The Wat Pho (Wat Po) is also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. For us it was a must see on our most recent trip. Having heard of and seen pictures, we were still awed by the beauty of this massive Buddha. Our original plan had been to see Wat Pho and then continue on to the Grand Palace that was nearby despite warnings from our hotel staff not to attempt the to go near the palace, especially because it was the last day of the thirty-day mourning period of King Bhuminol. They told us it would be extremely crowded with mourners. Did we listen? Of course not. I can only tell you I’m glad we went to Wat Pho first, otherwise it would have been another uneventful day, much like our Sintra attempt.
Wat Pho Temple: a little history
The Wat Pho temple is the top of the 6 first grade as well as first-class of the royal temples. King Rama I had built the temple on a different site but this later became his main shrine. King Rama III later expanded and renovated the temple. Wat Pho temple has the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand.
I think, at least for me, my favorite thing at wat pho temple was the Reclining Buddha. The chapel, as well as the Buddha it houses were built by King Rama III in 1832. It is supposed to represent entry of the Buddha into Nirvana, which is the end of all reincarnations and transformations. The Buddha is massive. It is almost 50 feet high and 150 feet long.
It is actually made of brick and then plastered over. It is finished in a highly polished gold plate. I noticed a lot of the other Buddhas were also gold-plated, save for a few that had reverted back to the patina..
Tips for visiting Wat Pho Temple:
- Wear sandals or flip-flops. Quite a few rooms require you to take off your shoes to enter. It is a lot easier to remove sandals than take off your sneakers each and every time. It got old pretty fast ;-)
- Hire a guide. I wish we had done so, but it was a lull time when we went and we were not approached by any. Since the signs are written in Thai, it would have been nice to have things explained to us so we could have had a much deeper experience.
- Make sure you’re given an English pamphlet. I am assuming they have one. We were given the Thai one, so unfortunately l can not tell you a lot about the Buddhas and the towers etc. that we saw.
- It is disrespectful to have a tattoo of Buddha on yourself , and it is actually a punishable offense (jail time), so you need to cover that up if you have one. Buddha is not an accessory according to the sign at the airport and at the temple.
- If you buy a Buddha statue, you need to carry it above your knee level as a sign of respect. I thought that was kind of weird, but what do l know?
- If you want a massage, your best bet is to make an appointment as soon as you enter, go check out the site and then go back to get your massage. You might be in for a rude awakening if you wait too late. We did not get massages there so l can’t tell you if they were better than in other places.
Another thing Wat Pho Temple is famous for is the school of massage that is housed in the compound. People com from all over the world to experience the massage which is given by students. The lines are very long..always. There is also a school of medicine. It makes sense in a way, the whole place to be all about healing the mind and body.
You need at least 3 hours or more to fully enjoy Wat Pho, definitely longer if you have a guide, especially because it is always crowded. The entrance fee is a reasonable 100 Baht which is about $2.50 with the exchange rate. A nice companion trip for the day would have been a visit to the Royal Palace. Unfortunately with the death of King Bhuminol, there were still mourners, and it was the last of the 30 day mourning period. We made the mistake of going anyway, and it was a disaster. There were at least a million people if not more in mourning. It was a sea of black and it was almost impossible to extricate ourselves after the tuktuk dropped us off and disappeared. It took us a good 2 hours plus of walking around trying to find a ride out ;-) . Lesson learned. Listen to the locals ;-).
Should you visit Wat Pho Temple?
We absolutely enjoyed our visit to the temple of Wat Pho. It is in my book a must see if you make it to Bangkok. The grounds are really historical and very nice. The Buddhas are lovingly taken care of. I couldn’t help thinking of the movie “The King and I” as we walked around. Like any minute, Yul Brynner was going to pop out and Anna would be teaching the kids in one of the alcoves :-). Did you know Thailand used to be called Siam?
Have you been to Bangkok? If yes, did you visit Wat Pho temple? If not..would you care to visit this amazing temple?