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Just a few blocks from all the Wat Phra Kaew tourist madness sits Wat Mahathat, a welcome respite from the neighbourhood's traveller overload.
The wat itself is fairly unremarkable but it is home to Mahachulalongkorn Buddhist University, one of the most highly esteemed sites of Buddhist learning in the country. Behind the university are a trio of ancient halls, including the ubosot, surrounded by Khmer-style prangs and a long cloister with countless seated Buddha images. Each with at least one central Buddha image, the spacious halls are quiet when the monks aren't chanting, making them perfect for an hour of meditation.
During Buddhist holy days a busy market is held on the premises where, among other things, traditional medicines are sold. Opposite the entrance, along Mahathat Road, is a sizeable amulet market and the many Buddhist statues sold in Phra Chan Market, which are also worth a peek.
Situated on the wat property is its Vipassana Meditation Centre, which runs daily English meditation courses from 07:00-10:00, 13:00-16:00 and again from 18:00-02:00. English Discussions on Buddhism are held every evening from 20:00-21:00. If interested in learning and meditating, pop in a day in advance to make sure the usual functions are taking place.
How to get there
The wat is on Mahathat Road about a five-minute walk from the entrance to the Grand Palace. The closest Chao Phraya River Express pier is Tha Chang (N9).