Thailand · Wat Phra Kaew
Also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Wat Phra Kaew (“Temple of the Holy Jewel Image”) is the colloquial name of the vast, fairy-tale compound that also includes the former residence of the Thai monarch, the Grand Palace. It is regarded as one of the most important temples in Thailand; that is pretty notable, considering there are some 40,000 Buddhist temples across the country.
Wat Phra Kaew is located inside of the Grand Palace in the heart of the Old City district of Bangkok. The palace grounds are split into three sections, otherwise known as courts: the inner, middle and outer court. It is in the outer court where visitors will find Wat Phra Kaew. This temple is one of the main reasons visitors flock to the Grand Palace.
This ground was consecrated in 1782, the first year of Bangkok rule, and is today Bangkok’s biggest tourist attraction and a pilgrimage destination for devout Buddhists and nationalists. The 94.5-hectare grounds encompass more than 100 buildings that represent 200 years of royal history and architectural experimentation.
Unlike many temples in Thailand that are used mainly as living quarters for monks, the structure of Wat Phra Kaew houses many sacred buildings and objects. The temple is embellished with elaborate carvings, paintings and pagodas throughout, and is aesthetically pleasing. One could spend an entire afternoon exploring and trying to capture every detail that was put into the making of this historic temple.
Round the interior walls are murals depicting the jataka stories. These are located according to the typical Thai conventions inside temples. The ones facing the altar depict the victory of the Buddha over the evil demon Mara, as he subdues her and achieves enlightenment. As is normal for Thai temples, shoes must be taken off before entering into the temple.
Despite it is national importance, Wat Phra Kaew is the only temple in Thailand that does not have any resident monks, and so is not a seat of Buddhist learning in the same way as the likes of Wat Pho and Wat Mahathat.