8 Temples You Have To See in Thailand

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This guest post is brought to you by a fellow Canadian, Alyssa James of Alyssa Writes. Hope you enjoy it!

Thailand is a country of natural landscapes perfectly combined with extraordinary architectural masterpieces and religious temples. The temples are a beautiful testimony of the perfect meeting place between the ancient Taoist religious roots and the subsequent Buddhist tradition.

These 8 temples are definitely places you have to see while in Thailand:

Wat Phrakaew – Emerald Buddha Temple

Wat Phrakaew statues by Mark Fischer
Wat Phrakaew statues by Mark Fischer on Flckr

Wat Phra Kaew is considered the main temple of the Buddhist tradition. It’s located in the center of Bangkok (Phra Nakhon) and was built between 1782 and 1784. Inside the main temple you will find the sacred Emerald Buddha statue which has an accompanying traditional rite. Three times a year, the dress of the deity is changed to match the seasons of the Thai calendar.

Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep

White Temple Bells in Chiang Mai
White Temple Bells in Chiang Mai by The Barefoot Nomad

Located 15 kilometres from the city of Chiang Mai is the temple Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep located on top of Doi Suthep mountain. This temple provides stunning views over Chiang Mai and has a plenty of noteworthy elements: 200 stairs to the top, the statue of the White Elephant and the temple bells that are considered good luck to ring.

Wondering how to get there? Here’s how to book the train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai!

Wat Si Chum – The Temple of the Bodhi Tree

Wat Si Chum by SurLaRoutefr on Flickr
Wat Si Chum by SurLaRoutefr on Flickr

The Wat Si Chum temple was built in the 13th century and is situated about a kilometre and a half north of Wat Mahathat in the Sukhothai Province. This temple is famous for its huge and realistic statue of Buddha that is made of stucco and is over 11 metres wide. There is a passageway next to the statue that leads to the roof. It has a symbolic value, it is believed that the ritual of climbing the stairs was a symbolic ascent to Buddhist enlightenment.

Wat Traimit

Wat Traimit by Heiko S on Flickr
Wat Traimit by Heiko S on Flickr

The Wat Traimit temple is located in the Samphanthawong District in Bangkok and is famous for its large statue of Buddha. At 3 metres tall and composed entirely of gold, the Golden Buddha is the world’s largest solid gold statue. The statues origins remain uncertain however it was constructed over 700 years ago and was encased in plaster and forgotten for nearly 200 years before an accident in 1955 revealed it’s gold origin. There is a nice view from the top but it may not be the best place to go if you’re looking for a peaceful experience.

The Golden Buddha sitting on a pedestal
Golden Buddha at Wat Taimit by mshehan on Flckr

Wat Rong Khun – The White Temple

Wat Rong Khun by Pilikan on Flickr 800
Wat Rong Khun by Pilikan on Flickr

This is a Hindu-Buddhist temple located in the northern province of Chiang Rai. Wat Rong Khun is a recent structure, with construction beginning in 1997 and remaining unfinished. It’s a slightly unconventional style of temple however it’s designed to reflect the modernity of the country. The white colour also represents the purity of Buddha.

Wat Phra Singh

Wat Phra Singh by bfick on Flickr
Wat Phra Singh by bfick on Flickr

Wat Phra Sing is located in the west of the ancient city of Chiang Rai, in the Mueang District. This temple was built in 1345 by Pra Chao Maha Proma and has an interesting and diverse collection of statues. Images of Pra Singh have been collected there made in ebony and gold, purple jade, as well as gold Buddha images collected from the bodhi tree.

Wat Arun – Temple of Dawn

Wat Arun by Mark Fischer on Flickr 800
Wat Arun by Mark Fischer on Flickr

Located in the Bangkok Yai district of Bangkok, the temple was built during the reign of Ayutthaya. Wat Arun is called the temple of Dawn because its name comes from the Hindu god Aruna who is typically represented by the rising sun. There is a main temple and the Ordinance Hall – supposedly designed by King Rama II in the nineteenth century – that is still used for rituals. Plenty of beautiful frescoes line the walls, inspired by the life of Buddha.

Santa Cruz Church

Santa Cruz Church by Dennis Jarvis on Flickr
Santa Cruz Church by Dennis Jarvis on Flickr

This isn’t the typical temple that you would expect to see in Thailand, but this church was built in the 1700s by the Portuguese. The land was gifted to them by King Tksin after the fall of Ayutthaya as a show of appreciation for their aid – they had been supplying the country with arms since 1516. The Portuguese built this Catholic Church originally with wood, but it has been rebuilt twice. With sculptures depicting Jesus’ life and stained glass windows, the Santa Cruz Church has elements of Romanesque, Renaissance and Baroque architectural styles.

Thailand is a very trendy destination, not just for gap year students and backpackers, but for anyone looking to experience a different way of life.

Getting to Thailand is easy – plenty of airlines fly to Bangkok and you can easily book ground and sea transportation tickets online.

Alyssa James is an outgoing introvert from Toronto who has read The Alchemist a few too many times. After graduating university, she taught English on a Caribbean island where she realized her passion for writing. Since then, her work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Travel + Escape, Matador Network and local newspapers. Her latest musings on expat life in London can be read on her blog, Alyssa Writes.