If you only see one temple in Bangkok, make it Wat Pho: home of the largest reclining Buddha in Thailand. The 141-foot-long statue is an artistic masterpiece plated in gold leaf and inlaid with mother of pearl. You could easily spend all day wandering the grounds, looking at reliquaries, visiting the massage school, and admiring the 400 statues of Buddha in the outer cloister—each posed and sculpted slightly differently. Before you leave, drop some money in one of the 108 begging bowls (one bowl for each of the characters of Buddha). The money goes to maintaining the Wat and the gift will bring you good luck. That seems like a fair trade.
Have you been here? Share a tip or a photo with fellow travelers.
The Famous Reclining Buddha of Wat Pho
One of the largest wats in Bangkok and home to over 1,000 images of the Buddha, Wat Pho is most famous for this sculpture of a giant reclining Buddha. He's 46 meters long with feet inscribed with mother-of-pearl mosaics and a body covered in gold leaf. Very impressive. Wat Pho isn't a pilgrimage site, but you can drop some money in one of 108 begging bowls and maybe bring yourself some good luck.
The reason that most people go to Wat Pho is to see its massive Reclining Buddha, so large in size that it looks like it somehow magically appeared inside the building. It measures 46 meters long, which is just over 150 feet, and it sits 15 meters tall. But in addition to the Reclining Buddha, Wat Pho has breathtaking grounds and architecture, with its vividly colored ceramic tile buildings, as well as a fascinating 394 Buddhas throughout the grounds, all sitting in the lotus position but from different parts of Thailand. Like most temples in Bangkok, come prepared; shoulders cannot be exposed, and both men and women need to be covered below the knee.
This is huge and so hard to photograph, as it is surrounded by large columns which are very close to it. But it is magnificent. It's near the Royal Palace and a must see in Bangkok. Take the water taxi and walk a block, it's the coolest way to get around.
I spent only a few days in Bangkok so I wanted to see as much as I could during my short visit. And there is a lot to see!
I ventured out into the 100 degree heat to explore some of the marvelous sights around Bangkok. On the top of the list was the Grand Palace. While there, I stopped in Wat Pho. The Buddha is amazing to see and quite impressive. Make sure you check out the feet. Speaking of feet, your shoes come off before entering the temple (just in case someone out there aside from me didn't know this).
You can buy a bowl full of coins at the entrance and drop them in the 108 buckets on your way around the temple. The coins sound lovely when they fall and the kids I saw there really enjoyed this part. The money from the coins goes to temple preservation.
I am always struck by the details in classical Thai architecture. The details, marked with an intricacy, the ornate, and a splash of the unexpected are archetypes which have permeated much of Thailand: From the colorful taxis and tuk-tuks to the sculpted rooflines on many of the old homes, this style is omnipresent.
Many of these details are found at Wat Pho: tall chedis and bell towers, finely carved and embossed with figures and flowers and colorful tiles, point decidedly towards the heavens; gold leaf patterns set against deep hues of red and blue and black cover the temple walls; the story of Ramakien, an epic mythology, is seen in the murals and figures which frame the buildings.
Cats flit amongst the people and the thousand Buddhas which line the temple grounds; it is not hyperbole to suggest that the Thais have a deep reverence for the sacrosanct. Wat Pho is most known for the Reclining Buddha, a figure in repose who stretches approximately 150 feet. 108 auspicious symbols, set in inlaid pearl like henna, mark the Buddha’s feet.
Wat Pho is busy, especially where the Reclining Buddha lays, but if you wander beyond the crowds and into the different compounds, you might find it a fine place for reflection and contemplation.
Although most visitors will head directly to Bangkok's Royal Palace to see the Emerald Buddha (and rightly so), Wat Pho offers equally spectacular sites on grounds adjacent to the Palace. The grounds include four immaculately detailed chedi devoted to four kings. The famed Reclining Buddha lies inside the hall. The Buddha is more than a hundred feet long and 45 feet tall; the sculpture is covered in gold and its feet inlayed with intricate mother of pearl. As you're viewing the Buddha, you'll hear satang coins rattling into 108 black-ceramic bowls lining one wall. The bowls represent each of Buddha's auspicious characteristics. Visitors place coins (essentially pennies, though to the U.S. dollar their value is even less) in each to contribute to the temple and to earn good favor. You'll need to plan ahead if you want to put in your own coins.