Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrProbably the most recognizable landmark of Thailand, especially after the release of the movie "The Beach", the Reclining Buddha statue dominates the interior of the temple with the same name, or locally known as “Wat Pho”, in the center of Bangkok. It is one of the most visited Buddhist temples in Bangkok.
The name of the temple comes from an Indian monastery where Gautama Buddha is rumored to have lived, and a tree originating from the monastery's garden, under which Buddha reached enlightenment.
Before being a temple, the location served as the first hospital in Thailand and it is also the place where the famous Thai massage was first invented. Originally, Wat Pho was a restoration of the Wat Phodharum, a temple situated in the same area, founded during the 17th century. The construction began in 1788, continuing until the time of King Rama III who ordered the expansion and placement of statues and other items from Ayutthaya, as well as the creation of the Reclining Buddha.
The statue of Buddha depicts him in his reclining position, right before his death. It measures 141 feet in length and 49 feet in height. His feet are 15 feet long and 10 feet high and are enameled with the mother-of-pearl, inscribed in 108 symbols describing the forms which Buddha can take. On the margins of the corridor there are 108 bowls where tourists can donate coins. For good luck, tourists can purchase a bowl of coins, which cost around ฿20 ($0.62) by the entrance, and drop them into the 108 bowls along the corridor. The coins will go to the monks to help preserve Wat Pho.
Wat Pho is one the oldest and most important temples in Bangkok (stretching across 80,000 square meters), and houses over 1,000 statues of Buddha, ordered by King Rama V. While varying in stances and architectural style, they are all mounted on gilded pillars, while the sacred fu-dogs guard the entrance to the temple.
The Wat Pho temple is beset by two other compounds: the Northern compound is the massage school and contains the Buddha statue itself, and the Southern compound is a Buddhist monastery where a school is located and is functional to date. In the yard around the temple, there is probably the largest chedi forest to be found in Thailand — in case you haven't seen enough of them — and they contain the ashes of the royal family, while the larger ones are presumed to contain the remnants of Buddha.
HistoryIn 1767, when the modern Thai kingdom was founded, following a battle with the Burmese, a huge statue of Buddha was destroyed in Ayuttaya, the old capital. King Rama I (1782-1809 A.D.) used the remains to renovate the temple. Two more renovations followed, during the reign of Rama III and again in 1982. The whole temple complex was developed into a center for learning and eventually, was considered as Thailand's first university.
Thai MassageAs the birthplace of Thai massage, visitors can benefit from this prestigious experience, directly in the temple, in the massage saloon. The massage would cost ฿425 ($13) per hour, and the experience is well worth the price. This is where you can find the cheapest and best massage in the city. Traditional Thai massage and natural medicine can also be found at the Traditional Medical Practitioners Association Center, also located in the temple compound.
For Thai massage trainees, attention should be paid particularly to the plaques inside the temple. There is a total of 60 inscriptions, 30 for the front of the body and 30 for the back. Next to each plaque, there is a "sen" which is a carving on the wall, which functions by channeling the energy points for therapeutic purposes. While the full scientific documentation is not yet complete, it is widely known that they represent the neurological relationships between different parts of the body.
How to Get ThereBangkok is a rather large area, and the SkyTrain or subway is the best mode of transport to get to the temple. The best way to get there (cheapest and fastest) is to take the SkyTrain to Saphan Taksin station. As you exit the station, you will find yourself right on the banks of Chao Phraya river, and a boat station pier right in front of you. There are many boats that pass by this area, whose destinations are marked by the colorful flags on them, but all of them are scheduled to arrive at the Tha Tien pier. The temple is just beyond the pier. The ride takes, about, 10 minutes, and the view is spectacular.
Hail a CabFrom any point in the city, you can always get a cab to bring you to Wat Pho. It's recommended to be accompanied by someone who knows their way around the area. Otherwise, find the most convenient route in order to avoid heavy traffic. It would also be helpful to write down the names of the temples in Thai characters to give to the driver. This way, the driver can understand where you'd like to go.
Dress CodeAll visitors are expected to dress modestly. Men should avoid shorts and sleeveless tops. Similarly, women should not wear shorts or skirts above the knee, sleeveless tops and any clothing that exposes the shoulders. The temple usually offers robes to women who are not properly dressed to enter the temple. It would still be best to come in appropriate attire as the robes are not available during peak times.
When to VisitWhile the temple is open all year round, it is probably best to go either in the morning or before closing, especially if you want to take pictures of the breathtaking statue. This is because tourists are often seen in crowds around the statue and would, therefore, obstruct your view of the statue. This may not be much of an issue, but in regards to the Reclining Buddha, it really is an issue. It goes without saying that you should be extra careful particularly with the scammers located outside the temple, who try to tell you the temple is closed for the day and offer you a better bargain.
What Else to VisitWat Pho is located across the street from the Grand Palace, and across the river from the Temple of Dawn. It is possible to discover all of these attractions in a matter of hours, why not hike on the infamous Khao San Road, the backpacker's resort with the lowest prices in the city, all kinds of street stalls, cheap accommodation, and also the place where Leonardo Di Caprio's character used to live in Bangkok.
The whole temple complex was developed into a center for learning and eventually, was considered as Thailand's university.
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Author: aelumag. Last updated: Apr 29, 2015