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WAT PHO: THE TEMPLE OF THE RECLINING BUDDHA

If you happen to visit Bangkok and don’t get to see Wat Pho, then sadly, you didn’t really visit Bangkok. Wat Pho is one of the top six temples in Thailand and is famous for the huge statue of the Reclining Buddha. By huge, we mean so big it looks like the temple was built around it because there’s really no way it could have been squeezed through the door. Besides the gigantic Reclining Buddha, the temple is well known for the numerous Buddha images all around it. In addition, the temple was the first center in Thailand for public education, offering science, religion and literature courses. It is located very close to the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Thus, Wat Pho does not get as many tourists as other temples which makes it less crowded, perfect for new tourists in Thailand.

Why going to Wat Pho?

There are several features of the Wat Pho complex that make it a great tourist attraction. For one, the complex comprises four chapels which have 394 gilded Buddha images. This earned Wat Pho the title as the temple with the highest number of Buddha images. In addition, the murals covering the walkways are so well-designed that you can’t help but stop and absorb the beauty in the detail. Furthermore, the courtyard features some Chinese statues that were used in ships in the past. Even more, there is a tree in the courtyard called a Bodhi tree, which happens to be grown from the actual tree Buddha sat under during meditation. This is one of the most exciting aspects of visiting Wat Pho, especially for Buddhists.

Wat Pho also has a massage school with students who are highly skilled in Thai massages. This is because Wat Pho is also a center for the preservation of traditional Thai medicine.  You will find these massages very helpful after a long walk through the temple. They offer foot massages, as well as shoulder and head massages. With just 250 Baht, you can get a pretty good one that will perfectly round up your visit to the complex.

History of Wat Pho

Wat Pho is the oldest temple in the whole of Bangkok. In fact, the temple is older than Bangkok itself as it was in existence when Thailand was still in Ayutthaya, in the 17th century. King Rama I, later enlarged the temple so that statues that were recovered from Ayutthaya in 1801 could be placed in the temple.

Thereafter, the name of the temple was changed from Wat Potaram to Wat Pho. In addition, the temple was again enlarged to include the first university in Thailand.

What to Know Before Visiting Wat Pho

Wat Pho is not just a tourist center but an actual temple where Buddhists practice their religion. Hence, tourists are expected to be aware of certain factors when visiting the temple.

Dressing

This is not rocket science; visitors are expected to dress appropriately in the temple. This means that you shouldn’t wear clothes that expose your shoulders and above your knees. Yes, no tank tops and bum shorts no matter how hot it is. And it is going to get quite hot by the time you have walked through the whole complex and basked in all its beauty.

Nonetheless, for women, you should wear either skirts or pants that are long enough to cover your knees. Also, go for short-sleeve or long-sleeve tops, no sleeveless tops or dresses are allowed. Neither should you wear extremely tight-fitting clothing that exposes your body. For men, stick to long trousers, keep the shorts for when you visit the Sahara desert. Similarly, short-sleeve or long-sleeve shirts are best. In general, when deciding what to wear to Wat Pho, think whether it’s decent enough to actually pray in the temple. Even though you’re not Buddhist, it should serve as a standard. You know what they say, when in Rome, do like the Romans do!

Shoes

At the Wat Pho, you will be asked to remove your shoes before entering the temple. You will be given a plastic bag to put your shoes and you can carry the bag throughout your walk in the complex. Thus, it is advisable to wear comfortable, easy to remove shoes when visiting the temple.

Entrance and opening hours

It costs about 100 Baht to enter the complex and it is open every day from 8 am to 5 pm. Plus, you get a complimentary bottle of water which you will definitely need along the way.

Coins

Upon entering the building where you will find the Reclining Buddha, you will be offered coins to purchase. You are supposed to drop them in the 108 bowls lined along the walls of the building. It is advisable to do this as it is considered good luck.

Taking photos

Fortunately, there are no restrictions regarding photographs and you can take as many pictures as you want. So, don’t leave your camera behind!

The Reclining Buddha

This is the main aspect of Wat Pho, hence, the complex is popularly called The Temple Of The Reclining Buddha. Although there are different versions of the Reclining Buddha all over Thailand, the one in Wat Pho is so massive and detailed. The image, covered in gold leaf, is 15 meters high and 46 meters long. It features Buddha lying on his side with his hand supporting his head (the reclining position).

The Reclining Buddha is a representation of Buddha, just before he passed into the afterlife, lying on his side, with a calm and content expression. The statue was built in remembrance of his death and can be seen not only in Wat Pho but in several other temples in Thailand. Due to the size of Wat Pho’s Reclining Buddha, it is difficult to get a picture capturing the full length of the statue. Nonetheless, its awesomeness can never really be captured in a picture. You would have to see the real thing to appreciate just how grand it is.

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