Thailand is the land of ornate and spectacular temples and no visit to Thailand is complete without taking in a temple or two. Wat Pho, immortalised by a visit from Leo DiCaprio in the movie The Beach, is the oldest, largest and probably the most famous temple, and should definitely be on everyone’s must-see list.
The reclining Buddha is incredible, both in terms of size and the detail of design. He is 46 metres long, 15 metres high, made of plaster and finished in gold-leaf. The soles of his feet are inlaid with delicate images made of mother of pearl depicting the 108 characteristics of Buddha.
|The reclining Buddha|
You enter the structure at Buddha’s head and can walk all around his feet and back. The walls and ceiling are covered in intricate decoration and the room also shows many detailed paintings.
|Mother of pearl detail on the soles of the reclining Buddha's feet, Wat Pho, Bangkok.|
Although to many the essence of Wat Pho is the giant reclining Buddha, it is far from the only thing to see. The Wat Pho complex stretches over an entire block in the centre of Bangkok and comprises the main building housing the reclining Buddha, several smaller buildings containing different Buddhas, large areas with corridors lined with seated Buddhas, a small shopping area, an area once used for medical education (complete with anatomical paintings on the walls) and a massage school.
|Ornate architecture at Wat Pho, Bangkok, Thailand.|
It is easy to spend a few hours wandering around the complex, which provides a soothing oasis of calm in the centre of Bangkok’s chaos. The many different areas of the complex provide the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand, as well as several temples and some impressive architecture to look at. There are also several cats lazing around in the gardens if you are a cat person.
|A cat enjoys the Wat Pho gardens.|
If you feel it is also time to invest in your body you can have a traditional Thai massage on the complex too. Wat Pho was once an open university and is now Thailand’s centre of learning for traditional Thai medicine. You are provided with some loose cotton trousers and then invited to lie on one of several large beds in a large room and have your body manipulated into more awkward positions you could ever have thought of yourself.
|Buddhas, Wat Pho, Bangkok, Thailand.|
Things to remember
As with visiting any other religious or spiritual place it is polite to be sensitive to local customs and to behave calmly and quietly. When visiting temples it is essential to remove shoes, and dress appropriately covering your arms and legs. This can be challenging in Bangkok’s muggy heat, but is important in order to be respectful, and is easily addressed by carrying a sarong.
Have you visited Wat Pho? What did you think of it?