Home of the Reclining Buddha!
Wat Pho is one of the largest and oldest temples in Bangkok and home to the city's beloved, Reclining Buddha. The expansive grounds of the temple complex – with thousands of Buddhas on display, a working monastery and one of Thailand’s best massage schools – is well worth a visit if you've got cheap flights to Bangkok. Of course, the main draw here is the massive and awe inspiring Reclining Buddha.
Covered from head to toe in gold leaf, Wat Pho's Buddha statue is 50-feet high and 140-feet long. With his right arm supporting the head and the rest of his body in repose, it is the largest reclining Buddha in the world. The feet of the statue alone are three-feet high and 15-feet long with more than a hundred mother of pearl inlaid panels on the soles displaying symbols associated with the Buddha such as flowers, dancers, white elephants and tigers. Above the statue is a seven-tiered umbrella representing the authority of Thailand while along the statue's base are 108 bronze bowls indicative of the 108 auspicious characteristics of Buddha. Dropping coins in these bowls is thought to bring good luck to the visitors – it also helps with the high cost of maintaining the statue and the temple grounds.
Not only is Wat Pho a must see Bangkok attraction, it's also a great place to experience another of Thailand's most famous wonders: a traditional Thai massage. Wat Pho is home to one of the earliest Thai massage schools. Still in operation today, the school is considered by many to be the best in the world where some of the most dedicated and gifted massage students train. A rather perfunctory setting (especially compared to how ornate the rest of the temple grounds are). Keeping the school's décor basic and simple means that even budget travels should be able to afford an excellent massage here. One hour massage services here start at 250 baht (roughly $8). Classes for tourists are available as well.
Wat Pho is located on Sanam Chai Road and Maharaj Road next to Bangkok's Grand Palace and is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is 100 baht (about $3). For more information visit the official Wat Pho website at watpho.com.
Hours for the massage school are the same as for the rest of the temple grounds. For more info about the school visit watpomassage.com.
Please note that for many people, Wat Pho is considered to be a holy site. Tourists are advised to wear “polite dress” which essentially means no shorts.
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photo: Chris Osburn