How many times have you encountered an instance that some of your best travel memories are those that you did not plan for? Chances are very often. In fact I had a similar experience when I visited Wat Pho on a recent trip to Bangkok. It was our guide that mentioned casually that Bangkok had one of the largest reclining statues of Buddha that piqued my interest. On making further enquiries, I decided that this was a site not to be missed.
The majestic façade of the temple is visible even from the outside with the stark white walls perfectly offsetting the red and gold façade with blue and green detailing. Interestingly it is believed that this temple is much older than the city of Bangkok and is the oldest temple in the city. The founder of Bangkok, King Rama I renamed the temple Wat Phra Chetuphon and also expanded it adding more statues and artefacts.
The 100 Bhat ticket also gives you a coupon for water (much needed in the sultry weather here) and you are required to take off our shoes and place them in a plastic cover the volunteers give you before you enter inside. While there are many beautiful statues and marvellous architecture on the outside, the interiors of the temple are simply breathtaking. Taking center stage is the beautiful 150 feet long statue of a reclining Buddha covered in gold leaf. The soles of Buddha’s feet that are 5 metres long are inlaid with mother-of-pearl to display the 108 auspicious signs – indicative of a real Buddha. On one side of the wall opposite the statue is a row of 108 identical bronze bowls where people donate coins believed to bring them good fortune. Called Phra Buddha Deva Patimakorn this statue is on a richly decorated pedestal in the meditation mudra. There are murals dating depicting scenes from the Jataka and stories reflecting the previous lives of the Buddha. The temple complex has an ubosot or ordination hall, several viharns or living quarters of monks, a scripture hall and almost 100 chedis or Buddhist stupa (the largest dedicated to the four Kings of the Chakri dynasty). In the courtyard there is a Bodhi tree that is believed to have grown from a part of the real tree that Buddha sat under in meditation.
Once I had my fill of the beautiful art work on the ceilings, walls and roofs I came outside to see a funny sight. A fairly old Buddhist monk was dipping what seemed like a small broom in water and banging it on the heads of devotees who bowed before him. Another younger monk was tying sacred threads to the devotees. The ceremony apparently is an act of blessing the devotees so little wonder then that there was a queue for it. So the next time you are in Bangkok, make sure you set up a time to pay obeisance here. After all blessings matter the most!
- Timings: 8:00 am to 6:30 pm.
- Admission Price: 100 Baht (free entry for children under 120 centimeters).
- Wear covered clothing.
- Photography is allowed.
- Wear shoes that can be easily removed.
- Wat Pho is the birthplace of Thai massage and massage courses are given here.
- Wat Pho has English speaking guides who can give interesting information at a price you can negotiate based on the number of people.
This story was first published on The Speaking Tree here: