Wat Pho in Bangkok is home to the largest reclining Buddha statue in Thailand, the greatest amount of Buddha images in all temples in Thailand, and the most established Thai massage school in Bangkok. It is the oldest Buddhist temple in town and one of the most popular Bangkok attractions.
Official name is Wat Phra Chetuphon
Vimolmangklararm Rajwaramahaviharn (wat is the Thai word for temple or monastery). The large temple complex covers 20 acres near the Grand Palace and is divided into two parts by the Chetuphon Road. Most tourists only visit the part that contains the Reclining Buddha, the other area contains the monks’ living quarters.
History of Wat Pho and the Reclining Buddha
The origins of Wat Pho date back to the 18th century, when King Rama I (1782-1809) restored an old monastery, Wat Phodharam from the Ayutthaya period. King Rama III (1824–1851) continued the work on Wat Pho with significant extensions that included building the viharn (hall) that contains the Reclining Buddha.
The statue of the Reclining Buddha is 46 meters long and 15 meters high, is covered in gold leaf and illustrates the Buddha’s passing into nirvana. Mother-of-pearl inlays decorate the feet and the eyes of the smiling Buddha and the feet are also adorned with 108 lakshanas, the auspicious characters of the Buddha (108 being a sacred number in Buddhism and in Hinduism).
Outside the viharn of the Reclining Buddha are nearly a hundred pagodas and several halls that contain a vast collection of Buddha statues. There are over 1000 Buddha images in the temple area, many of them brought here from Thailand’s former capitals Sukhothai and Ayutthaya.
Wat Pho has for long been a centre for learning, and especially for learning traditional Thai massage. Stone tablets on the walls of the wat describe the energy line theory behind traditional Thai massage and the Thai traditional medical system, and the temple still houses one of the most respected centres for learning traditional Thai massage in Bangkok: the Wat Po Thai Traditional Medical School. Massages and courses in traditional Thai massage are available.
For Visiting Wat Pho and Other Bangkok Temples
While Wat Pho is major Bangkok attraction, it is a holy site and visitors are asked to dress respectfully. Although Wat Pho is more relaxed about tourists’ outfits than the nearby Wat Phra Kaew, where you won’t get in if your dress is not appropriate, you should avoid shorts, or anything too revealing or see-through.
Shoes must be left outside when entering a Buddhist temple and feet must never be pointed towards the altar or a Buddha image. You should also walk around a Buddhist temple in a clockwise direction.
Wat Pho is located in the Rattanakosin district in Bangkok, near the Grand Palace, and is open daily. The easiest way to get here is to take the Chao Phraya Express Boat along the Chao Phraya River to Tha Thien and from the pier it is a short walk to Wat Pho.