Temple of Golden Buddha (Wat Traimit)
661 Chaoren Krung Road, Talad Noi, Khet Samphanthawong
Price: 40 THB; Chinese History Museum 100 Baht for adults, 60 for children
Working hours: from 9.00 to 17.00
Wat Traimit, also known as the Temple of the Golden Buddha, is one of the most famous sacral buildings in Bangkok. Situated in the heart of China Town and not far from the capital’s Central Railway Station, it is the district’s main tourist magnet that yearly attracts thousands of pilgrims and curious travellers every single day.
Wat Traimit brings delight to its observers with its splendid forms, which are typical of Thai architecture, as well as with the complex structure of its decoration. However, the temple became one of the best known in Thailand and abroad thanks to its main shrine: the impressive statue of Buddha that was made of unbroken gold more than seven hundred years ago, which gave the temple its second name. The three-meter-high Golden Buddha weighs in at a mighty 5.5 tons and is cast in the traditional meditation pose with crossed legs. The god's eyes are made of precious stones, which are found in abundance in Thailand, while even his pupils are made of the rarest black sapphires, with the whites of his eyes fashioned from pure pearls.
The sculpture is unique not only because it is the largest unit-cast golden sculpture in the world, but also because of its unusual history: the Golden Buddha has experienced many an adventure on his way to his current place. It is believed that Wat Traimit’s main relic was produced after a demand from the King Ramkhamhaeng in the 13th century, who was striving to preserve the country’s reserves of gold for future generations. In the middle of the 18th century, Thai monks covered the golden sculpture with a grey clay in order to protect the priceless treasure from attacks by the neighboring Burmese.
This trick proved to be very successful, because the statue was only discovered for what it was 200 years later. In 1957, the construction of the Wat Traimit in Bangkok was finished, meaning that the temple needed a statue of Buddha. It was decided that they needed to save money and in order to do so, they imported an already existing sculpture from one of the deserted temples in northern Thailand. The statue fell down from the crane during transportation and revealing the gleaming gold underneath the broken off clay. Thus, Wat Traimit unexpectedly acquired a valuable relic and in addition to this – the Buddhists’ worship and world fame.
Pieces of the protective shell and pictures of the ‘clay’ Buddha are kept in one of the rooms of the Temple of the Golden Buddha.
It is better to visit the Wat Traimit in the morning, before it becomes too crowded.