to go “to the right and to the left.” Just for the record, we did not cross the river. The ferry sails along the river and doesn’t it, so we stayed on our shore, and Wat Arun is on the opposite one. So, we moved away a little from the shore, going deeper into the city. And then we met a very talkative Thai man. Seeing us carrying a map, he said that Wat Arun opens at 12, and to reach it, you have to cross the river. Yet there was not even ten, and he began to actively recommend us to visit the Marble Temple and strongly advised to go to some jewelry shopping center. He talked a lot, quickly seated us in a tuk-tuk, and off we went. It was not very wise decision, as it turned out.
A trip on tuk-tuk was something children really loved. We did as well, but then we realized we should not have to go that far. First, the tuk-tuk driver took us to the magnificent Marble Temple, called Wat Benchamabophit and said he would wait for us. Temple is really gorgeous. No wonder that it is considered one of the most beautiful in Bangkok.
It is worth noting that in front of all Buddhist temples you have to take off your shoes. Entrance to the temple cost 20 baht. For children you do not need to pay. Inside we saw a huge golden Buddha, and, after entering the inner courtyard of the temple, we were able to see a huge number of Buddha statues. Each statue has a nameplate describing the posture of Buddha and the place where the statue was discovered. Along the temple runs a narrow creek with many little bridges crossing it.
Having reviewed everything and even having listened to the singing monks, we returned to our “driver”. He was full of enthusiasm and said that he would bring us into the jewelry “paradise”, the trip took about 10 minutes. There really is a paradise for the lovers of jewelry. First, visitors get to come into the room, where jewelers in front of everyone are manufacturing jewelry. Unfortunately, the photo and video are prohibited. The view is really exciting. Children loved to look at the machines and tools jewelers used while working. Then we went into the room with already finished goods. There were rings, and earrings of various shapes and with the most vivid, surprising shimmering stones, and bracelets, and necklaces and beads made of pearls.
There is anything you want! A little further we found a room with souvenirs, bags made of crocodile leather, wallets and various statues. All that is made of crocodile skin, costs tens of thousands of baht, but looks not particularly attractive.
After a short tour, we again found ourselves in a tuk-tuk. At this point, we already got pretty tired – especially children. But our driver persuaded us to visit another place. He showed us a photo on something like a garment factory, which was located in a 10 minute distance. We agreed, but in fact it turned out to be some kind of store where we were offered shirts and suits (and, those two words the seller knew Russian, and pronounced them in a ridiculous way). We were offered to buy 3 shirts at a discount “for just 3000 baht.” We looked at the fabrics, souvenirs and went out into the street. We have not seen any looms here. We asked the driver to take us to Wat Arun, because at this point we were really hungry and tired. On the way, my daughter fell asleep. We were brought to the pier – Tha Thien. For the tuk-tuk we paid 100 baht (driver tinkered with us for more than two hours). On the pier we could see a lot of people. Here for just three baht tourists cross the river, and go to the temple located on the opposite side of the river which we wanted to visit. On the other bank of the river, we had some time to sit in the gazebo, as my daughter was still asleep. Here we have got a sandwich, coconut and other fruit. Immediately concluded that it is a good idea to come here with an empty stomach. They offer free water and some food, but the food is running out fast, because there is plenty of those wanting to eat. There is a small cafe, but they sell only coffee, cocktails and cookies. In short, it is not possible to get full. But the Wat Arun itself is surely gorgeous. It offers a magnificent view of the city, and the temple itself is impressive in its appearance. However, climbing it is pretty hard.
Having considered all the beauty here, we decided to visit the temple of the Reclining Buddha of Wat Pho. We got back on “our” bank of the river on the same ferry that took us to the Wat Arun side. It turned out that the temple of the Reclining Buddha is located next to the pier. It was one of the most vivid impressions today. Statue of Buddha is really huge, and, once in the temple, we have experienced some strong feelings that are difficult to give a name. We felt a tremendous energy. By the way, before entering the temple you must not only take off our shoes, but also to put them in a bag, which is available here. This is done because you will go out on the other side, so you need to take your shoes with you. Women and girls have to wear bright green robes. So, in the church we could see the golden Buddha in the idle state of nirvana. Statue’s length is 46 meters, and its height is 15 meters. Impressive size, isn’t it! Behind the back of the Buddha there is a hallway with lots of pots in which you have to toss a coin to help the church, and, of course, for your own enlightenment.
There is a huge temple complex with statues of Buddha, there are more than 400 of those in the territory of it, is a nice, there are also patios and even a school of Thai massage. You can spend hours and hours here, which we did, and at the end of the day we were totally exhausted, so we decided to go home and rest. We got back home about seven o’clock in the evening. And this is how the temple day ended.
Conclusion: If this is your first visit to the temples of Bangkok, you should go to the temple of the Reclining Buddha or Wat Arun. Or, if you have enough energy, then visit both of them, because you only need to cross the river to get from one to the other. However, a trip to the Marble Temple and, of course, to the jewelry stores, should be postponed to another day. Each temple is beautiful in its own way. It is better to fully enjoy each of them and do not overload yourself with such a huge amount of new impressions. However, in spite of the fatigue, we were fully satisfied with the day.