Wat Pho, home of the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, is one of the oldest and most revered temples in Thailand. It is one of six temples in all of Thailand that holds the rating of first class royal temple. But what makes it one of the top tourist attractions in Bangkok is the 150 foot long and 45 foot high gold reclining Buddha statue, one of the largest in the world.
Wat Phra Chetuphon Wimon Mangkhalaram Rajwaramahawihan, the official name of Wat Pho, also boasts an impressive collection of Buddhist statues, the largest in Thailand – almost 400 of them. It’s a splendid temple to spend an hour or two walking around and exploring. It is a short walk from the Grand Palace and should be included in a day of sightseeing.
And if your muscles are tired from walking around, you are in luck. Wat Pho is home to the original Thai Massage school. You can get a massage in the Traditional methods that have been passed down for hundreds of years.
The Reclining Buddha
The main reason tourists visit Wat Pho (pronounced wat po) is to see the reclining Buddha statue. And rightfully so. It is a giant golden statue that appears even larger as the room it is housed in seems to struggle to contain its massive size.
You can purchase a bowl of coins before entering which you use to drop in the 108 bowels lining the walls of the room. It is said dropping coins in the bowel will bring you good luck. It’s also a fun way to donate to the temple to help in the upkeep and the renovations.
The feet of the Reclining Buddha statue are 15 feet long and covered in mother of pearl inlays depicting Buddhist symbols and imagery. They represent the 108 auspicious symbols said to be found on the Buddha’s foot after he was born.
History of Wat Pho
Wat Phodharam was an ancient temple built during the Ayutthaya Kingdom which lasted from the mid 1300s to the mid 1700s. In 1788 King Rama I ordered that the run down temple next to the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, be restored. The project took over 7 years to be completed. The King renamed the temple Wat Phra Chetuphon Vimolmangklavas.
During this time the King ordered the removal of Buddha statues from abandoned temples in the former capitals of Ayutthaya and Sukhothai. A large part of those statues ended up at Wat Pho, creating the large collection it is known for today.
The temple underwent two more restorations, one under King Rama III in 1832 that took 16 plus years and greatly expanded the temple complex. The most recent renovation was completed in 1982. Though the temple has changed names with each restoration, it is still known by an abbreviation of its first name – Wat Pho.
Wat Pho was not only a center for the Buddhist religion, but is also regarded as Thailand’s first university. It still teaches Traditional Thai medicine and massage to this day.
Traditional Medicine and Traditional Thai Massage School
If you look around the cloisters you’ll see many engravings depicting traditional Thai medical science. In the early 1800s King Rama III turned Wat Pho into a center of learning and instructed a royal doctor to create the carvings around the temple sharing the knowledge.
In 1955 the first Thai Medical was founded at Wat Pho and continues to this day teaching Traditional Thai medicine and traditional Thai massage. They have four main areas of study: Thai Pharmacy, Thai Medical Practice, Thai Midwife, and Thai massage. It is considered the preeminent school of massage in Thailand.
The school offers both a professional and short course curriculum. If you are just visiting Thailand for a short trip a short course runs about 30 hours and seemed to be created just for tourists. You can check their website if you want to learn more about massage classes at Wat Pho.
If you want to get a massage at Wat Pho, they are open from 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM. A 30 minute Thai Massage costs 260 Baht (about $8.40 USD) – tipping welcomed. They offer both full body and foot massages. Lines can be long since the temple is world famous for massage and it is slightly more expensive than other massage shops you can find on just about every block in Bangkok.
More To See At Wat Pho
Wat Pho is a great add-on to day of sightseeing at the Grand Palace. It is a short walk (less than 10 minutes) around the corner. After paying the entrance fee you can wander around the sight alone or hire a guide. Costs differ, but expect to pay between 200 – 400 baht.
After seeing the reclining Buddha, make sure to visit the four chapels that house 394 golden Buddha statues. Take in the the wonderful art and history depicted in the murals that decorate the walls of the buildings.
In the courtyard you’ll find a bodhi tree that was grown from the actual tree that Buddha had sat under. You’ll also see 90 Chedi decorated in pottery and flowers as well as some Chinese statues once used on ships, that seem oddly out of place.
Should You Go
The dress code at Wat Pho is strictly enforced and you should dress appropriately. No shorts. Shoulders and Knees should be covered. Dress respectfully, this is a place of immense reverence and not a trip to the beach. You’ll need to take off your shoes and put them on a shelf before entering any religious building. If you are coming here from the Grand Palace, you should already be familiar with the protocols.
Be respectful of the monks and note that monks are not allowed to have physical contact with women. Admire the statues of Buddha and take as many photos as you like, but do not step or climb on the images.
- Location: 2 Sanamchai Road, Grand Palace Subdistrict, Pranakorn District, Bangkok 10200
- Hours: 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM
- Entrance Fee: 200 THB (About $6.40 USD)