If you’re into learning about world religions, you’ll hit the jackpot in Thailand. The country is filled with magnificent Buddhist temples, some dating back centuries, others much, much younger. The temples in Thailand are made of wood, stone and even recycled beer bottles, yet they all offer a sense of peace to all who visit. If you’re lucky enough to visit when a service is taking place, count yourself very fortunate, indeed.
The Sanctuary of Truth in Pattaya gives new meaning to the world “impressive.” Intricate carving cover every inch of the wood structure, which is filled with traditional Buddhist and Hindu decorations. It is a newer temple, a work in progress; it began in 1981 and is scheduled to be completed in 2050. Its aim is to honor the traditional ancient values of earth, knowledge and Eastern philosophy by teaching about human responsibility, thought, cycle of life, and life’s relationship with the universe.
Wat Phra That Lampang Luang is one of the most sacred temples in Thailand, home to a strand of Buddha’s hair. It also is considered one of the best examples of Lanna architecture. The 13th century temple has a conical spire, or stupa, that is more than 400 meters (125 feet) high. While other temples have been modernized, this temple has been restored to its original form.
The Temple of a Million Bottles (Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew) isn’t your usual Buddhist temple; indeed, it is one of the more unique temples in you’ll find in Thailand. The complex incorporates about 1.5 million recycled glass bottles in its design; glass bottles are even used in the toilets. Mainly green Heineken and brown Chang bottles are used; bottle caps are used to create mosaics. The complex has about 20 buildings, including prayer rooms and a water tower.
The Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew) may be misnamed because the only thing in common the Buddha has with emerald is the color green. The 66-centimeters (26-inch) high Buddha, instead, is made of jasper or jade. Still, it occupies the place of honor in this temple on the Grand Palace grounds. The Buddha, clad in gold, is believed to date back to the 15th century. It was moved to various temples around Thailand for a few centuries, ending up in Bangkok in 1784.
Wat Mahathat, located in northern Thailand’s Sukhothai Historical Park, is an ancient temple that is considered the park’s most important and impressive temple. Some 168 sculptings of Buddhist disciples with hands clasped decorate the base of the main stupa, which was built to contain relics belonging to Buddha. This is fitting as the name translates as “temple of the Great Relic.” A large sitting Buddha can be found at Orientation Hall, while a huge standing Buddha is nearby.
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Wat Arun is known as the Temple of Dawn but it might just as easily be known as the Temple of Magnificence. This temple, rising above the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, is nothing short of spectacular when it’s lit up against the night sky. One of Thailand’s landmarks, the temple is just as stunning when lit up by the morning sun. The Khmer style tower, covered with colorful porcelain, glistens in the sun. Surrounding buildings are covered in seashells and more porcelain.
Wat Chaiwatthanaram is an impressive temple complex in Ayutthaya, an ancient capital of Thailand. Built to honor a king’s mother, the temple is the most visited site in Ayutthaya. Wat Chaiwatthanaram is located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, but the scenic river is no competition for the temple. The layout of the 17th century temple subscribes to the traditional Buddhist view of the world, with temples corresponding to mountains, continents, seas and human habitat.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is one of the must-sees when you’re visiting Chiang Mai. One of the most sacred temples in northern Thailand, the temple’s name is frequently shorted to Doi Suthep, although this is actually the name of the mountain it’s sitting on. The temple, about 15 km (10 miles) from Chiang Mai, is a working Buddhist monastery that was built in the 14th century. The top of the temple is decorated with a golden spire, surrounded by shrines and murals. A replica of the Emerald Buddha is on display.
With more than 1,000 images, Bangkok’s Temple of the Reclining Buddha hosts the largest collection of Buddhas in Thailand, including a reclining Buddha that is 45 meters (150 feet) long. Built on an island close to the Grand Palace, the temple complex is considered the best of the best royal temples. Wat Pho is one of Bangkok’s oldest temples, and is considered the birthplace of Thai massage. An early center for public education, walls are decorated with inscriptions on various subjects.
The White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) is a gorgeous gingerbread creation that is one of the newest temples in Thailand, being built in 1997. Reminiscent of a fairy tale castle covered with snow, it might be the ogre’s home since statuary has a ferocious look. A highlight of this privately owned temple is the bridge of the “cycle of rebirth,” under which outstretched hands reach to the sky. Across the bridge is the Gate of Heaven where two creatures decide the fate of the dead.