Wat Phra Kaew: 7 Amazing Facts About Thailand’s Sacred Temple

Wat Phra Kaew, also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, is one of the most important and revered Buddhist temples in Thailand. Located within the Grand Palace complex in Bangkok, it is a stunning example of Thai architecture and artistry.

The temple is home to the highly venerated Emerald Buddha statue, a small yet spiritually significant image of the meditating Buddha. The statue is believed to have a storied history that includes several Southeast Asian kingdoms and holds great importance in Thai culture.

Wat Phra Kaew, with its intricate and exquisite design, attracts millions of visitors each year, both religious pilgrims and tourists alike. The temple complex serves as a key reminder of Thailand’s rich history and deep-rooted spirituality.


Wat Phra Kaew, also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, is a highly significant and sacred temple located within the grounds of the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand. It was built in the 18th century during the reign of King Rama I, who moved the capital from Thonburi to Bangkok.

The Emerald Buddha housed within the temple is a highly revered statue, believed to have a long and complex history. Legend has it that the statue originated in India, and later made its way to Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and the Lannathai Kingdom before finally being moved to Thailand.

In 1434, the statue was discovered in Chiang Rai, covered in stucco. Upon realizing the true nature of the statue, King Samfangkaen of Lannathai ordered the statue to be moved to Chiang Mai. However, the elephant carrying the statue chose to go to Lampang, where the statue remained for 32 years.

Later, the statue was brought to Chiang Mai, only to be moved to Luang Prabang in what is now Laos during a turbulent period. In the 18th century, King Taksin defeated the Burmese and recovered the Emerald Buddha, bringing it back to Thailand. After a short stay back in Thonburi, the statue was finally moved to its current location in Wat Phra Kaew by King Rama I when he built the Grand Palace and founded the Chakri Dynasty.

The architecture of the temple complex reflects both traditional Thai craftsmanship and the influence of various nationalities involved throughout its history. Visitors can find intricate murals, gold-plated buildings, and numerous decorative elements which showcase the unique blend of cultures and artistic styles.

Architecture and Design

Wat Phra Kaew, also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, showcases a unique blend of traditional Thai and Lanna architectural styles. The temple complex is adorned with intricate, ornate designs that draw tourists from around the world.

The main attraction within the complex is the Emerald Buddha, a revered figurine made of green jade, seated atop a tall, golden pedestal. Although small in size, the statue holds cultural and historical significance for the Thai people.

The temple itself presents a fusion of various architectural elements, such as:

  • Chedi: A tiered or bell-shaped structure, typically enshrining Buddhist relics
  • Ubosot: The ordination hall, featuring traditional Thai roof detailing and elaborate decorations
  • Phra Wiharn: An assembly hall with intricately carved doors and sweeping rooflines

In addition to these structures, the complex is surrounded by a detailed perimeter wall, which features impressive murals depicting scenes from classic Thai literature, as well as the Ramayana and the life of Buddha.

Throughout the temple grounds, travelers can also find various statues and sculptures, including intricately carved mythical creatures and revered monks. This combination of architectural styles and rich artistic detail makes Wat Phra Kaew a must-see destination for visitors to Chiang Mai.

Significance in Thai Culture

Wat Phra Kaew, located within the Grand Palace complex in Bangkok, is one of the most sacred Buddhist temples in Thailand. It is home to the venerated Emerald Buddha, a priceless and culturally significant artifact for the Thai people.

For centuries, the temple has been closely intertwined with Thai royal traditions and ceremonial practices. The Emerald Buddha, which is housed within Wat Phra Kaew’s main building, serves as a symbol of national unity and spiritual guidance.

In addition to its religious significance, the temple showcases exquisite Thai architecture, vivid paintings, and intricate sculptures. Here are some highlights:

  • Emerald Buddha: Carved from a single block of jade, it is considered one of the most revered Buddha images in the world.
  • Ramakian Murals: This series of 178 murals depict the story of the Ramayana, an ancient Indian epic that has been adapted into a Thai version, known as the Ramakian.
  • Ubosot: This is the temple’s ordination hall, also featuring the beautifully detailed mother-of-pearl doors which are believed to be the finest in Thailand.

Given its spiritual, historical, and artistic importance, Wat Phra Kaew attracts millions of visitors each year, including local Thai as well as international tourists. A visit to this sacred site is a must for anyone interested in exploring Thai culture and religion during their journey to Chiang Mai.

Main Attractions

Wat Phra Kaew, also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, is one of Chiang Mai’s most revered temples. The temple complex is home to a variety of noteworthy architectural and historic attractions.

One of the main attractions within the temple is the Emerald Buddha statue, believed to bring prosperity and protection to the kingdom. The statue is made of green jade, and despite its relatively small size, it is a significant symbol of Thai Buddhism.

Visitors can also take time to appreciate the intricate murals adorning the walls of the temple’s main hall, which tell stories from Buddhist mythology and Thai history. Another highlight is the Phra Mondop, a library adorned with gorgeous gold carvings and inlaid pearl decorations.

In addition to these main attractions, the temple complex houses several other noteworthy structures, including:

  • The Phra Si Rattana Chedi, a gold-covered stupa containing religious relics.
  • Phra Viharn Yod, a shrine showcasing intricate Lanna-style architecture.
  • The Statue of King Rama IX, dedicated to the late Thai king.

As a visitor to Wat Phra Kaew, remember to dress modestly, covering your shoulders and knees, and to remove your shoes before entering the temple buildings. This is an important part of showing respect in Thai culture and ensures a pleasant experience for all.

Visiting Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Phra Kaew, also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, is a must-see destination for travelers visiting Chiang Mai. This sacred temple is located within the Grand Palace grounds and is an important religious site in Thailand.

To make the most of your visit, it’s best to arrive early in the morning before the crowds. The temple opens daily from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM, and the entrance fee for foreign visitors is 500 Thai Baht (approximately $15 USD).

While exploring Wat Phra Kaew, you’ll want to adhere to the temple’s strict dress code. To show respect and maintain an appropriate atmosphere, visitors must wear modest clothing that covers the shoulders and knees. Both men and women should avoid wearing shorts, short skirts, and sleeveless shirts. If necessary, you can rent appropriate attire at the entrance.

Once inside, you’ll be amazed by the temple’s intricate architecture and stunning murals. A few highlights of Wat Phra Kaew include:

  • The Emerald Buddha – a highly revered statue made of jade, rather than emerald, and clothed with golden garments.
  • Phra Mondop – a magnificent repository for sacred Buddhist scriptures, adorned with golden spires and colorful mosaics.
  • The Grand Palace – the former residence of Thai kings and now a museum exhibiting royal artifacts and traditional Thai architecture.

Guided tours are also available if you’d like to learn more about the temple’s history and cultural significance. Additionally, don’t forget to take a moment to appreciate the peaceful atmosphere and beautiful surroundings.

How to Get There

Reaching Wat Phra Kaew in Chiang Mai from the city center is quite simple. It is located within the old city walls and can be accessed by a variety of transport options.

For those on a budget, walking or cycling can be pleasant ways to explore the city and get to Wat Phra Kaew. Several bike rental shops are available around the city, offering a convenient and eco-friendly means of transportation.

Alternatively, you can opt for public transportation:

  • Red Songthaews: These shared pick-up truck taxis are popular in Chiang Mai. You can flag one down on the street or from specific pick-up locations. Just let the driver know your destination, and they will take you there for a small fee.
  • Tuk-Tuks: Tuk-tuks are a classic Thai mode of transportation. Negotiate the price with the driver before starting your journey to avoid surprises.
  • Taxi: Metered taxis are available in Chiang Mai, but you may need to call for one or use a taxi booking app such as Grab.

As Wat Phra Kaew is located in the old city, it is best to combine your visit with other nearby attractions such as Wat Phra Singh or Wat Chedi Luang to make the most out of your time in the area.