Temples of Thailand
Temples and Markets of Thailand are very colourful and fun, there are well over 40,000 Buddhist temples in Thailand, and the majority of these (around 34,000) are ‘working’ temples which means they have resident monks and serve a purpose in the community. The Thai word for temple is ‘wat'(วัด), and it is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘vata’ which means ‘enclosure’.
Visiting a Thai temple is a nice way to spend the afternoon, and the monks are usually happy to welcome foreign visitors. There is no requirement to be a Buddhist in order to enjoy this spiritual environment, but these considered sacred places, so it is important to behave respectfully while there.
Features of a Thai Temple
A Thai temple is made up of a number of different buildings and structures including:
- The Cheidi (เจดีย์) is one of the most recognisable structures in a temple, and it is shaped a bit like a bell. There is usually some type of sacred relic inside of the chedi.
- The Bot (โบสถ์) is special room where monks go to pray/chant – it is sometimes referred to as the ‘ordination room’ because this is where new monks go to ordain
- The sala (ศาลา) is an open-air structure where lay people can make merit and listen to the monks give sermons – it tends to be the busiest part of the temple complex
- Some temples will have a vihear (วิหาร) and this is a special prayer room
- A temple will also usually have a bell tower or a drum tower, and this is used to call monks to prayer
Most Important Buddhist Temples in Thailand
Phimai (ปราสาทหินพิมาย) in Khorat is the oldest temple in Thailand, and it has a Khmer design (similar to Angkor Wat in Cambodia). It was built in the eleventh century, and many of the buildings were restored during the 1960s. It is now more of a historical site rather than a functional temple.
Wat Pho (วัดโพธิ์) is the oldest temple in Bangkok, and it is also the birthplace of Thai massage and Thai medicine. It is also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha.
Wat Phra Kaew (วัดพระแก้ว) is considered the most important temple in Thailand because it is home to the Emerald Buddha. This statue is believed to have special protective powers, and it is said to have been created in India in 43 BC. It is beautiful statue made from jade, and it is revered by the people of Thailand.
How to Behave in a Thai Temple
Visiting Temples and Markets of Thailand can be a great experience, specially Temples where you are usually free to take photographs and explore the complex. You don’t have to worry about any of the monks trying to convert you and nobody cares about your religion or lack of religion.
Thai people are generally laid back about life, and they do make allowances for foreign visitors, but you may unknowingly cause upset while visiting a Thai temple if you behave in an inappropriate manner.
Here are just a few things to consider while visiting these holy places:
- Take off your shoes before entering temple buildings such as the sala
- Women should never touch a monk
- Dress respectfully – this means not showing too much skin
- Never position your feet so that they are pointing towards a Buddha statute or monk
- All Buddha statues are considered sacred in Thailand so don’t touch or do anything that would be considered disrespectful
- use this as an opportunity to be mindful
Try not to speak too nosily Some of the more important temples in Thailand do have specific rules that foreigners will be expected to follow – e.g. Wat Pho has a strict dress code
Markets in Thailand
A visit to a local market is one of the most authentically Thai activities you can enjoy during your stay in the Kingdom. This is where you get to mingle with local people as they go about their daily lives – a Thai market is the heart of the community. If you enjoy shopping, you are going to be spoiled for choice with tasty fresh delicacies, cheap gifts, and every type of nicknack you can imagine.
There are signs of modernisation are everywhere in Thailand, but Thai markets are one institution that hasn’t changed hardly at all in hundreds of years. Sure, you will get to see twenty-first century products on sale, but overall, visiting a local market is like stepping back in time. The majority of stallholders will have inherited their business from parents, and they are carrying on a tradition that goes back centuries.
Types of Thai Market Talad Nat (ตลาดนัด)The busiest markets tend to be the talad nat (‘appointment’ markets). They get their name due to the fact that they are only open on certain days (usually one or two days per week). There are some talad nat that are open every day, but just not in the same location every day. These tend to be big markets with plenty of stall.The most famous talad nat is Chatuchak (ตลาดจตุจักร) which is the largest market in Thailand and is only open on Saturday and Sunday.Floating Markets/Talad Nam (ตลาดน้ำ)The floating markets are a uniquely Thai experience, and visiting one of these places is an adventure even if you don’t intend to buy anything. The name ‘floating market’ refers to the fact that vendors sell their goods from boats rather than stalls. The most popular talad nam would be Damnoen Saduak, but there are also floating markets close to us here in Sri Racha. The one thing you don’t want to forget while visiting these places is your camera because there are going to be plenty of photo opportunities.Talad Sut (ตลาดสด)The talad sut are the ‘fresh’ markets that tend to be open every day and specialise in fruit and vegetables. These do not tend to be as big as the talad nad or talad nam, but they are a great option if you are looking to pick up some fresh provisions.
Haggling at Thai Markets
Haggling at a Thai market is not only going to save you money, but it is also a fun thing to do. It is important to understand though that this is something you only do at a talad nam or talad nat, and it is not really appropriate to debate the price of provisions like meat, fruit, or vegetables. It is also worth keeping in mind that these people are trying to make a living, and it may be a bit unfair to haggle too hard. If you are purchasing items like clothing, electrical equipment, or gifts at a market, you are almost certainly going to be paying too much unless you haggle. There is an art to this type of bargaining, and one of the secrets is to already know what a fair price for the item would be and offer slightly less than this – you can then agree on the fair price.
So when you come to Hope Rehab Thailand you will see a lot of the Temples and Markets of Thailand.