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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrWat Benchamabophit Dusitvanaram is one of the most beautiful temples in Bangkok and one of the most magnificent in the whole of Thailand. In a city brimming with innumerable temples, it stands a step above the rest, with its marbled floors, glass stained windows, gorgeous gardens, and incredibly ornate façade of glistening white marble and shining gold leafing. Known as the ‘Marble Temple’, Benchamabophit is found in the central Dusit district and is usually much less visited than Bangkok’s other sites, making it a serene and equally impressive spot, if not more so. Do make sure you plan a visit here before you get all wat-ed out and, for that extra special experience, head here after sunset.
Brief HistoryKnown as a first class Royal temple, this spectacular construction was added to the UNESCO Heritage List in 2005. Initially built in 1899, it is as revered for its architecture as it is for its historical importance. Built by order of King Rama V (also known as Chulalongkorn ), considered one of the greatest leaders of the Kingdom of Siam , this temple has the rather unimaginative translated name of ‘temple of the fifth king near Dusit Palace’. Dusit Palace, found just a kilometer away, is where the king resided during his reign.
The extensive use of Italian Carrara marble is what distinguishes this from all other temples in Bangkok and grants it a more defining regal feel. The enormous and glistening white marble pillars and guarding lions are much more reminiscent of grandiose European palaces than the usual understated charm of Buddhist temples. Marble was also extensively used for the exterior courtyard.
The temple stands on the grounds of an earlier model and was constructed right after the Dusit Palace was completed.
The Wat in DetailThe multi-tiered roof, so synonymous with Thai architecture, is intricately carved and decorated, with much golden detailing throughout. The interior of Benchamabophit is just as intriguing as its extravagant exterior, and here you’ll find cloister galleries brimming with over 50 different Buddha statues, as well as what is considered its prized jewel: a replica bronze statue, Phra Buddha Chinnarat. The original 700-year-old icon found within the grounds of the supremely revered Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat in the northern Thai city of Phitsanulok.
The statue stands in contrast with the illuminated azure background and is the most breathtaking sight in the temple. Surrounded by images of the most significant stupas in the country, the statue’s base is home to the ashes of King Rama V.
Behind the galleries you’ll find a Bodhi tree which was brought over from Bodhgaya (India) which is where Buddha is said to have reached enlightenment. The gardens, with their multitude of ponds and charming little bridges is a delight to explore and there’s plenty of shaded seating spots, ideal for weary visitors.
The temple is still very active nowadays and home to quite a large contingency of monks, whose residences are at the back of the property. Please keep in mind that photography, within the interior of the main temple, is prohibited. Conservative dress is a must.
Admission InfoWat Benchamabophit is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. and admission tickets cost ฿20 ($0.62). As the temple is not located near any Skytrain or tram station, the best way to get here is with metered taxi or the much cheaper tuk-tuk. The price for both will depend on your distance, for the former, and your bargaining skills, for the latter.
See alsoSince exploring Wat Ben will not take a full day by any stretch, consider walking to the nearby Dusit Palace or Dusit Zoo, unsurprisingly both also in the Dusit district of Bangkok.
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Author: Laura Pattara. Last updated: Feb 15, 2015