Travel to Bangkok, Thailand which is the home of “Wat Phra Kaew”, (Thai:วัดพระแก้ว), or the “Temple of the Emerald Buddha”, which houses many beautiful Buddhist structures and includes the Grand Palace.
Foreigners and Thai citizens alike visit this amazing site to pay homage to the Buddha or just marvel at the amazing sights. In this photograph, the golden structure is the “Phra Si Ratana Chedi”, a “stupa” which contains ashes of the Buddha. The building to the right of the Phra Si Ratana Chedi is “Phra Mondop”, a library which houses sacred Buddhist manuscripts and more beautiful artwork to include carved doors inlaid with mother-of-pearl.
Some information and etiquette pointers for visitors who wish to visit Wat Phra Kaew or any temple in Thailand:
- There is an entry fee for foreign visitors at Wat Phra Kaew and Thai people have free access.
- There are separate turnstiles for Thais and foreign visitors for entry which are clearly marked.
- Foreigners are allowed to take part in paying homage to Buddha as well if they want. If you enjoy your visit, there are donation boxes you can drop some Thai Baht into too.
- Take your shoes off when entering a temple and step over, not on, the threshold when entering the door.
- When moving away from a statue of Buddha, back away as you leave and don’t turn your back to the statue.
- Women are not allowed to make any type of physical contact with a Monk to include his robes.
- Your feet should never point toward a statue of Buddha, toward a Monk, or at people because this is considered very rude.
- Your head must be lower than a seated Monk when approaching one inside a temple. When seated before a Monk, sit with your feet under you. He may offer you a blessing and splash you with blessed water. The Monks are usually pretty friendly and they will try speaking English with you.
- Don’t take pictures of Monks or people praying. At Wat Phra Kaew, photographs inside the temple building that enshrines The Emerald Buddha are prohibited. If you have a telephoto lens, you can still capture a photograph of The Emerald Buddha from outside the building through the open doors.
At Wat Phra Kaew there is a strict dress code to visit the site so just be aware before you go:
- No shorts, cutoffs, short skirts, or any garments that do not cover the legs.
- No revealing clothing can be worn.
- No sleeveless tops, tanks tops, vests, or shirts with short or long sleeves with the sleeves rolled up.
- Shoes have to be taken off before entering the temples. There is a place, if I remember correctly, for the Thai’s shoes and foreign visitors shoes.
- No sweat pants, sweat shirts, or pajama type pants can be worn.
Best rule of thumb; dress modestly and follow what the Thai people do if you aren’t sure. :-)
If you happen to have shorts on when you arrive, which may be probable because Thailand can get very HOT and humid, you can “rent” a pair of long loose-fitting pants from the ticket office or from vendors to use on your visit . They are usually big enough to pull over your shorts. Just make sure you return them where you got them.
Wat Phra Kaew is open daily from 8:30 A.M. – 3:30 P.M. The only time it will be closed is during a royal function. Check before you go because there have been scams conducted outside the site by people who may tell you its closed for cleaning, repairs, a Buddhist holiday, and they may offer to take you to see the “lucky Buddha”.
From what I have read and heard about, this is a scam to take you someplace else that will not only cost you time, but your hard earned money. I am lucky to have a Thai wife for my guide because she knows the scams and is like a tiger by my side. :-)
One website mentions a “gem scam”. This involves a low-priced or free tuk tuk ride, gaining your confidence in the people who have made contact with you, and eventually a discussion about buying low-cost gems that can turn a big profit back home, etc… Tuk Tuk rides anywhere for free, 20 or 40 Thai baht are a scam; Tuk Tuk drivers are in the Tuk Tuk business to make money just like everyone else. So offers of free or cheaper than normal is a warning sign. The gems that will be offered are quite possibly low-grade gem stones or worst case scenario they will be made of glass. If approached by these types of people, don’t engage in a conversation with the person, just walk away even if you feel you are being rude. They especially like to target new visitors to Thailand and can smell them. Once you brush them off they will just move on and try to hook the next unsuspecting tourist.
Despite all the rules and possible scams you may run into, once you are inside the walls and touring the site, you will marvel at the architecture and artwork in store for you. Wat Phra Kaew is a must see place when visiting Bangkok, Thailand.
Happy Thailand travels! :-)