Wat Pho, Bangkok
As one of the oldest and most magnificent temples in the whole of Bangkok, Wat Pho should be right at the top of the list of places to visit in Bangkok. This stunning temple is home to the enormous gilded Reclining Buddha statue, while the large and lovely temple grounds are set with gently flowing waterfalls, ponds and the world-famous Wat Pho Thai Traditional Medical and Massage School.
A Brief History
Wat Pho was established in the 16th century and was originally called Wat Photaram in reference to the place in India where Buddha is believed to have become enlightened. The temple site was renovated in 1788 on the orders of King Rama I after he relocated Thailand. While the marshy land was being drained and made even, King Rama I also ordered the removal of Buddha images from temples in Sukhothai, Ayutthaya and a number of other sites around Thailand so they could be installed in the newly renovated ground of Wat Pho. After twelve years, the new temple complex was finally completed in 1801 and renamed Phra Chetuphon Vimolmangklavas, serving as Rama I’s principal temple.
In addition to its many impressive religious monuments and icons, Wat Pho is also revered as Thailand’s first university and the centre of traditional Thai massage. From the middle of the 19th century people would travel from all over Thailand and beyond to learn the secrets of traditional medicine and a private Thai medicine school was founded in the grounds in 1957 still operates to this day.
What to See
The main attraction is the temple itself and visitors should allow at least an hour to explore the inside of the temple. The main focal point is the Recycling Buddha Statue, which depicts the Buddha lying down as he prepares to pass on to the spiritual world. The Enormous feet of the Recycling Buddha feature 108 different scenes from the Buddha’s life, which are inlaid with mother of pearl. The walls of the temple are also adorned with a series of colourful murals that show scenes from Buddha’s life, while 108 small bronze bowls surround the Recycling Buddha statue and visitors can place a coin in each bowl to receive a blessing. A number of smaller temples can also be found in the grounds as well as Buddha statues of all types and bell-shaped chedis that mark the finally resting place of some of Thailand’s most prominent and respected monks and abbots.
Tips for First Time Visitors
Visitors should note that this is a holy site and they need to dress and act respectfully at all times. The knees and shoulders must be covered and visitors need to remove their shoes before entering the temple. Smoking, drinking alcohol and talking loudly are also banned from Wat Pho and the temple grounds and photography is banned in certain areas.
Area of Bangkok
Wat Pho can be found in the Phra Nakhon district of Bangkok, just a few paces away from the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew.