Bangkok is home to an awe inspiring range of amazingly decorated temples and Wat Ratchabophit is yet another fine example of the wide range of color and architectural styles reflected in these beautiful structures. The colorful tiled rooftops, golden spires, and vaulting structures of Wat Ratchabophit are reminiscent of both traditional Thai architecture and gilded Italian architectural influences. Centrally located in Phra Nakon in the heart of the city, Wat Ratchabophit is easily included in a central Bangkok tour.
Built in 1869, Wat Ratchabophit welcomes you through doors featuring carvings of soldiers. The temple has a unique layout including a circular courtyard at the center, within which stands a 43 meters high gilded chedi built in Sri Lankan style. The outside of the buildings are decorated with hand-painted glazed tiles similar to Thai benjarong enamels, while the doors and window frames are elaborately decorated with gold and mirrors.
South of the temple there are the buildings that house the monks and workers of the temple (known as kuti). At the far end of these are a Chinese-style building that at one time, was used by royalty when they stayed at the temple.
Wat Ratchabophit has two important and unique features worth visiting to see: The Golden Pig statue and The Gothic-style chedi.
The Golden Pig statue
If you cross the canal using the footbridge at the north end of the temple, you’ll find a gilded statue of a pig. The story goes that the footbridge was built by one of the wives of King Rama V, it originally had no name, but since she was born in the year of the pig, the bridge became known by that name. The statue was later erected in her honor.
The Gothic-style chedi in the forecourt of the temple
On the west side of the temple, facing the Lawd canal, is a burial ground containing small monuments in a variety of styles. Most of them are for members of the royal family. It’s here that the occasional Gothic elements of the temple itself become more like mini cathedrals. In addition to the Gothic buildings, there are traditional wiharns featuring gilded pagodas on their roofs.
What is a chedi? What is a wiharn?
Chedi – Sometimes translated as stupa or even pagoda. This generally bell-shaped tower will usually contain a relic of the Buddha, but may also be built to contain the ashes of a king or important monk. Those who can afford it may also build smaller, typically square-shaped, ones for their own final resting place. The bell-shaped chedi evolved during the golden age of Ayutthaya.
Wihara – Which can also be spelled with a “V” instead of a “W” – house important buddha images and are where the laity come to pray. While there will always only be one ubosot in a wat, there can be several Wiharn.
The easiest way to get to Wat Ratchabophit is by boat. Take the Chao Phraya River Express to the Tha Thien pier then walk through the market and up the street.
Wat Ratchabophit is close to many other great Bangkok temples, so you could spend the day exploring the multitude of styles and the wonderful architecture and art of temples like The Grand Palace/Wat Phra Keaw, Wat Pho (The Temple of the Reclining Buddha) and Wat Suthat and The Giant Swing.
Wat Ratchabophit can be visited every day of the week from 8am until 5pm. Ordination Hall at Wat Ratchabophit holds daily prays at 9.00 – 9.30am and 5.30 – 6.00 pm, if you come during these times you might get a peek inside.
Admission Price: Free entry.
Things you should be aware of when visiting Wat Ratchabophit:
- Respectful attire is required. Wat Ratchabophit is a functioning Thai Buddhist temple, and as such the management insists that visitors dress in a respectful manner. This means that men must wear long pants and short-sleeved or long-sleeved shirts (no tank tops or sleeveless shirts). Women must wear skirts or pants extending at least to the knee, and also should not wear a top that reveals bare shoulders.
- Visitors are allowed to take photographs in any area of the complex.
- The Wat Ratchabophit is an important Royal temple, so please dress appropriately (no revealing clothes). Also remember to behave appropriately, be quiet, and be respectful as many locals attend to pray and worship.