Guardian of Wat Phra Kaew, originally uploaded by MichiganCliffy.

Wat Phra Kaew, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, and the adjoining Grand Palace together are the biggest tourist attraction in Bangkok. It consists of over 100 brightly colored buildings, golden spires and glittering mosaics, and dates back to 1782, when Bangkok was founded.

Wat Phra Kaew itself, generally known to the Thais as Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram, is Thailand’s most important and sacred temple. It houses the tiny Emerald Buddha, which is located high above the heads of the worshippers and tourists. Not much is known for certain about the statue, except that it isn’t actually made of emerald but rather of green jade or jasper.

It’s thought to have been made in the 15th century and was the cause of several wars before ending up for good in Bangkok in 1782. The image is considered a talisman and holds tremendous significance for Thailand and the Thais. The ‘robe’ that it wears is changed 3 times each year by the King himself, at the start of each season: A diamond encrusted gold robe during the hot season, a solid gold robe in the cool season and a gilded monk’s robe in the rainy season.There are also many other Buddha images inside the temple.