One of Bangkok’s most prominent temples, the Wat Pho Bangkok stands testament to the flourishing architectural history of the city. The site boasts a slew of accolades, including the city's largest reclining Buddha, Thailand's largest collection of Buddha statues, and the country's first public education center.
Wat Pho's sprawling grounds comprise eight hectares, with main tourist attractions on the northern bank of Th Chetuphon and monastery facilities on the southern side. Wat Pho's showpiece, the really stunning Reclining Buddha, is placed in a pavilion on the temple complex's western side. The temple complex also serves as the national center for the teaching and preservation of traditional Thai medicine, including Thai massage, which was mandated by Rama III when the tradition was on the verge of extinction. Two massage pavilions are placed within the temple grounds, while more rooms are located outside the temple grounds in the training complex.
Donating money (symbolizing offerings) in a number of metal bowls set in a long row at the back of the Buddha statue is a regular public ceremony at the Reclining Buddha temple. If you don't have enough coins, an attendant will give you loose change in larger denominations if you don't have any.
Distinct in its architecture and its 19th century charm, the Wat Pho temple in Bangkok is home to a range of stunning sights. The most important highlight of the temple, of course, is the gigantic statue of the Reclining Buddha, which draws tourists from across Thailand to the temple. The Wat also features several smaller Buddha figurines and sculptures, each reflecting an unparalleled expertise in craftsmanship. Wat Pho is also renowned for its inscriptions and carvings, including the UNESCO awarded inscriptions that preserve Thai wisdom. The beauty of the temple spreads to its grounds as well, replete with beautiful gardens and elaborately carved stone statues.
Spanning 46 meters in length, the Reclining Buddha statue is the star of Wat Pho Bangkok. The very remarkable Reclining Buddha,is located in the compound's main whăhn, or sanctuary, and depicts the Buddha's going into nirvana (i.e. the Buddha's death). The feet are embellished with mother-of-pearl inlay, which depicts the 108 various láksànà (characteristics) of a Buddha. Continuing the number motif, there are 108 metal monk bowls below the statue; for 20B, you may buy 108 coins, which are then thrown into a bowl for good fortune and thanks.
The bòht, or the ordination hall at the temple, as it appears now is the product of major modifications going back to the time of Rama III in the 19th century. The marvelous edifice was initially erected during the reign of Rama I in the 18th century, and influenced by the Ayuthaya style of design, traces of which are still evident despite the newer ramifications. Inside, there are stunning paintings and a three-tiered pedestal that houses the ashes of Rama I, as well as Phra Buddha Deva Patimakorn, the second-most notable Buddha statue at Wat Pho Bangkok.
Numerous other smaller statues of Buddha in his various forms can be seen adorning the walls of Wat Pho Bangkok. The pictures on exhibit in the four whăhns that encircle Phra Ubosot are worth looking into. The Phra Chinnarat and Phra Chinnasri Buddhas in the western and southern chapels, respectively, were saved from Sukhothai by Rama I's family. There are 394 gilded Buddha figures covering virtually all schools of traditional Thai workmanship, from Lopburi to Ko Ratanakosin, in the galleries that run between the four buildings.
A short marble wall encircles Phra Ubosot, with 152 bas-reliefs showing incidents from the Ramakien, Thailand's version of the Ramayana. When you depart the temple and pass the hawkers selling mass-produced rubbings, you'll see several of these figures: they're constructed from cement casts of Wat Pho's reliefs. Nearby, Unesco-awarded inscriptions outlining the concepts of traditional Thai massage may be seen in a tiny pavilion west of Phra Ubosot. These carvings, along with 2000 more such inscriptions that adorn the walls of Wat Pho Bangkok, preserve the knowledge of Ancient Thai wisdom, contributing to the popular saying that the temple is Thailand’s first public university.
Simply speaking, a Chedi is a traditional Thai name for a Buddhist stupa, and Wat Pho Bangkok has several of those. A group of four towering tiled chedis honoring the first four Chakri rulers can be seen on the grounds' western side. Note the square bell shape with defined corners, which is a hallmark of Ratanakosin design, as well as the titles that mimic the Buddhist flag's colors. The Phra Si Sanphet Dayarn, a 16-meter-high standing Buddha image from Ayuthaya, is housed in the middle chedi, which is dedicated to Rama I. The ashes of minor royal ancestors are scattered throughout the compound's 91 smaller chedis.
The lofty Phra Mondop, also known as hr rai and acting as a storehouse for Buddhist literature, is guarded by four yaksha, or guardian demons. According to legend, a quarrel between the four led to the clearance of what is now known as Tha Tien. Just south of the Phra Mondop lies the Crocodile Pond at Wat Pho, which is presently free of its residents.
Sala Kan Parian is one of the few remaining structures in the temple that predates the major renovations carried out by Rama III in the 19th century. The edifice, which was built in the Ayuthaya style, served as the wát's major bht and housed the temple compound's main Buddha statue.
Although the temple is the primary attraction here, the grounds of Wat Pho are no less in terms of beauty. Small Chinese-style rock gardens and hill islands provide shelter, vegetation, and whimsical decorations reflecting daily life in the compound's various tiled courtyards. Look for the unique rockery featuring sculptures of the hermit Khao Mor, who is credited with coming up with the practice of yoga, in different therapeutic poses. A Bodhi tree (ôn po), developed from a cutting of the original beneath which the Buddha is claimed to have attained enlightenment, is located just south of the main whăhn and is the basis of the temple's vernacular name, Wat Pho.
The Granite Statues are permanent residents of the Wat Pho grounds. The rock giants arrived in Thailand as ballast on Chinese junks and were put to work defending temple gates and courtyards at Wat Pho (and other wát, notably Wat Suthat). If you look attentively, you'll notice a variety of Chinese characters. Lan Than are giants with protruding eyes and Chinese opera costumes who were inspired by military noblemen. A farmer in a straw hat is often interrupted while plowing the fields throughout his day's labor. Marco Polo, with his fedora hat and mustache, is, of course, the guy who brought European fashions to the Chinese court.
Wat Pho was initially constructed in the 16th century as a post Ayutthaya-period temple. It was originally known as Wat Phodharam and was reconstructed in 1788 by King Rama I, who had already constructed the Grand Palace adjacent and proclaimed Bangkok as Thailand's capital.
Most of what tourists see now was built during the time of King Rama III, who expanded Wat Pho in 1832, especially the South Vihara and the West Vihara, which houses the Reclining Buddha. The Reclining Buddha was finished in 1848 and is now Bangkok's biggest. The figure is made of plaster lathered over a brick core, and coated in gold leaf.
Wat Pho was also Bangkok's first public university, thanks to King Rama III. The monuments and paintings on the site, which also include over 1000 Buddha images, were created to assist visitors learn about history, literature, and Buddhism. King Rama III and Thai academics added 1431 stone inscriptions between 1831 and 1841 to preserve cultural legacy, including Thai messages, which is why Wat Pho is still the national center for teaching traditional Thai medicine. The enclosure was recently repaired in 1982, just in time for the Bangkok Bicentennial Celebration.
King Rama I’s ashes are preserved in the ordination hall: King Rama I of the Chakri dynasty is known to have established the Wat Pho temple in Bangkok in the 18th century. As a tribute to its founder, the King’s ashes are now preserved in the ordination hall of the temple.
The Reclining Buddha Statue is the largest in all of Thailand: The reclining pose of Lord Buddha is not common; the posture is known as ‘sihasaiyas’, and the pose is that of a reclining lion. Built in 1848, the Reclining Buddha Statue at Wat Pho Bangkok is the largest one in all of Thailand. The statue spans a massive 46 meters in length, 15 meters in height, with each foot measuring up to 5 meters.
The Temple is regarded as Thailand’s first center for public learning: Now recognized by the UNESCO in its Memory of the World Programme, Wat Pho is home to priceless inscriptions and carvings that preserve primitive Thai wisdom and knowledge. The inscriptions dole out information on religion, science and literature, and have been open for public viewing since the temples’ inception. The Temple was also the birthplace of Thai massage, whose techniques are still widely taught on the temple grounds.
The architecture is distinct in style: The architectural style of Wat Pho borrows from a style known as Rattanakosin Style. The uniquely styled roof of the temple features marble patterns in green and orange, while the 18th century pillars are all fitted with shimmering marble pieces.
The original name of the temple is different- and longer: The temple’s actual name is Wat Phra Chettuphon Wimon Mangkhalaram Ratchawaworamahawihan. The longer name derives from the name of the temple which houses the Bodhi tree under which Lord Buddha receives his Enlightenment. The name was then shortened by locals for easier use.
The temple offers massage sessions: As the birthplace of Thai massage, Wat Pho offers massage therapies as well as training sessions to its visitors. The massage makes use of yoga poses to relieve stress and joint pains. The massage at Wat Pho is a popular draw, and usually generates long queues.
Only the Thai King can re-dress the Reclining Buddha: The body of the Reclining Buddha is draped by a golden cloak, which is changed thrice a year as the season changes. However, the law of the land proclaims that this change in apparel can only be done by the present Thai King, or his Crown Prince.