This temple is a highlight on a visit to Bangkok, with the famous Reclining Buddha and with a reputation of being the birthplace of traditional Thai massage still practised at the temple grounds.
The main attraction in Wat Pho, or Wat Phra Chetuphon as it is usually called in Thai, is the Reclining Buddha. Measuring 46 metres from top to toe and covered in gold leaf it seems to grow out of the wiharn (building housing a Buddha figure) protecting it.
Buddha figures are most often seen sitting. The reclining ones are depicted lying down on their right side, stretched out with the head resting on a cushion or in the hand supported by the right elbow like here. A Buddha representation is always very symbolic. A reclining posture means that the Buddha is portrayed during his last illness, just before he enters the parinirvana. This status means that the body is about to die, but the mind has already reached nirvana.
The Reclining Buddha
You will find it right after you have entered the gate to the temple, and paid your ticket. The entrance leads you straight up to the figure’s head and you will have to walk around it. Take a note of the feet. They are 5 metres long and highly decorated in mother-of-pearl. 108 symbols may be counted on the foot-soles, referring to the 108 positive actions that helped Buddha reach the status of perfection.
As you round the end of the wiharn, admiring the feet and relieving yourself of the view of the massive golden Buddha, you will notice a sound. It is the sound of people dropping coins into 108 bronze bowls lining the wall behind the Buddha figure. It is like music, soothing and calm. You can buy your own stack of coins at the entrance to take part in the ceremony, and make a wish or two as you drop your coins into the bowls.
Bronze bowls in the wiharn of the Reclining Buddha
The reclining Buddha is the largest of its kind in Thailand. The temple covers more than 8 hectares and offers a lot more than you will probably see. You should know that it contains over a thousand Buddha images and also the oldest public school (university) in Thailand. The latter is now mainly a traditional massage school and you can enjoy it if you like.
I would suggest that you walk around in the temple complex after having viewed the Reclining Buddha. It is a lovely place and a must on any Bangkok itinerary.
There is more to Wat Pho than the Buddha
The visit to this temple was a result of a 24-hrs layover in Bangkok. To get the most of the stay I prepared a map.
Here is my map showing the places I went but not least the most important sights of Bangkok. As always I made a rather good job at identifying and then selecting the places I wanted to go. Your priorities might differ. You will have to zoom in to find the Wat Pho temple, located very near the Grand Palace. Work on the map as you like, click the markers and even expand the map into a separate window for more details.
All articles in this series:
(1) Summary of a 24 hour visit
(2) An excursion to the once glorious capital of Ayutthaya
(3) Harmonies in the Bang Pa-In Palace
(4) Glitter, gold and emerald in The Grand Palace
(5) The lovely sound of Wat Pho’s bronze bowls
You have just read the fifth and last article from this day in Bangkok. Bangkok was a short stop on my way to the Himalayas.
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