THAILAND IS UNIQUE in that it’s the most Buddhist nation on Earth, with around 95% of the population identifying as practicing Theravada Buddhists. This fact permeates daily life in a number of ways, from monks walking the streets for collections, to festivals tied to auspicious dates, to, of course, the temples.
There are an estimated 40,000 Buddhist temples in Thailand, official and otherwise. Thai temple architecture, while sharing influences with other Southeast Asian styles, is also unique. Typically comprising a multi-building complex, Thai temples, or wats, feature a tall, bell-shaped stupa, ordination and sermon halls, a space for shrines and Buddha images, and a residence for the monks. Temple roofs are often quite striking, with multiple tiers and gables ending in long, thin ornaments called chofahs.
Many temples are open to tourists — just be sure to dress appropriately (closed-toed shoes, shorts/pants that cover the knee, no bare shoulders) and act respectfully (no hats, sunglasses, smoking, gum chewing, or overly loud talking, and remember to remove your shoes before entering worship areas and to wield your camera thoughtfully). Below are some of the sites you’ll definitely want to check out.