WAT PHO: BANGKOK’S TEMPLE OF THE RECLINING BUDDHA
Wat Pho, often referred to as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha is a smaller, popular temple that doesn’t get as many tourists as the Grand Palace or The Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
Family friendly and affordable – it’s a must-see for any first-time visit. As one of the largest temple complexes in the city, it’s famed for its giant reclining Buddha that is 46 metres long, covered in gold leaf and as the epicentre for Thai Massage.
Looking for more South East Asian destinations? Consider visiting Singapore or Vietnam.
It’s an easy 10-minute walk from the very clean and efficient MRT station (Stop 31: Sanam Chai) and the Grand Palace. We highly recommend coming to Wat Pho second because even though the golden Buddha here is just as popular, many people don’t take the time to wander around the rest of the complex, making for a more relaxing experience.
Wat Pho is also a great place to get a traditional Thai massage. It’s often considered the leading school of massage in Thailand, so you really are in good hands here. As you walk around you are likely to see a mixture of visitors from local school children, beauty masseuses and foreign tourists.
THE RECLINING BUDDHA AT WAT PHO
The highlight for most people visiting Wat Pho is the Reclining Buddha. The figures here are impressive: 15 metres tall, 46 metres long, so large that it feels like it’s been squeezed into the building.
The Buddha’s feet are 5 metres long and exquisitely decorated in mother-of-pearl illustrations of auspicious laksanas(characteristics) of the Buddha. The number 108 is significant, referring to the 108 positive actions and symbols that helped lead Buddha to perfection.
You’ll need to take your shoes off to enter and any hats. Brown eco-friendly shoulder bags are available for free at the entrance to the temple which you simply place into a metal frame as you exit. As this is a revered image, all visitors must wear appropriate clothing – no exposed shoulders or skin above the knee. We recommend travelling with a pair of lightweight travel pants (Nathan put them on over his shorts just for the temple) or a long sleeved shirt or a sarong that takes up little room in your bag.
Donations are expected, so bring plenty of coins with you to avoid having to spend big with larger notes! Presented as bring good luck and fortune to visitors, we recommend purchasing a bowl of coins at the entrance of the hall which you can drop in the 108 bronze bowls which line the length of the walls. Dropping the small pennies in makes a nice ringing sound and even if your wishes don’t come true, the money goes towards helping the monks renovate and preserve Wat Pho.
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS OF WAT PHO
It’s really worth taking a look around the rest of the temple. Wat Pho also has good English speaking guides who can be found once inside the temple, directly next to the entrance. They will provide interesting information for around 200 or 400 baht, depending on how many people there are in your group and how good your negotiating skills are. If you prefer, you can wander alone. The tours can last anywhere between 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Recommended sites include 4 chapels that contain 394 gilded Buddha images, long lines of golden statues from different parts of Thailand sitting in the lotus position. Although the intricately detailed murals that cover the walkways around Wat Pho will require a book or guide to decipher, the exquisite murals are so detailed and intricate that even if you don’t understand all the imagery you can still appreciate the artwork.
Be sure to explore the many courtyards at Wat Pho Temple which are linked by ornate door frames and some comical-looking Chinese statues that were once used as ballasts on ships and 91 chedis (stupas) decorated in ceramic pottery flowers and colourful tiles.
In the same courtyard as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, you will see an intricately ordained gong which you can bang and get close to. You are expected to donate a small note and it’s fun for all ages!