If you visit one temple in Bangkok, make it this one!
Wat Pho, Bangkok, Thailand
As far as sights go in Bangkok, one of the most important is Wat Pho. The temple complex is one of the oldest and largest in the city and is worth including in any first-time visit to the Bangkok. To make it easy for the time-strapped, it’s right next to the Grand Palace – one of Bangkok’s other main heritage attractions. Why not combine the two? Or, even better, why not just choose one and go to the pub for the afternoon?
The temple complex is expansive and takes at least an hour to explore properly. The various structures hold artefacts and give the faithful opportunities to express their devotion. Although it is a working temple, it is overrun with tourists to the point where I can’t imagine locals finding much solitude.
“Dear Buddha, I would really like some guidance on…” Click! “…anyway, as I was saying, things at home have been a bit…” OMG, look at that massive statue of the sitting down guy “…oh, nevermind, I’ll just go to my therapist”.
The highlight of Wat Pho is the gold reclining Buddha – 43 metres long and one of the largest in the world. It takes a whole building to hold it, resting in a peaceful pose. The feet of the Buddha have a whole lot of images on the soles inlaid with mother-of-pearl.
Along the side of the Buddha are 108 metal bowls which people can walk alongside and drop 108 coins into. (Don’t worry – you can buy all the coins you need for about 20 baht, about 60 cents.)
The fun thing about the Wat Pho complex is that you can really feel like you are exploring it for yourself. It’s not only large but has so many nooks and crannies. If you like stupas, you’d be stupad not to wander into some of the less-trafficked areas (sorry).
The temple was first built about 250 years ago but was most recently restored in 1982. You can tell. Although it is certainly traditional, it is also clean and well-maintained. The throngs of visitors bring in a decent revenue, I’m sure, and it’s good to know that much of that is spent on the upkeep of Wat Pho. One woman was even injecting a mural in the reclining Buddha building with something. I’m not sure what it was but I’m sure Lance Armstrong has tried it.
Bangkok has so much to offer – from the shopping, to the nightlife, to the food. But a bit of culture doesn’t go astray and this is an enjoyable way to see that side of the city.