Wat Pho

Bangkok's largest and oldest temple

Photo of , , Bangkok

What we say: 4.5 stars

If you only have time to visit one attraction in Bangkok, Wat Pho should be it.

Also known as Temple of the Reclining Buddha or Wat Phra Chetuphon, this 80,000 square metre complex was founded in the 1600s and has since seen many renovations and additions. It could break a record with its number of records: Wat Pho claims to be the oldest wat and learning centre in Bangkok, with the largest reclining Buddha, and more Buddha images than any other temple in Thailand.

The temple's star attraction is a giant gold-plated reclining Buddha of exquisite design that stretches 46 metres long and 15 metres high and depicts the Buddha Shakyamuni at Paranibbana, or his moment of death and ascension to Nirvana. Note the Buddha's three metre long feet inlaid with detailed design in mother-of-pearl that display the 108 characteristics of the Buddha. Drop a coin for good luck (small change is available at the desk) into each of the 108 collection cups that surround the statue.

Wat Pho is also home to 91 bright, ceramic plated chedis that rise to varying heights and house Thai royal family ashes and (supposedly) ashes of the Buddha. The four tallest chedis represent each of the first four Chakri Dynasty kings. At the centre of the complex is a large wihaan (vihara or Dhamma hall) on a marble platform with several shrines that include four large standing Buddha images. This structure is flanked by 150 scenes from the epic Ramakien and surrounded by 394 gold-plated sitting Buddha images, each of which stand more than two mettres high and were donated by King Rama V. Altogether the temple houses over 1,000 Buddha images and several other guardian statues, including some rather jolly looking stone images of Chinese design that were once used as ballasts on Chinese trading ships.

The entire southern half of the temple is a working royal monastery with an elegant ubosot (ordination hall) at its centre. Inside is a twinkling gold Buddha that takes second billing to the reclining Buddha but is also exceptionally beautiful. Monks gather to chant here on most days around 16:00 and services are open to the public.

Wat Pho is also home to one of the country's longest-running Thai massage schools where massage therapists still offer their services. The cost is 250 baht per hour for a body or foot massage and 350 baht per hour for a herbal massage; expect a wait and close quarters with fellow customers. Thai massage classes are also held in Thai and English and a small museum displays instruments and charts used in ancient Thai medicine.

More details
Samachai, Rd, south of the Grand Palace, Bangkok
Opening Hours: Daily 08:00-17:00
How to get there: How to get there: Wat Pho is south of the Grand Palace between Thai Wang Rd, Sanamchai Rd, Chetupon Rd and Mahathat Rd. It's about a five-minute walk south of Sanam Luang and a three-minute walk from Tha Tien (N8) Chao Phraya express boat pier. Buses 1, 3, 25, 44, 48, 91, 503, 508 and 512 also stop nearby. Beware of pick-pockets, and also of touts insisting the temple is closed and trying to whisk you off on a city tour of their own.
Last updated: 2nd June, 2013

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