Of the very many beautiful temples in Thailand’s capital city, two stand out as far and away the most enigmatic and worth visiting. If you have a limited amount of time in the city and need to prioritize, look no further than Wat Arun and Wat Phra Kaeo.
Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)
Easily the best place in Bangkok to take in the golden hues of dawn and dusk, Wat Arun is not to be missed. After entering a square courtyard containing five Khmer-style prangs, you can opt either to ascend a series of steep steps to the top of the complex for grand views of the river, or lounge in the small park bordering the river at the temple’s base. Built in the early 19th century, the temple is decorated with seashells and porcelain. There is a large Buddha located near the central prang that was wrought by King Rama II. There are also four smaller prangs, a series of statues of ancient Chinese soldiers and animals, and six riverside, Chinese-style pavilions.
Wat Phra Kaeo (Temple of the Emerald Buddha)
Regarded as the most sacred Buddhist temple in the country, the Wat Phra Kaeo complex once served as the official home for the Kings of Siam. The complex is big enough that it is advisable to take the guided tour. A gender-specific dress code is strictly enforced at Wat Phra Kaeo, and, as with most temples, shoes must be shed. Among the many treasures housed in the temple grounds, the famed Emerald Buddha is by far the most significant. According to legend, the jade statue is rumored to have originated in India 500 years after Siddhārtha Gautama attained enlightenment. The statue is clothed in gold and has its garments changed throughout the year by the King in ceremonies corresponding to the changing of the seasons.