Wat Pho is one of those must see attractions during any visit to Bangkok along with the Grand Palace and Wat Arun. Fortunately all are within walking distance from each other (if you can stand the humidity!) or a short Tuk Tuk ride away (if you can stand the white knuckle ride!)
Wat Pho is better known as the "Reclining Buddha" and as the name suggests, is home to a huge 46 metre long 15 metre high reclining Buddha covered in gold leaf with mother of pearl feet.
The temple gets very busy, as you can imagine, with tourists trying to get decent photographs of the entire Buddha so expect a bottle neck near his feet which seemed to be the best photo opportunity! The size of the Buddha is what really amazes here - it barely fits into the temple and considering its age (16th century) has been remarkably well maintained.
The image itself symbolises Buddha's death and subsequent passage in to nirvana. The temple grounds host more than just the huge figure, it is also home to the techings and preservation of Thai medicine and massage and throughout the grounds are massage pavillions.
Expect to pay about 50 bhat for admission and be prepared to wear the appropriate clothing (the Thai are very particular with tourists wearing "appropriate" clothing in their temples) if you don't want to risk the slightly less fashionable garments provided! Footwear must be removed before entering the temple.
On a recent trip to Thailand, I decided to take a trip to the Wat Pho Temple as many English and American people we spoke to along the way had highly recommended a visit.
I knew very little about temples and had never heard of Wat Pho until this trip, although I had often heard about the golden Buddha and the reclining Buddha with the big golden feet. I never even thought of going until I heard so many people raving about it.
Now I am just so glad that everyone had mentioned it, as I now feel that the Wat Pho temple was a place that should not have been missed.
WAT PHO TEMPLE
What Pho was built in 1688 during the reign of King Petraja of Ayutthaya and is the oldest and the largest temple in Bangkok
This temple is home to one of Thailand's most spectacular sights the longest reclining Buddha and also houses the largest collection of Buddha relics and pictures in the whole of Thailand.
You have to walk through the temple in barefoot, it is a sign of respect and then get a picture by the Buddha's foot area, and this is not a picture to be missed. The lighting is quite poor so a good camera is needed.
Wat Pho has some very good English speaking tour guides who will provide all of the interesting information, regarding the temple and the buddah surrounding the whole temple. This will cost you roughly 200 - 400 baht (3.20-6.40 in GBP), depending on how many people they have to show around and also how good you're haggling is.
Wat Pho can also offer traditional Thai massage at very cheap prices, and I have to say if you enjoy a good rub then this is a place not to be missed.
This can be a very cheap excursion as the entrance to the temple is only 20 Baht, which is roughly 15p in our money. You can also have a massage for 2.00 - 3.00 pounds. So as you can see it is very cheap.
THE RECLING BUDDA
The reclining Buddha was the main attraction for me, he is 46 meters long and 15 meters high. Which is huge you just don't appreciate the magnitude of it until you are up close and personal to him.
The statue is covered in gold leaf and his feet are inlayed with mother of pearl illustrations which detail the back ground of the Buddha. The mother of pearl on the soles of the buddah feet, were not added until a later date in 1832 during the King Rama III Reign.
As I said buddahsare not my thing and I would never have one, but this Buddha was amazing I think it is his pure size that did it for me. I just hate to think how he was actually moved to the temple.
When you visit the temple you can freely wander around the rock gardens, chapels and stupas. So this can be very relaxing and if you want to relax even further go and try the Thai massage.
King Rama III also introduced Wat Pho as an important centre for Thai medicine and massage and therefore introduced Thailand's oldest school of learning for both massage and medicine. It is still possible to learn and practice the methods of Thai massage and medicine at Wat Pho now.
If you've never tried a Thai massage, Wat Pho is a good place to start. It's quite different to most other forms of massage and tends to be invigorating. You can unwind there for a relaxing foot and body massage with yoga style poses which help to relieve stress and improve blood circulation.
This massage will cost you roughly 120-200 ( 1.90- 3.20 GBP) Not bad for an hours massage is it.
As funny as it sounds you can visit palm readers and astrologers to have them tell you your fortune, Careful though as some don't have very good English speaking so you won't know what they are saying.
You can also get blessed by a monk, all you need to do is give a donation that helps with the day to day running of the temple. I didn't do this as I felt it was pushing my boundaries as I felt I had pushed them already by actually going to Wat Pho.
The Wat Pho is located directly behind the grand Place home of the giant emerald Buddha but you have to walk to it from the outside so exit Grand palace and walk either left or right and you will reach Wat Pho's entrance.
Along the way there were stalls and markets for you to look and buy gifts. Once we found the front door to Wat Pho. We paid the cover charge of 20 Thai Baht, and were left to our own devices. We then decided to get a tour guide as we wanted to learn all we could about the temple.
The full address is Wat Pho, Thai Wang Rd, Bangkok, Thailand. If you a traveling buy taxi or tuk tuk just give the driver this address and they will get you there. The temple can also be reached by sky train of subway but you will have a half mile walk from the old city Rattanakosin.
The temple is open daily 10.00 - 18.00 and the last entrance is at 17.00.
Along the way you will meet many local people offering you directions and tips one of which will be that What pho is closed till late noon and will try to get you a taxi to kill your time else where which is a tourist trap to send you to shops to buy.
If you want a last minute massage you can get this at the temple until 18.00pm.
Always remember to haggle prices usually you can get at least 10-40% off of the first asking price, so it really does pay. You can barter anywhere in Thailand except the large shopping malls here the prices are set so you will not get discount.
It is a good idea to lean a few Thai words as they seem to respect you for it, you may talk rubbish but we found that they appreciate the effort. We also found we got better bargains.
To flit from one side of Bangkok to the other try using the river taxis, they are very cheap at 4-9 Thai Baht (less then 10p) and this enables you to see more in such a short space of time. Tuk tusk and taxi's can also be reasonable but you can end up anywhere as they speed off and don't know where they are going.
When you eat out always leave some food on the plate this is another sign of respect, it show that you have enjoyed the food and you are full. If you clear your plate it is thought that you are still hungry and they will give you more. You will have no problem leaving food as the portions are massive and will food a family of four.
I had personally thought of Bangkok as being a dirty smelly place, but to my surprise I loved it. The people were friendly although there were some con artists but you get them every where don't you.
I would recommend Bangkok and all the culture it has to offer to everyone, I can't rate it high enough.
The temple has to be the highlight it really opened my eyes, I have learned one thing that you should keep an open mind and not dismiss things so quickly. Even though I hate buddah and will not own one I found this very interesting.
I really fell in love with Bangkok Thailand, and I can't wait to go back. It is great for floating markets restraints, museums, temples and even shopping.