I will warn that I love Wats (temples). I love looking at the faces of the Buddhas and seeing how time has worn them each a bit differently. I love watching the ceremony of the devotions by the Wat attendees. I love how Wats are typically quieter and there I find an inner calm. So, I am always interested in going to a Wat and for a few, multiple times.
Wat Pho, while no secret in Bangkok, provides all these things and has pulled me back three times. It is a beautiful Wat that dates back to the late 1700s. It is touted as a Wat with the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand, largest reclining Buddha and country’s earliest center for public education. It has beautiful stupas encrusted with colorful porcelain throughout the property and many halls filled with Buddhas. With all that, it covers 80,000 square meters, so each time I go, I discover something new.
Where the Royal Palace is packed, Wat Pho is still popular but the spacious land doesn’t make you feel overwhelmed with hordes of people. The most crowds do center around the very large reclining Buddha, though.
The Reclining Buddha at 140 feet long and 50 feet tall, is large indeed. It is housed in a great hall where the spire from the crown on its head touches the ceiling. A medium-sized walkway encircles the Buddha, allowing for many pictures to be snapped of this golden deity. The feet are most interesting too as they are covered with 108 auspicious symbols, with mother-of-pearl. The hallway loops around the Buddha and there behind his back, is a row of bowls. As people walk by, coins are dropped into the bowls, for good fortune, and to make merit. It fills the hall with the clinking of coins, as each are dropped into a bronze bowl.
Walking further into the complex, more inner walls are passed, and the crowds melt away. There is a main temple encircled by outer hallways lined with Buddha statues, in various postures. They display features from the Ayuthaya and Sukhothai periods and I find them quite wonderful to behold.
They are working on restoring some of the Buddha images and I watched as an attendant painstakingly adhered tiny pieces of glass to their bases, making them truly sparkle.
The main temple holds the image of a sizable gold buddha on a pedestal. A large area for worship allows many visitors to pay their respects to the Buddha and take in a moment of peace (unless the attendant is vacuuming again, although I found this quite amusing.)
Additional halls hold other large Buddhas statues, one standing and, a favorite of mine, sitting beneath a Bodhi tree. That image was hidden through a doorway and I enjoyed a very quiet moment there, connecting to that ideal, with candle, incense and lotus flower, as are typical here.
I’ve begun to photograph each of the Buddha’s faces but have only managed sets because I don’t want to be abandoned by my party. I suspect I will go alone one time to complete this task and wander the quiet hallways myself. That there is a massage school there is another tempting reason to return!
Visiting notes –
- Remember that it is a temple so proper attire is required. They will give you a snazzy robe to wear if you forget though.
- Price is 100 Baht and comes with a small bottle of water.
- The ferry to Wat Arun is very close to the temple (but that Wat is currently under construction).
More images from Wat Pho (web users, select image to view all images in a set, scroll with arrow keys) –