Wat Phra Kaew: Temple of Emerald Buddha in Bangkok

Wat Phra Kaew: Temple of Emerald Buddha in Bangkok
“Buddha is not for decoration; respect is common sense.”

When talking about beautiful temples in Thailand, it’s almost impossible not to mention Wat Phra Kaew. Also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Wat Phra Kaew is one of Thailand’s most sacred and famous Buddhist temples. Located within the Grand Palace in the heart of Bangkok, it’s possibly one of the easiest temples to visit in the country.

From a brief history to the dress code, we’ve compiled everything you need to know about visiting Wat Phra Kaew below.

A quick history of Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Phra Kaew: Temple of Emerald Buddha in Bangkok

The Temple of the Emerald Buddha was constructed in 1785 when King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke (King Rama I) moved the capital of Thailand from Thonburi to Bangkok. Unlike most temples in Thailand, Wat Phra Kaew doesn’t have any living quarters for monks. Instead, it’s filled with sacred buildings and objects. You can find elaborate paintings, carvings, and pagodas throughout the whole temple.

Wat Phra Kaew (referred to more formally as Wat Phra Sri Ratanasasdaram) is the holiest Buddhist temple in Thailand and home to the revered Emerald Buddha image. The origin of the diminutive Emerald Buddha is uncertain. Some experts believe the statue originated from Sri Lanka whilst others claim it was crafted on Thai soil in the 14th century. The Emerald Buddha is believed to bring good fortune to whoever possesses it and down the centuries it has been fought over by kings and empires. According to local legends, miracles were witnessed at the various places the statue was interned including Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and Lampang. The Buddha image was seized by Laos invaders in 1552 and resided in Laos until 1779 before being recaptured by the Thai general who would go on to be crowned King Rama I.

What to see in Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Phra Kaew: Temple of Emerald Buddha in Bangkok

Wat Phra Kaew is a beautiful complex with ornate buildings. Considered one of Bangkok’s largest temples, you can find Buddhist statues, towers, and temples here. However, the highlights of the temple are as follows:

The Emerald Buddha
The main attraction of Wat Phra Kaew is, of course, the Emerald Buddha. It’s located in the temple’s main hall, otherwise known as Ubosot or ordination hall. Don’t expect to see a giant Buddha statue because the Emerald Buddha is actually pretty small in size. The statue, depicting the Buddha sitting in a meditating position, is only 66 cm tall. Despite the size, however, it’s one of the most sacred objects in Thai culture.

Also known as Phra Kaew Morakot, the statue isn’t actually made from emerald. It was carved from a single block of jade and is decorated with jewel-embedded garments made from pure gold. Only the King of Thailand can touch the sacred statue. Three times a year, the King changes the golden garment in a formal ritual with the help of an assistant. 

The Emerald Buddha Seasonal Costume Change

Wat Phra Kaew: Temple of Emerald Buddha in Bangkok
Photo credit: BuddhistDoor.net 

With great reverence for The Emerald Buddha a ceremonial costume change(https://www.emerald-buddha.com/costume-change-emerald-buddha), only performed by the King of Thailand, occurring three times per year: for the Summer, Rainy, and Winter seasons. Each custom costs approximately USD$3.8 Million.

A Royal ceremony takes place with a procession of Monks and dignitaries, the King, sprinkles water over the faithful to bring good fortune throughout the upcoming season.

The costumes are; a diamond-encrusted golden robe through the hot season, a solid gold robe in the cool season, and a gold-plated monk's robe with a headdress for the rainy season.

The summer and rainy season costumes were commissioned by King Rama I, (1737 – 1809).
King Rama III (1824-1851) had the third costume crafted for the winter season.

The costumes that are not presently adorning The Emerald Buddha are displayed nearby at the pavilion of regalia, Royal decorations, and Thai coins on the grounds of the Grand Palace.

The Model of Angkor Wat
Along with the Emerald Buddha, the Model of Angkor Wat is also a must-see when visiting Wat Phra Kaew. Angkor Wat is an ancient temple complex in Cambodia, and the detailed scale model was built under the order of King Rama IV. Legend has it that King Rama IV wanted to move the temple complex from Cambodia to Bangkok. However, since it wasn’t feasible, he ordered the construction of a detailed model of Angkor Wat instead.

Ramakian Murals
Starting from the north gate and continuing clockwise around the compound, you can find 178 murals depicting the Ramakian story. It includes the depictions of Rama (the hero) and Sita (his bride), and Hanuman (the monkey king).

Wat Phra Kaew: Temple of Emerald Buddha in Bangkok

Wat Phra Kaew: Temple of Emerald Buddha in Bangkok

The Temple of Emerald Buddha Museum

Wat Phra Kaew: Temple of Emerald Buddha in Bangkok

In 1982, this building became a museum that houses artifacts from the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. 

On the ground floor, you'll find the bones of the former kings' white elephants and old palanquins. Upstairs, the old costumes of the Emerald Buddha are on display as well as two models of the Grand Palace, one as it is today and the other depicting the palace when it was first built.

Wat Phra Kaew: Temple of Emerald Buddha in Bangkok

Formerly it was a mint, a guard barracks, and an officer’s club. On the pediment is a Garuda which is Thailand’s emblem. This red, mythical beast called Phra Khrut Pha represents the king’s divine power and authority.

Beside the museum are arrayed many canons and other artifacts from the royal armory. This is generally the last stop on any tour of the palace.

Admission Fee

Wat Phra Kaew: Temple of Emerald Buddha in Bangkok

Admission fee is free of charge for Thai nationals.

Adult - 500 baht for foreigners. 

Children – under 120cm in height are free of charge.

The ticket covers the tour of The Grand Palace grounds and surrounds (not including the inside the palace), and a visit to The Temple of Emerald Buddha, Queen Sirikit Museum of Textile, The Royal Thai Decorations & Coins Pavilion, and the late King Rama Museum of his private collection. 

The ticket also includes an entry for the “Khon” Thai Classical Masked Dance that is performed every Monday to Friday (10:30am, 01:00pm, 02:30pm, 4:00pm, and 5:30pm) at Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre. 

It is valid within 7-days after the ticket purchase. 
Opening Hours: Daily from 8:30 AM - 3.30 PM

You can buy the tickets online, or at the entrance gate.

Dos and don’t when visiting the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Phra Kaew: Temple of Emerald Buddha in Bangkok

Here’s a general guideline for dressing when visiting the Grand Palace and the temples inside.

• Knees and shoulders should always be covered.

• No tight or transparent clothing.

• Avoid yoga pants, stretch pants, and sleeveless tops.

• Clothing depicting religious themes and death-related themes is not allowed.

• Torn style clothing is not permitted.

• If you have any Buddhist or Hindu tattoos, be sure to cover them.

• Always speak quietly. Avoid laughing or yelling inside the temple. You shouldn’t run around on the temple grounds as well. 

• Wear comfortable shoes. 

• Do not take photos and videos in places that are not permitted. 

• Be respectful. Try not to get in the way of people who may visit the temple to actually worship.

• Don’t chew gum, eat snacks, or smoke cigarettes inside the temple.

• Avoid turning your back, pointing at, and touching images of Buddha. NO SELFIES with BUDDHA.

Wat Phra Kaew: Temple of Emerald Buddha in Bangkok

Top Tips:

• You won’t be allowed to enter the temple (and the Grand Palace) if you don’t adhere to the dress code guidelines. However, you can rent appropriate clothing at the entrance if you forget to wear proper clothes. They also sell souvenir shirts for 200baht.

• Beware of pickpockets and scams. Don’t wear lots of jewelry and always keep your items with you.

• Don’t wear accessories like hats, sunglasses, or headphones while you’re exploring the temples.

• Bring an extra tote bag to carry your shoes when you are entering temples. This will help to minimize plastic waste.

• Don’t forget to bring a water bottle. You can have it refilled for free from their various drinking station.
• Think twice about bringing your small children and toddlers as the place is usually crowded to avoid any form of inconvenience.

• Do not bring your pets.

• Only take photos in places that are permitted. Watch over the signs in place that are written in multiple languages such as Thai, English, Mandarin, and Japanese.

• Be respectful to the museum staff. Saying ‘thank you’ with a wai gesture helps.

CovidSafe Plan

After being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Grand Palace and Temple of Emerald Buddha is now open to the public since its reopening in November 2021.

This means tourists can once again marvel at the beauty and magnificence of the Grand Palace complex, which also incorporates the famed Temple of the Emerald Buddha or Wat Phra Kaew, and the historical significance of Wat Pho also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha and which is a centre of traditional Thai massage. Bangkok’s City Pillar Shrine is also now once again welcoming both Thai and foreign visitors to pay homage.

To help ensure the safety of visitors and staff, the health and safety measures in place at all venues include the compulsory wearing of face masks at all times, body temperature screening upon entry, handwashing facilities, and registration on the Thai Chana application. Social distancing is observed at service points in the complex, and common contact surfaces are cleaned and disinfected every 20 minutes, while medical professionals are on standby in the case of emergencies or first aid being needed

How to Get There

Wat Phra Kaew: Temple of Emerald Buddha in Bangkok

Sky Train (BTS)
BTS Saphan Taksin Station Exit 2
Walk to the Chao Phraya River. Under the bridge, there is a Sathorn Pier. Chao Phraya Express Boat, orange flag. Take the boat at Tha Chang (N9). The royal palace is on the right.

MRT Sanam Chai Station Exit 1
Take the bus no. 3, 9, 44, 47, 53 and 82

By Boat
This is one of the most popular ways to The Grand Palace.
Take an express boat to Tha Tien (N8) along the Chao Phraya. Once you walk out of the pier walk past the food stalls until you get to a large road junction. In front (slightly to the right) is The Grand Palace. Take a right here and walk about 10 minutes until you come to Wat Pho which will be on the other side of the road. Otherwise, get on a tuk-tuk but they'll probably overcharge a lot for this short distance.

By Bus
Buses go straight to The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew
The bus that passes through the palace and the nearest temple is Wat Phra Kaew. 1, 3, 9, 15, 25, 30, 32, 33, 43, 44, 47, 53, 59, 64, 80, 82, 91, 203, 503, 508, 512

By Private car - Parking
Wat Mahathat, Tha Maharaj soi Thapphen, beside City Pillar Shrine, Rajadamnern Road Car Park, Soi Wat Pho, Wat Rakang Parking Building.

By Tuk Tuk
Unless you are used to tuk-tuk bargaining, it might end up costing you more than a taxi to get there. If possible arrange a price beforehand with a little bargaining.

Wat Phra Kaew: Temple of Emerald Buddha in Bangkok

Wat Phra Kaew: Temple of Emerald Buddha in Bangkok

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  1. I've heard of the emerald buddha but never really gave it so much thought until today. I'm surprised that it's small. It's fascinating that they give it costume changes!

    1. I'm always a thinker whenever I travel, and it makes my trip all memorable.

  2. Was this before the pandemic? Mukhang wala pang masks. we visited several temples in Bangkok but I forgot the names na. Important talaga to follow their dress code and other etiquette to show respect.

    1. Yes, this was back in 2019 trip. I hope to visit again now that no more restrictions in Thailand!


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