Buddhism is a conservative religion, and there are a few basic rules to follow when you visit a temple. Following some common sense guidelines will show respect to local people and help you enjoy your visit. I've decided to shove all the reading bits to the bottom of this page, so if you are interested....... it's all there.
Wat Pho Bangkok
With more than 1,000 images, Wat Pho hosts the largest collection of Buddhas in Thailand, including The Reclining Buddha which is 45 meters (150 feet) long. Built on an island close to the Grand Palace, the temple complex is considered the best of the best royal temples. Wat Pho is one of Bangkok’s oldest temples, and is considered the birthplace of Thai massage. I like this temple because it is quality and relatively easy to get round. The pictures on the linked page were taken over a few, always pleasant visits
Wat Mahathat, Sukhothai
Wat Mahathat, located in northern Thailand’s Sukhothai Historical Park, is an ancient temple that is considered the park’s most important and impressive temple. Some 168 sculptings of Buddhist disciples with hands clasped decorate the base of the main stupa, which was built to contain relics belonging to Buddha. This is fitting as the name translates as “temple of the Great Relic.” A large sitting Buddha can be found at Orientation Hall, while a huge standing Buddha is nearby.
Wat Chaiwatthanaram is an impressive temple complex in Ayutthaya, an ancient capital of Thailand. Built to honor a king’s mother, the temple is the most visited site in Ayutthaya. Wat Chaiwatthanaram is located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, but the scenic river is no competition for the temple. The layout of the 17th century temple subscribes to the traditional Buddhist view of the world, with temples corresponding to mountains, continents, seas and human habitat.
Lots of Words
What Wat is What here
I'll try not to be too boring
The first thing to think about when you’re planning your visit to a temple is to choose your clothes sensibly. Women should make sure they cover their shoulders and knees (a calf-length skirt is fine), and men should wear a t-shirt rather than a vest top. Do your clothes have to be somber? No, but steer away from any overly ‘liberal’ logos or images that might cause offence. If your nan would be OK with it then it’s probably OK for a temple!
Show Off Your Toes!
When you get to the entrance you’ll probably see a weird and wonderful collection of sandals waiting outside. It’s time for your footwear to join them! Kick off your shoes and embrace the barefoot lifestyle inside. In the middle of the day it can be hot underfoot so try and stay in the shade round the edges of the compounds. The temple may well have cloth matting laid down to help you get around without singeing yourself.
Keep the Peace
One of the best things about a Thai temple is the feeling of peace and quiet. This is a place for calm contemplation rather than an impromptu stand-up routine. Gold in Buddhism represents purity, so keep this in mind when walking among the intricate architecture and sacred areas. Shouting and assenine laughter aren’t against the rules per se, but they’re disrespectful to other worshippers and may upset other visitors and resident monks.
Save the Khao San anecdotes for the beach bar afterwards!
Buddha is Sacred.
It might sound obvious but a key part of temple etiquette is showing respect to Buddha. Never point your feet at any images featuring Buddha, and don’t turn your back on the images in close proximity. Don’t sit on any platforms that are higher than a Buddha statue and don’t carry any statues with you either on temple property or when leaving the country – it’s illegal and carries a hefty fine.
So, what CAN you do?
I've written a lot about what you can’t do in Thai temples, but what can you do? You can wander the compounds and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere, admiring the ornate decorations and joining in with locals at prayer and meditation. You can enjoy ‘monk chat’ and debate theology and religion with English-speaking brothers who live in the temple grounds.
But the best thing is that, unlike Buddhist temples in Japan, you are perfectly at liberty to take as many photos as you want (as long as there are no signs that say otherwise). So, charge up your Box Brownie and get snapping.