Bangkok, 26 August, 2021 – Regardless of specifically whereto or by whom a trip to Thailand is planned, every visit to the Kingdom guarantees immersion in certain vital aspects of Thai culture.
Whether it is consuming spicy street food, getting lost in a crowded fresh market, or attending a Muay Thai boxing match – the opportunities for tourists visiting Thailand to take part in Thai culture are overflowing.
In addition to the day-to-day experiences of living in Thailand, various cultural holidays and events happen throughout the year that draw attention from visitors looking to have an authentic Thai experience. Most of these events are focused around, if not entirely concentrated on, the main religion of Thai people: Buddhism.
Songkran, for example, is an annual celebration to mark the beginning of the Buddhist New Year. Although many people celebrate the water festival, the event’s history is deeply rooted in Thai religious belief. These religious beliefs are why images of the Buddha are bathed, and younger Thai people sprinkle water on monks and their elders as a sign of respect during the new year’s celebration.
Another Thai celebration widely participated in together by Thai people and tourists is Loi Krathong, often referred to as Thai Valentine’s Day. This festival, which falls on the night of the twelfth lunar month, is one of the most picturesque festivals in Thailand. To celebrate, people across the country gather around ponds, lakes, and rivers to pay respect to the goddess of water by releasing ‘Krathongs,’ which are often lotus-shaped. This event, like others, is also rooted in Thai Buddhist belief but is welcomed to be celebrated by anyone who wishes to participate, be it for religious purposes or just to immerse themselves in this one aspect of Thai culture.
No matter the purpose of a trip to Thailand, be it a specific occasion or just a leisurely trip around to see all of the natural goodness that Thailand has to offer – Thai Buddhism is on full display throughout the entire Kingdom, irrespective of any event, all year long. From the massive Budda statues on the sides of mountains, all the way down to the tiny, colourfully decorated spirit houses that are points of worship for communities, the existence of Buddhism permeates the country.
There are approximately 41,000 Buddhist temples in Thailand. According to the Office of National Buddhism, 33,902 of those temples are currently in use. Unlike some other religious landmarks and events that happen worldwide, those related to Thai Buddhism are open to the public, regardless of whether religious beliefs are shared or not.
This sense of welcome is a cornerstone of Thai culture, as well. Consequently, tourists who visit Thailand are welcome to participate in any religious events and visit the many temples that keep their doors open to visitors year-round.
On the radar: Wat Bang Phli Yai Klang
One specific temple in Samut Prakan province worth bookmarking is Wat Bang Phli Yai Klang. Situated alongside Khlong Samrong, about a 20-minute drive from Suvarnabhumi Airport, this temple has undergone many renovations in recent years that have made it a terrific place to visit for tourists looking to have a walk-through of various aspects of the Thai Buddhist culture often seen beyond Bangkok.
This temple, also called a ‘Wat’ in the Thai language, was originally built in 1824, and it is still home to the largest reclining Buddha statue in Thailand. Sitting at approximately 53 metres long, Somdet Phra Sakayamuni Si Sumet Bophit is often bypassed for other reclining Buddha statues; such as, the 46-metre-long reclining Buddha at Wat Pho.
Inside the temple, there are 4 floors, all of which are accented by decorations drawn from Thai and Chinese Buddhism. The sheer decadence of this temple is consistently awe-inspiring, from floor to ceiling, throughout the entire structure.
As visitors ascend the 4 floors of the main temple structure, the pathways up to the top turn from stairs to spiralled ramps that lead through halls decorated with images from Buddhist religious texts and folklore. Notably, the rooms alongside the spiralled staircase are adorned with endless, captivating patterns that draw attention with their bright, brilliant finishing touches.
On the way up (and back down), there are several points at which visitors can stop to look out at a 360° view of Bangkok and Samut Prakan provinces. Because of its relatively close distance to Suvarnabhumi Airport, Wat Bang Phli Yai Klang is a great place to watch airplanes taking off and landing while also having an immersive experience in the colourful aspects of the culture surrounding Thai Buddhism.