Thousands of Buddhist temples or wats can be found throughout Thailand, as nearly 95 per cent of the population is Buddhist. From simple shrines to elaborate edifices with gilded towers and giant Buddha statues, these temples are repositories of history, learning, and faith. Discover some of the most beautiful structures in the country through this guide.
Popularly referred to as the “White Temple,” this iconic structure is the youngest of Thailand’s landmarks, and a major reason why many visit Chiang Rai. The creation of Chiang Rai artist, Chalermchai Kositpipat, the temple itself is covered with intricate curlicue patterns, many highlighted in silver mirror work. Visitors approach the shrine via a narrow passageway flanked by faux fountains filled with hundreds of hellish arms reaching up; some carry bowls and others hold human skulls.
Pattaya’s spectacular Sanctuary of Truth is carved in wood. Photo: Paul Biris/Moment Open/Getty Images
Located just outside Chiang Mai on a hilltop overlooking the city, this temple dates back to 1383 when it was first established as a Buddhist monastery. Its main attraction is an enormous golden stupa, although the entire complex is a gorgeous amalgamation of intricately detailed structures topped with multi-tiered gables. Note that accessing the temple requires a steep climb up about 300 steps; those unable to make the trudge can take a lift to the top for THB30/₹57.
Rising up from the west banks of the Chao Phraya River, Wat Arun is also known as the Temple of Dawn. It is celebrated for its gorgeous architecture, particularly the central prang (tower), which is decorated with intricate porcelain, glass patterns, and statuary. It is most beautiful at dusk, when the sun sets behind the structure, and at night when it is lit up—best viewed at that hour from the opposite side of the river.
Right on the beach overlooking the Gulf of Thailand, Pattaya’s Sanctuary of Truth complex is an ornate 344-foot-high structure made of teak wood. Though not a temple in the traditional sense, its interiors feature panel upon panel of intricately carved artistic interpretations of dharmic philosophies—notably Mahayana Buddhism and Vedic traditions—with a strong Khmer influence reminiscent of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat. The four halls are full of beautifully carved reliefs depicting Hindu deities, bodhisattvas, and cosmological symbols.
Appeared in the March 2016 issue as part of “Your Own Private Thailand”.
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