Image by Igor Bilic Getty Images
Founded in 1826, Wat Bowonniwet (known colloquially as Wat Bowon) is the national headquarters for the Thammayut monastic sect, a reformed version of Thai Buddhism. The rest of us should visit the temple for the noteworthy murals in its bòht (ordination hall), which include Thai depictions of Western life (possibly copied from magazine illustrations) during the early 19th century.
Because of its royal status, visitors should be particularly careful to dress properly for admittance; shorts and sleeveless clothing are not allowed.
Rama IV (King Mongkut; r 1851–68), who set out to be a scholar, not a king, founded the Thammayut sect and began the royal tradition of ordination at this temple. In fact, Mongkut was the abbot of Wat Bowon for several years. Rama IX (King Bhumibol Adulyadej; r 1946–2016) and Rama X (King Maha Vajiralongkorn; r 2016–), as well as several other males in the royal family, have been ordained as monks here.