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Wat Pho is the largest - and probably the oldest - temple in Bangkok.  <img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click for full image
Travel Guide > Asia > Thailand > Bangkok > Sights & Attractions

Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)

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Wat Pho (วัดโพธิ์), popularly known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, is the largest temple of Bangkok, and probably the oldest too, as it predates the founding of the capital by about 200 years.

Most foreign travellers come for the much-needed picture of themselves with the enormous Reclining Buddha (พระพุทธไสยาสน์ Phra Buddhasaiyas); it is the largest reclining Buddha image in Thailand, and possibly the largest in the world. The list of records doesn't end there; Wat Pho is home to more than one thousand Buddha images, more than any other temple in the country.

The temple as it appears now comes from the late 18th century, right after the founding of Rattanakosin, when King Rama I almost completely rebuilt the complex. He renamed the temple Wat Phra Chetuphon (วัดพระเชตุพน), as Thais still call it today, but the new name never really caught on in the West. Another major revamp took place in 1832, when in the reign of King Rama III new chapels were added and walls and pillars were decorated with inscriptions on traditional medicine. Wat Pho is often cited as Thailand's first university, as even before the temple's founding, the site was a centre of education for traditional Thai medicine.

The Wat Pho complex is cut in two walled compounds with Soi Chetuphon separating them. The southern compound, Tukgawee, is barely visited as it is a working Buddhist monastery with monks residing there. The northern compound can be divided into an eastern and western courtyard. Busloads of tourists get in using the north entrance at Thai Wang Road, stand in line to get a quick peek of the Reclining Buddha, and head off. That's a mistake. Better take the south entrance at Chetuphon Road, which actually is the main entrance. From there you can start exploring the complex while missing out on most of the tourist crowds.

The large Reclining Buddha in Wat Pho.  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

The admission fee is 100 baht, and the temple is open from 08:00 till 17:00. You can arrange an English-speaking personal guide that provides you with interesting information of the complex. It costs around 200-400 baht, depending on the size of your group (and your negotiation skills).

The main entrance is one of the 16 gates that surround the walled compound. These entrances are guarded by enormous Chinese stone giants. Most of these giants are "farang", Westerners that wear wide-brimmed hats and hold a sword. I bet you find these Westerners scarier than the guardian demons protecting Wat Phra Kaew! When Siamese ships exported rice to China, they brought these statues back to compensate for the loss of weight. The entrance brings you into the eastern courtyard, which is dominated by the bot. To get to it, take a right from the entrance and then take a left before the southern viharn. At the entrance of the bot are lions that are Burmese in design. Inside the bot, on top of a big altar that contains the relics of King Rama I, is the main Buddha image, which is in Ayutthayan style. Four viharns and a total of 91 prangs and chedis surround the bot.

Moving on to the western courtyard, you'll quickly stumble upon the Reclining Buddha — gold plated, 46 metres long, 15 metres high, with inlaid mother-of-pearl soles. It is an impressive sight and definitely one you must see on your trip. The Reclining Buddha shows the passing of the Buddha into nirvana, the Buddha's final state of enlightenment before his death. On the back side of the statue, you can buy a bag of 50-satang coins and plunk them one by one into the row of copper pots for good luck. Outside the building, four chedis commemorate the first four kings of the Chakri dynasty. The cental chedi is the oldest one, it was erected by King Rama I to hold the remains of the Phra Si Sanphet, the most sacred Buddha figure of Ayutthaya. The chedis to the north and to the south house the remains of King Rama II and King Rama III respectively.

There's plenty of other sights and activities inside the large temple complex; above all, try a massage.

Type: Monument/Building
Location: Rattanakosin, Bangkok, Thailand
Telephone: +66 2 226-0335

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