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Travel Guide




Pho Temple

Pho Temple (Wat Po), Temple of the Reclining Buddha

Wat Pho or Wat Phra Chetuphon as it is generally known to the Thais, is mainly famous for the huge Reclining Buddha statue it houses. At 20 acres large, it is the largest Wat in Bangkok, and is technically the oldest too, as it was built around 200 years before Bangkok became Thailand's capital. However, today the Wat today bears virtually no resemblance to that originally constructed, as it was almost entirely rebuilt by Rama I when the capital was moved to Bangkok. It holds the dual honors of having both Thailand's largest reclining Buddha image and the most number of Buddha images in Thailand.

The highly impressive gold plated reclining Buddha is 46 meters long and 15 meters high, and is designed to illustrate the passing of the Buddha into nirvana. The feet and the eyes are engraved with mother-of-pearl decoration, and the feet also show the 108 auspicious characteristics of the true Buddha.

The large grounds of Wat Pho contain more than 1000 Buddha images in total, most from the ruins of the former capitals Ayuthaya and Sukhothai. The grounds are split in two by Chetuphon road. The northern section is generally the only one most people go to, and it includes a large bot (temple hall), enclosed by 394 bronze Buddha images. Outside the bot, there are 152 marble slabs depicting the second half of the epic Ramakian story. Also near here are fourGrounds of Wat Pho chedis, constructed to honor the first three Chakri kings (two for King Rama III). There are also a massive 91 others Chedis of varying sizes arounds the grounds, along with chapels, rock gardens, an array of different types of statues, inscriptions, belltowers and resident fortune tellers. The library is nearby too, decorated impressively with figures and pagodas made of porcelain, in much the same way as Wat Arun across the river. The much less visited southern section has less of interest, but makes a good place to find a monk to chat to for a while. Most would welcome the chance to practice their English on visitors.

Massage - Wat Pho is also famous as Thailand's first university, and is center for traditional Thai masage - the rich, famous and powerful have all been known to come here. Inscribed on stone in the walls of Wat Pho are all that was known about Thai massage dating from the reign of King Rama III (most previous texts were lost when the Burmese destroyed Ayuthaya)

To get a traditional massage here costs 150B for 30 mins, 250B for an hour and herbal massages are available at 350B an hour. If you want to experience traditional Thai massage, this is probably the best place available and is highly recommended, though be aware that it's not exactly a gentle experience. A foot reflexology massage is also available at 250B for 45 minutes.

It is also possible to take courses to learn traditional Thai massage. These are for 30 hours and cost 4,500B. Courses can be spread over either 10 or 15 days. The massage center is situated at the back of the Wat, the opposite side from the entrance. To get a massage, simply turn up here and wait in line until a masseur is available - perhaps 10 or 20 minutes in the quieter periods in the early morning and late afternoon. Contact them on (+662) 221 2974 or (+662) 225 4771 if you need any more information about it.

The Feet of the Reclining Buddha, Wat Pho

Details

The entrance to Wat Pho is on Chetuphon road. Entrance is 20B. It's open every day, opening hours are from 08.00am to 5.00pm, with a break from 12.00pm to 1.00pm. Guides can be hired at the entrance for 150B for one person, 200B for two, 300B for three, but they're not really needed. On Sundays, you can see students being taught traditional Thai dance and music.

Don't listen to anyone on the street as you try to enter telling you it's closed for a 'Buddhist holiday', 'cleaning' etc, or asking if you want to see the 'Lucky Buddha' instead - it's all part of a sophisticated gem scam.

Aircon buses 6, 8 and 12 all stop close to Wat Pho, and the Tha Tien express boat pier is very near. Ordinary buses that go near Wat Pho are ordinary buses 1, 25, 44, 47, 62 and 91 which stop on Maharat road. 44, 47 and 91 all stop on Thaiwang road, on the north side of Wat Pho, south of Wat Phra Kaew. It's also just a short river crossing away from Wat Arun. It's within walking distance of Wat Phra Kaew / Grand Palace, and (if you're feeling energetic) the National Museum too.

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