Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Everything is Gold in Bangkok

The grand temples and palaces of Bangkok is a grand invitation to Thailand’s architecture appreciation, rich cultural heritage and religious background. But once I step in any Wat (temple) or look upon a chedi (pagoda) or stupa (Thai buddhist monument), one color or ensemble adorning every structure caught my attention – gold. From ornate walls to windows up to the pointed roofs, every temple or palace in Bangkok seems to be bejeweled and carved out of gold. Each are sparkling. Each are beautifully designed like life-sized jewelries. Each spells gold. My wanderings to these temples and palaces let me have an ultimate gold experience in the country but it also let me appreciate the Thai architecture and culture in all forms.

The ultimate burst of gold - The Temple of the Reclining Buddha.
Wat Benchamabophit - Bangkok's finest architecture.
 Wat Benchamabophit, often referred as “The Marble Temple” is the most beautiful temple I have seen in Bangkok. The gold and orange embellishments of the roof has attracted my attention for its very detailed designed and amazing architecture. The marble that has made the halls, floors and columns of the temple which is said to be imported from from Italy, just secondly caught my attention. But nonetheless, it is also a stunning work of Thai architecture. Wat Benchamabophit’s stunning and marvelous architecture is one of the best I have seen in the city that will surely caught the eyes of every Bangkok visitor.

Ornate roofs of structures inside the complex of Wat Benchamabophit.
A closer look to the intricate design of one of the windows.
I save the visit to the main temple as the last stop to explore. So I immediately explore the surrounding structures like Bovonvong Bell Tower and  Sri Somdej Pavillion. Bovonvong Bell Tower is a typical style of Thai architecture, roofed with glaze tiles and walled with marble slabs. The open sided Sri Somdej Pavillion houses several drums like Shan drum, a 16 foot long  drum carved from a block of rosewood.

Shan drum at Sri Somdej Pavillion.
 After seeing the surrounding pavilions and structures like monk’s quarters, its time for me to explore the beautiful temple. The marble part if the temple made it a real classy structure. The ubosot (Thai hall) sits in one wall of a cloister. The cloister is lined with many Buddha images which was unusual. Whereas most temple, all the Buddha images would be more or less the same, but in Wat Benchamabophit every image is different. Some are seated while some are standing, all with different poses and each has different meaning.

The golden roofs of the Marble Temple.
The different images of Buddha found in the cloister of the temple.

Explaining the position and meaning of the Buddha image.
 Phra Buddhajinaraja at the altar and the main buddha image in Marble Temple.
The ubosot (hall) is covered by marble which made it attractive by the layered and ornate orange and gold roof designs of the temple. The altar and its main buddha image, Phra Buddhajinaraja are the most beautiful in Thailand. The image is enthroned against a dark sky-blue background. A golden flame frames the image. The windows of the temple are a type of stained glass in yellow and white. The ceiling is a beautiful beamed of colors of dark red and gold.

One of the Buddha images different from one position from another.
The main facade of the temple.
I leave Wat Benchamabophit with an unforgettable memory of its beautiful and beaming orange and gold colored roofs along with the fluttering red, blue and white flag of Thailand and the yellow flag seal of the Royal Kingdom. The temple is located opposite one corner of Chitlada Palace (the official residence of the Thai royal family) in the Dusit district. The Marble Temple was featured in the famous reality TV show, The Amazing Race 9 as the 10th and final elimination pit-stop.

Wat Benchamabophit was 10th and final elimination stop of famous reality TV show Amazing Race 9.
Post-card perfect photo of the Marble Temple.
The Grand Palace is a grand invitation to Thailand’s rich history, religious background and unique Thai architecture. Yet it is also a grand invitation to the Thailand’s gold experience! From The Marble Temple, we move to Grand Palace to explore its treasured sites and temples where each seems to be almost carved in gold and bejeweled in architecture.

Grand Palace is a complex of temples and palaces in Rattanakosin district. For 150 years, it has been a home of the King and his court as well as the administrative seat of the government. Thai kings stopped living in the palace full-time around the turn of twentieth century, but the complex remains the seat of power and spiritual heart of the kingdom. There is a strict dress code for visiting the Grand Palace. Inside the complex, where the Temple of the Emerald Buddha also sits, is Thailand’s most sacred site. Visitors must be properly dress before being allowed to enter the temple like men should wear long pants and shirts with sleeves and woman should wear close shoes, modestly dressed and no see through or bare shoulder dress.

A grand invitation...
The Upper Terrace golden and bejeweled structures will greet you once you enter the Grand Palace.
The legend of Ramakien painted in the cloister of the complex.
Once you enter the Grand Palace, the cloister wall paint of Ramakien legend and the structures of Upper Terrace will greet you.  Ramakien is the Thai version of the Hindu epic Ramayana where each scenes is painted on the complex’s cloisters. First painted during the reign of King Rama I, the painted scenes were made bold and attractive with the highlights of gold embellishments. The first scene of story is found next to the east gate. Surrounding the gate port of entries are towering statues of Yakshas or guarding demons to guard Grand Palace against evil spirits. 

Phra Siratana Chedi - highest gold intensity experience!
Bejeweled and golden - The Royal Pantheon's walls and windows.
Phra Mondop (left) and Phra Siratana Chedi (right).
Model of Angkor Wat of Cambodia.
The Upper Terrace comprises Phra Siratana Chedi, Phra Mondop, Prasat Phra Dhepbidorn or the Royal Pantheon and a model of Angkor Wat.  Among the four structures, Phra Siratana Chedi and The Royal Pantheon caught my attention the most because of its golden and bejeweled architecture. The Phra Siratana Chedi with its golden chedis is the highest gold intensity experience among the structures because of its wholly painted gold building. The golden chedi shines ultimately in gold whenever the sun bask its sunshine on it! Beside it, is Phra Mondop, the building is a repository of sacred Buddhist scripture inscribed on palm leaves, contained within a mother-of-pearl inlaid cabinet. While the Royal Pantheon or Prasat Phra Dhepbidorn  From every columns, walls, doors, windows up to the roofs, everything seems to be laid with jewelries and precious stones. The design is very detailed and beautifully patterned like the intricate designs of a jewelry. The building becomes stunning and classic with the royal blue and gold color complement that dominates the whole structure. The Royal Pantheon is where the statues of past sovereigns of the ruling Chakri Dynasty are enshrined. Scattered around the Upper Terrace, are statues of elephants and mythical beings like Kinnara. The models of elephants are a record of the famous white elephant acquired during the reigns of the various kings of Thailand.

A grand invitation to unique and stunning Thai architecture.
Neighboring to the Upper Terrace is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha or Wat Phra Kaew. The temple has a very ornate and detailed designed roof in multicolored layer of dark blue, orange and yellow. The outside structure is designed with golden intricate patterns that also extends to its columns and outer walls. But the real attraction of the temple is the Emerald Buddha found inside the hall of the temple. I take a peak inside the altar by removing my shoes and seated on the floor. Taking photos inside are not allowed. The Emerald Buddha is actually carved from a block of jade and first discovered in 1434. It was initially thought made of emerald , hence the name of the image. The image is enshrined on a golden traditional Thai-style throne made of gilded carved wood. The throne sparkles in gold designs which I admire along with its surrounding stunning jewel-like patterns that looks difficult to make. A look into the thrones’ accessory designs made like small temples will make you feel like in a trance because of its gleaming and sparking pattern. It is like jewelries glittering everywhere in Wat Phra Kaew.

The stunning Royal Pantheon.
A closer look to the golden and bejeweled wall of Wat Phra Kaew.
An exit to the surrounding cloister is the entrance to the Phra Maha Monthian, Chakri and Dusit group of buildings. I explore the Amarindra Winitchai Hall where the main feature is a throne surmounted by a nine-tiered white umbrellas and backed by a boat-shape altar. The throne is wholly made of golf and and if not its accessories are encrusted with real gold! That’s why it is heavily guarded, visitor’s are allowed to view it from a certain distance only and taking photos of the throne is not allowed. I learned that the hall was built in 1785 during the reign of King Rama I and used for a number of state ceremonies such as birthday anniversary of the king.

The grand palaces and temples of Grand Palace!
Chakri Maha Prasat Hall, left and next to it is Dusit Maha Prasat Hall.
Chakri Maha Prasat Hall is used for reception of foreign ambassadors and state banquets.
We exited through Snamchand Pavilion that lead us to one of the grandest palace inside the complex, the Chakri Maha Prasat Hall. It is a stunning palace with golden embellishment roof design but what makes it unique is incoporating a European style architecture to the building. The manicured trees and plants surrounding its facade added a pleasant viewing of the palace. Chakri Maha Prasat Hall was built in 1882, the same year as the centenary celebration of Bangkok. The different halls of the building is used for the reception of foreign ambassadors and state banquets.

Neighboring to the Chakri group is the Dusit group of buildings. This group consists of the Dusit Maha Prasat Hall and Amphorn Phimok Prasat Pavilion.  The Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall was built by King Rama I and intended the present building to be use for his own lying-in-state ceremony. Today, is still remains as the lying-in-state of kings, queens and honored members of the royal family. The hall has an admirable four-tiered roof brightly encrusted with gold and intricate patterns and layered green and orange covers. It is topped with seven-tiered spire also made of intricate gold patterns. Also a structure who wouldn’t be left behind in gold embellishment structures is the Amphorn Phimok Prasat Pavilion. Aside from the elaborate design and architecture, its gold design extends to its columns and wall lines. This design makes it one of the most stunning pavilion inside the Grand Palace.

Snamchand Pavilion (the grey structure) leads an entrance to the Chakri and Dusit group of buildings.
The golden pedestal and the Emerald Buddha at Wat Phra Kaew.
Dusit Maha Prasat Hall (back with golden spire) and Amphorn Phimok Prasat Pavilion (front and smaller structure).
I am amazed in each architectural designs of the structures inside the Grand Palace. Each seems to be laid with jewels and gold! The beautiful pattern designs are hard to duplicate. Yet the boldest of all the designs or colors found inside the complex is gold! The single color that always caught my attention. The only color that dominates each temple and palace. In Grand Palace, everything is gleaming in gold, gold, gold.

Almost a neighbor to Grand Palace is Wat Pho or better known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. This is where I experience an ultimate burst of gold because of the biggest image of reclining Buddha I have seen sparkling wholly in gold! The moment I step into the grounds of Wat Pho, a lot of visitors were already inside the hall to catch a glimpse of the golden image. The soles of the statue’s feet are inlaid with mother-of-pearl showing 108 auspicious signs of the Buddha. This is the largest and most beautiful piece of fine arts of the Buddha image in a reclining position found in Thailand. Even the walls and columns where it is contained is reflecting gold colors because of the golden gleam of the image.

Gold, gold, gold - The Golden Reclining Buddha, the biggest buddha image in Thailand.
3 of the group of 4 huge pagodas called Phra Maha Chedi Si Rajakarn inside the grounds of Wat Pho.
Painted murals inside the walls of Temple of the Reclining Buddha.
As I explore the grounds of Wat Pho, I saw an almost endless surrounding double cloisters in the courtyard called Phra Rabieng. In these cloisters, the canopies has admirable pattern designs too. But what caught my sight are the hundred buddha images lining in the cloisters. There are 400 images to be exact all gleaming in gold! I proceed to explore Phra Uposatha, the main chapel and heart of the monastery. Inlays of mother-of-pearl on the outer side of the entrance door panels depict episodes from the Ramakien, while on the inner side are painted specimens of ecclesiastical fans of rank which are presented to the monk sovereigns. The principal budhha image inside the main chapel is Phra Buddha Deva Patimakorn. It is in a gesture of seated Buddha in a three tiered pedestal and some ashes of King Rama I are kept under the pedestal. While my eyes is gleaming in gold again, I also notice the mural paintings inside the hall. It is also the only chapel that is allowed to photograph the Buddha image while on the altar. Proper seating gesture is strictly observed inside the chapel like feet should not point directly to the Buddha image or its pedestal. Outside the chapel, the chapel’s double marble walls surrounding it called Kampaengkaew had a symbolic architecture. There are 8 sheltered gates and 8 sculpted boundary stones.

The huge image of the golden reclining Buddha.
A faithful praying inside Phra Uposatha with the Phra Buddha Deva Patimakorn buddha image at the altar.
Some of the numerous small spires found inside Wat Pho.
Inside the grounds of Wat Pho, I’ve also noticed the four huge and tall spires or pagodas surrounded by white wall with Thai-Chinese style sheltered gates decorated with colored-glazed tiles and Chinese rockeries guardians. This group of four huge pagodas called Phra Maha Chedi Si Rajakarn is 42 meters high and elaborated with colorful mosaics. Actually the four pagodas represent the four kings of the Chakri Dynasty while there are also smaller pagodas found inside the temple that contains the holy relics of Buddha or for the purpose of keeping the ashes of the royal descendants. Phra Maha Chedi Sri Sanpetdayarn is the green tile mosaic pagoda represents the reign of King Rama I. The one with white tile mosaic representing the reign of King Rama II is named Phra Maha Chedi Dilok Dhammakaroknitarn,  It was built by his son, King Rama III. He also built the yellow tile mosaic pagoda, Phra Maha Chedi Muni Batborikharn, for his own reign and for the praise of Buddha. The last one is Phra Maha Chedi Song Phra Srisuriyothai in dark blue tile mosaic is the most beautiful of the four tallest pagodas. I find the dark blue tile designs a true royalty and class. It represents the reign of King Rama IV or King Mongkut.

This spires and pagodas in Wat Pho has a significant historical value and admirable designs but the ultimate burst of gold is still the reclining golden Buddha. It is the center of gold experience in Wat Pho. Though, the hot weather and high sun can discourage you to explore further the grounds of the temple, Wat Pho is a worth visit for an enriching learning about Thailand and it rich cultural heritage. 

Phra Maha Chedi Muni Batborikharn represents the reign of King Rama III.
The dark blue tile pagoda, Phra Maha Chedi Song Phra Srisuriyothai.
Phra Maha Chedi Si Rajakarn.
When I visited Wat Benchamabophit, it suits its another name as The Marble Temple for it is the most beautiful temple I saw in Bangkok. Its marble columns and floors gleams classiness in it that perfectly matches to its ornate and intricate designed golden roofs. It has a very admirable architecture. When I visited the Grand Palace, I was submerged to its golden and bejeweled architectures.  Each structure is stunning and in everywhere I look or glance, I always see gold! Yet Grand Palace is a grand invitation to the Thailand’s history discovery, rich culture and unique architecture. When I visited Wat Pho, I believe I reach my ultimate gold experience in Bangkok. It almost submerge me in a trance because of the burst of gold all-over the huge reclining Buddha that I never seen before. The pagodas and spires surrounding the temple proves the rich religious background and history of the country. I won’t be surprise if James Bond’s famed nemesis Auric Goldfinger would love Bangkok. Because he loves only gold and in Bangkok everything is gold!

Everything is Gold in Bangkok is part of my Thailand's Amazing Smiles series where I share my wonderful trip to the land of amazing smiles last October 25-28, 2011. Other "gold" experience you may have in Bangkok is by visiting Wat Saket or Golden Mount, Loha Prasat and  Wat Traimit or Temple of the Golden Buddha. For a helpful trip to Bangkok visit Bangkok for Visitors website for more information.You might also like the other parts of the series:


  1. striking ang golden palace, pero what stands out more is yung cleanliness. maintained at shining! araw araw siguro yan nililinis. =)

  2. Very nice. I have visited this temple also a couple of years ago. :)

  3. The Grand Palace is one the must visit when in Bangkok. One of my favorite spot here is the legend of Ramakien painted in the walls and the Emerald buddha... Nahirapan ka rin ba kunan yung reclining buddha? lols! Bumalik pa ko ng late afternoon dun para lang makunan siya ng walang tao.. :)

  4. @Chyng: Yung Phra Siratana Chedi siguro yung ibig mo sabihin. Eh araw-araw ba namang merong turista kelangan talaga malinis sya.

    @Oman: My experience was an overload of GOLD!

    @Bino: In Grand Palace, I don't know where to start as every structure is fascinating!

    Yup, nahirapan ako kumuha sa reclining Buddha lalo kung me flash o wala, tsaka angle kasi ang laki nya! Nahirapan din me gumawa ng pang-profile pic for FB with it! LOL =)

  5. that's how you see how rich are they in their culture...wishing you a wonderful Christmas holiday and a more prosperous New Year too!

    greetings from Ruby

  6. @Redruby: Yes, they have a very rich culture.
    Thanks, same to you... have a great holiday this week!

    @Christian: Nalunod ako sa ginto nyan! As in gold overload! Gold everywhere!

  7. Nice pictures Ian! :) I remember my Thailand trip through it. I agree. I was amazed when I visited the temples and saw gold, hehe.

    Btw, hope you had a nice Christmas. Wishing you a prosperous New Year! ^__^

  8. @Karla: I'm also amazed by the richness of Thai history and architecture. Thanks for the greet... May you have a joyous holiday and Happy 2012!


All comments and reactions are highly appreciated.

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