03 Aug Adventure History – Explore the Top Three Bangkok Temples with Kids
A tour of the best temples of Thailand’s capital was on our 5-day – itinerary primarily for us parents. Since we didn’t know if or when we would be able to come back to the city, we did not want to miss out. So we decided to go on a one-day tour and visit two or three of the main Bangkok temples. The kids were already well adapted to Thailand’s climate, the streets and hospitality (in this case meaning that everyone always wants to make contact with them), thanks to our holiday on stunning Koh Chang Island. So we didn’t have to worry much about “culture shock”.
I recommend you book a private tour via your hotel. A temple tour with a group of strangers will be exhausting for both you and the kids. You definitely won’t want to be dragged by a guide who has to stick to a tight schedule. So we made it clear from the beginning that we would need a flexible person and we didn’t know yet how many of Bangkok’s temples we would be able to visit. No problem at all since Thai hospitality makes anything possible.
Before you go, make sure to catch up on some important facts about Thai history. I found this beautiful podcast where you can easily learn more. Also check out this colorful guide to Bangkok and Thailand for kids. We finally ended up seeing the temple of the Golden Buddha (Wat Traimit), the Grand Palace and the temple of the Reclining Buddha (What Pho) as well.
Dresscode for Bangkok Temples
As for all temples and churches, please wear appropriate clothing (make sure to cover shoulders and knees). They definitely won’t be that strict with the kids, but I think it’s a sign of respect that already our young children can understand. Same is true for taking off your shoes – which was fun for the kids.
The Temple of The Golden Buddha
After breakfast we headed out to the Temple of the Golden Buddha (Wat Traimit) which is located in Chinatown. It’s open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the entrance is free. The world’s largest seated Buddha made of massive gold was crafted by artisans in 13th or 14th century and weighs about five and a half tons. Pure gold, forgotten for centuries!
Julian was blown by the fact that he was standing in front of pure gold, and that the artisans once covered the statue in stucco and colored glass in order to disguise it from invading Burmese military troops in 18th century. Actually, the Golden Buddha was only rediscovered by accident, as the statue fell down to the floor when being moved to a new housing in 1955 and the plaster splittered. A real secret gold treasure, hidden from the ennemies for centuries. What more could a child possibly wish for in a thrilling, miraculous true tale?
The Bells of Peace
Walk around the temple barefoot three times and ring the bells of peace. Make a wish and with a little bit of good luck you will come closer to your own inner peace. The ringing bells make a beautiful sound and both kids were completely fascinated by this unfamiliar custom and the wonderful story of the Golden Buddha.
The Temple of the Reclining Buddha
In Maharat Road, close to Chao Phraya River lies one of the largest temple complexes of Bangkok, What Pho. Besides being the first public university of Thailand it is today also well known as a center for tradional Thai massage and medicine. What Pho is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Thai massage is available until six p.m.) and entrance costs are THB 100 per person.
There certainly is a lot to do and see at What Pho (for example long lines of golden Buddha statues), but the Temple of the Reclining Buddha as a highly revered image is the main highlight. This giant Buddha is 46 metres long, 15 metres high and covered with gold leaf. Truly an extraordinary sight! It feels like the building is too small for its inhabitant!
The kids too were really impressed by the huge sculpture of Buddha and asked many questions. I had to scrape together the little I knew about Buddhism. Thanks to our knowledgeable guide – he had all the answers. Although it was sometimes not so easy to get the point in his explanations.
Get Lucky, Drop The Pennies
If you can use some more good luck (and who can’t?), purchase a bowl of coins at the entrance of the building. Lining the length of the wall, there are 108 bronze bowls into which you can drop the pennies. This makes a wonderful sound and was a great thing to do for the children. They loved to sort through the coins and drop them into the bowls nice and neat. The number 108 by the way refers to the 108 earthly temptations Buddha had to overcome to reach Nirvana. Maybe one or the other dream has already come true after spending some money here. It helps the monks to preserve the temple.
The Grand Palace
Our last stop for the day was the Grand Palace, Thailand’s probably most sacred site. Located in Na Phra Lan Road, Old City, its opening hours are from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at a cost of THB 500. We were already somewhat exhausted and first of all had to take a short break off the Bangkok temples. We enjoyed some cool water and freshly cut watermelon by the parking lot until our guide got a little nervous, telling us that we had to get in soon otherwise they would be closing.
Contrary to what the name suggests, we are not talking about one big building, but the city’s largest temple complex. It is huge, a family could easily spend a whole day exploring the different buildings, halls and temples. Built in 1782, it used to be the residence for generations of Kings of Thailand and the Royal Court. Several generations of Kings added new buildings to the complex. This explains the differences in architectural styles that are present in the complex. Until today, the Thai King comes here with his family to pray and meditate. According to our guide, that’s one of the reasons the Grand Palace shuts its doors to the public at 3.30 p.m.
The Emerald Buddha
Among the many smaller palaces and impressive buildings you will also find the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew), the probably biggest attraction of the Grand Palace complex. Due to our late arrival in the afternoon we unfortunately missed the little, but very revered statue that dates back to the 14th century and was carved from a single block of jade.
So we walked around the wide area, stunned by the Royal Reception Hall with its architecture being a unique mixture of Thai and European influences. Don’t miss the miniature replica of Angkor Wat on the upper terrace!
We absorbed the exotic impressions, watched visitors of all ages and origins and let our guide take us on a voyage to times long past. Only drawback was that we had to constantly call back the kids not to run too far away. Simply everything here was new, strange and exciting for them.
This is my bottom line: Please don’t think Bangkok temples are not for kids!
Set a slow pace. Take your breaks (since it’s going to be pretty hot, especially because you will be wearing long clothing). Keep up a spirit of discovery and a pleasant atmosphere. Let them experience the tale behind the statue, the building, or whatever.
Simply take the chance with your kids, even if they are small. You will need strong nerves, but you might be amazed by what they find interesting and thrilling! Awaken their curious minds and I am sure they will love Bangkok’s great temples!
Even today, Julian sometimes thinks of the Golden Buddha and wants me to re-tell the story of its rediscovery.
Did you explore Bangkok’s temples with your family too? Let us know in the comments which ones you chose and what your kids found the most fascinating about them!