Meeting with the Reclining Buddha – Wat Pho, Thailand

23 Sep

Whenever you think that you seen a lot of a “particular” something and another one of those similar things cannot be any different from what you already have, then its time for you to pack your bags and “travel”. During my trip to Cambodia,I saw numerous Buddha temples – of all kinds, designs, sizes, patterns, carvings etc etc and thought that what more will there be to see in another Buddha temple in Bangkok. Well, I was in for a major surprise with Wat Pho. This temple couldn’t have been more different from all the other temples that I had seen earlier or for that matter, till date.

Wat Pho is the largest and the oldest Wat i.e. temple in Bangkok with the longest Reclining Buddha, many smaller temples with numerous Buddha idols and images, 152 bas-reliefs, a university and a Thai school for massage and medicine – all within a single complex. The ticket price to enter the complex is 100 THB and you should budget to spend about half a day here, since there is so much to see, photograph and to relax (with a massage). 

Wat Pho

Wat Pho

We reached Wat Pho bright and early but still found numerous touts around who kept on telling us that it is closed till 1pm and tried to put us in a tuk-tuk to see some other temples. We just turned a deaf ear to all of them and reached the temple to find it was open and allowing visitors. We bought the tickets and started exploring the beautiful temple of the Reclining Buddha. At the entrance to the temple we were given a bag in which we had to put in our shoes and carry it all around with us. The moment we entered the temple – the first thing we noticed were the beautiful carvings on the walls and doors, followed by the colorful paintings / murals on the walls. But after all this we saw the famous idol and forget everything else.

Painted Columns in the Temple of Reclining Buddha

Painted Columns in the Temple of Reclining Buddha

Murals in the Temple of the Reclining Buddha

Murals in the Temple of the Reclining Buddha

The gold leaf covered idol is 15 m high and 45 m long where the right arm supports the head on two box-shaped pillows encrusted with glass mosaics. The feet of the idol are inlaid with mother-of-pearl and divided into 108 arranged panels showing the auspicious symbols by which Buddha can be identified (like flowers, dancers, animals and altar accessories). This idol shows Buddha passing into nirvana and the gold leaf work gives it a serene glow thereby attracting you to it in a mysterious manner. There is something about this idol that kind of draws you to it and I ended up taking 50 pics of it from every nook and corner.

The Reclining Buddha

The Reclining Buddha

Mosaic Work on the pillow of the Reclining Buddha

Mosaic Work on the pillow of the Reclining Buddha

In the narrow corridor of the temple, there are 108 bronze bowls kept that indicate the 108 auspicious characters of Buddha. The tradition here is that you should drop coins in these bowls as it is believed to bring you good fortune, and to help the monks maintain the wat. In case you do not have change, they have counters outside that can provide it. Also when you drop coins in these bowls, I don’t know how, but the sound is not a cacophony of noises but very mesmeric and hypnotic music.

108 bowls at Wat Pho

108 Bowls at Wat Pho – pic courtesy wikipedia

After a long stay in the temple we decided to explore the other parts of the temple complex. This complex consists of two walled compounds (divided by Soi Chetuphon running east–west) where one compound has the reclining Buddha and massage school and the other compound is a working Buddhist monastery with monks in residence and a school. The grounds contain 91 stupas or mounds, four halls and a central shrine. These stupas have a distinct shape that remind you of temple bells and porcelain / glass work on it – which I was told is the signature of the Ratanokosin style. The  smaller stupas contain the ashes of the royal family, and the large ones contain the ashes of Buddha. The four halls are dedicated to the four Chakri kings. These are beautiful both in shapes, sizes and the color of work on it. If you like photography than you can spend hours taking pictures from different angles, to capture all kinds of looks. And believe me that no 2 pics will be alike.

Wat Pho Complex

Wat Pho Complex

Stupas at Wat Pho

Stupas at Wat Pho

Stupas at Wat Pho

Stupas at Wat Pho

Glasswork, Wat Pho

Glasswork, Wat Pho

The temple has sixteen gates around the complex guarded by Chinese giants carved out of rocks.The exterior walls have around 152 bas-releifs with depictions of the epic, Ramakien. In between these stupas there are small rock gardens with topiaries, all kinds of landscapes and sculptures. Some of these sculptures are pretty funny too.

Small Gardens, at Wat Pho

Small Gardens, at Wat Pho

Near the exit of the temple complex, there is a Thai massage school, and a massage here is a must. Please be warned that this massage is not a spa experience, it’s really very different. It is more like stretches during an aerobics and many times during the massage you feel that you have paid to be tortured. But after the massage you feel so amazing and refreshed, that its worth it.

How to reach Wat Pho – Take a BTS Skytrain to Saphan Taksin. Walk out of the station and you will see the Chao Phraya Boat station – Central Pier (Sathorn). From here take a ferry to Chang Pier and then walk straight onto Na Phra Lan Road to Wat Pho. If you are staying at Khao San road, then you can walk up to the Phra Athit (N13) Pier and take a ferry from there to Chang pier.

Tip for Trip –

  1. Reach bright and early to avoid the crowd and queues. Thereby tourist free photos too 🙂
  2. Beware of touts in this area as you will find one at every 5 steps. They will all tell you that the temple is closed but do not believe them and walk towards the temple.
  3. At the Central Pier, take a local ferry and not the tourist ferry. The local ferry is as good and nearly 1/5th the price of the tourist ferry.
  4. The ticket to the temple is only 100 THB and you do not need to pay for anything else except the massage.
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48 Responses to “Meeting with the Reclining Buddha – Wat Pho, Thailand”

  1. mjolln1r September 23, 2012 at 19:07 #

    What an astonishing place. Thanks for your photos. 🙂

    Like

  2. Raunak September 23, 2012 at 19:12 #

    do you know what the significance of 108 is? I keep coming across it, even in Hinduism. Need to research it online.

    Like

    • Purnendu Singh September 23, 2012 at 19:55 #

      Whole world in the sole of his feet.. amazing photographs 🙂

      Like

      • getsetandgo September 24, 2012 at 10:37 #

        Thanks Purnendu.. Thats a nice way of saying it… 🙂

        Like

    • corneliaweberphotography September 23, 2012 at 21:19 #

      It is the 108 sufferings Buddha is teaching about. I believe so.

      Like

      • getsetandgo September 24, 2012 at 10:47 #

        Hey, i think you are right. What I was told was that it refers to the number of torments experienced and overcome by the Buddha to gain enlightenment.

        Like

    • getsetandgo September 24, 2012 at 10:37 #

      Hey, I am not sure but I think it refers to the number of torments experienced and overcome by the Buddha to gain enlightenment. In fact your comment got me thinking that even in Jainism when we pray we chant 108 times and even our prayer mala has 108 beads. Will check on this and keep you updated.

      Like

      • Raunak September 24, 2012 at 14:23 #

        yes,108 is not exclusive to Buddhism…1+0+8=9 which is considered a holy number as well. even Hindu malas have 108 beads…

        Like

      • getsetandgo September 24, 2012 at 21:47 #

        Hey, figured the Jainism logic. Every living person commits 5 kinds of sins in a day. Each sin can be committed in 108 ways. The 108 comes from the following – Before committing a sin, a person thinks on it, prepares for it and then acts on it (3). He does this himself, instigates someone else to do this or appreciates another person doing this (3). He does this with his mind, words and actions (3). He does this under the influence of anger, ego, cunningness/ jealousy or greed (4). Hence to counter this, a mala has 3*3*3*4 = 108 beads.

        Like

      • Raunak September 24, 2012 at 22:26 #

        brilliant! thank you so much for digging that information out…it is invaluable.
        Someone also told me that the wheel of life or the chakra was introduced by Jainism and was not a part of Hinduism…have you heard something similar?

        Like

      • getsetandgo October 11, 2012 at 14:33 #

        Hey, really sorry for the tardy response.. I was buried neck deep in work and hence the delay… We believe in a dharma chakra but thats more for protection and not the wheel of life… The only wheel of life we believe in is related to karma and reincarnation… Don’t know if this helps…

        Like

      • Raunak October 11, 2012 at 14:55 #

        it sure clears up a lot 🙂

        Like

  3. anyone4curryandotherthings September 23, 2012 at 20:01 #

    Indeed an incredible place to visit. We will be there again! during December and a visit here is on the top of our must-see-again-and-again-list. Beautiful photographs.

    Like

    • getsetandgo September 24, 2012 at 10:46 #

      Thanks… I too loved this place and wouldn’t mind visiting it again to see the other things that I missed this time.. 🙂

      Like

  4. corneliaweberphotography September 23, 2012 at 21:20 #

    What a place. makes me wanted to quit my job and rush to an airplane and be there! Thank you for sharing

    Like

    • getsetandgo September 24, 2012 at 10:52 #

      Thanks. It is a beautiful place and a must visit for photographers.. 🙂

      Like

  5. andasfortoday September 23, 2012 at 21:33 #

    Wow, stunning pictures! you must have had such an incredible experience, thank you for sharing.

    Like

    • getsetandgo September 24, 2012 at 10:55 #

      Hey, thanks… It is a beautiful place and a must visit.. 🙂

      Like

  6. Juliana Lightle September 23, 2012 at 23:47 #

    Been here actually. Have a photo of the feet somewhere in my house. Bangkok is a great place. The food is fabulous for sure.

    Like

    • getsetandgo September 24, 2012 at 11:06 #

      Hey, I liked the things to see and do in Bangkok but somewhow didnt like the city as much… But yes, loved their vegan food and fresh tropical fruits…

      Like

  7. Niranjan September 24, 2012 at 00:14 #

    Nice narration and those are awesome photographs. Loved the colours.

    http://www.rajniranjandas.blogspot.com

    Like

    • getsetandgo September 24, 2012 at 11:06 #

      Thanks Niranjan… I loved this place too and think it is a photographers paradise…

      Like

  8. solobackpacker.com (@solobackpacker) September 24, 2012 at 00:30 #

    Nice Story with equally good pictures..great place that is…re-visited again through your post..

    Like

    • getsetandgo September 24, 2012 at 11:08 #

      Thanks solobackpacker.. Didnt know you have been here… Will check your posts too 🙂

      Like

      • solobackpacker.com (@solobackpacker) September 24, 2012 at 14:13 #

        To check my post, you have to wait Snigdha..I am still writing about Hong Kong, then will come Macau, then Cambodia n at last Bangkok..those posts are still waiting in the queue. 🙂

        Like

      • getsetandgo September 24, 2012 at 21:47 #

        Cool. Will look out for them then 🙂

        Like

  9. currylove September 25, 2012 at 06:47 #

    What a coincidence that twice in one day, I get to see pictures of this amazing temple! Just this morning, my friend just sent me pics from her trip to Wat Pho!! It’s stunning, in both of your photos 🙂

    Like

    • getsetandgo October 11, 2012 at 14:35 #

      Thanks Currylove… It is a beautiful place and mamde for photography 🙂

      Like

  10. msdulce September 26, 2012 at 02:11 #

    Amazing trip, amazing photography, just… amazing! Also- I couldn’t agree with your very first sentence more. 🙂

    Like

  11. Sumithra Sriram September 28, 2012 at 15:23 #

    Hey!! I would like to nominate you for the Super-Sweet blogging award!!
    Here’s the link!! http://hearingwiththeeye.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/another-award/
    Hugs,
    Sumithra.

    Like

    • getsetandgo October 11, 2012 at 14:53 #

      Hey, sincere aplogies for the late response… Super thanks for this and I appreciate the honor… Shall write the thank you post soon…

      Like

  12. Madoqua September 28, 2012 at 16:16 #

    What a fascinating place. It is really beautiful. I now have it on my ‘must visit’ list!

    Like

    • getsetandgo October 11, 2012 at 14:56 #

      Thanks Madoqua… Its a gorgeous place and I can so visit it again… sigh…

      Like

  13. islandscribbler October 1, 2012 at 10:06 #

    Of course I noticed the Jamaican flag flying! 🙂 As always – beautiful pictures!

    Like

    • getsetandgo October 11, 2012 at 14:57 #

      Hahaha..Thanks. I didnt realise the flag thing… So I was in a small piece of Jamaica too 🙂

      Like

  14. lpcem October 8, 2012 at 00:39 #

    Oh how great! I was in Thailand this summer, of course also at Wat Pho, great memories!

    Like

    • getsetandgo October 11, 2012 at 16:10 #

      Did you try the tradiitonal massage at Wat Pho?

      Like

      • lpcem October 11, 2012 at 20:58 #

        No, I didn’t try it there but I did try it while I was in Thailand. What about you? It was definitely worth it!!!

        Like

      • getsetandgo October 15, 2012 at 14:57 #

        Hey, next time you are in Bangkok do try the traditional Thai massage at Wat Pho. It is very different from the other massages that we had in Bangkok and was amazing.. It is more like a work-out than a spa massage but your body feels amazing and light after that…

        Like

  15. gold account October 11, 2012 at 20:31 #

    i visited Bangkok last sept, 2006. The temples are really awesome. I hope i can visit Thailand in the near future. We were a victim of this gem scam. They were right at the exit of the grand palace. We asked for direction on where to turn to go to the reclining buddha, a lady who introduced herself as an officer told us that the place is closed for a noontime prayer because of the coup d-etat. And believing her, she called for the tuk-tuk to bring us to the lucky buddha. I hope this will warn other tourist against riding a tuk-tuk driver. Had a terrible fight with him and he charged us 100 baht. And i did pay him because i was afraid since we are only visitors.

    Like

    • getsetandgo October 15, 2012 at 14:54 #

      Hi, they tried doing that to us as well but we had a lot about this beforehand and were hence prepared.. So we just walked past all these people and did not listen to them at all…

      Like

  16. chandralatha May 9, 2013 at 11:50 #

    Reblogged this on sueshan123.

    Like

  17. Amy Lynne Hayes August 7, 2013 at 21:41 #

    This was one of the temples we visited while in Bangkok last year – it was so beautiful!! 🙂

    Like

    • getsetandgo August 9, 2013 at 23:52 #

      That it is. Did you try the Thai massage there?

      Like

      • Amy Lynne Hayes August 10, 2013 at 02:30 #

        No we didn’t… we were only in Bangkok for a day before we headed off to Koh Samui, so we didn’t have much time. It’s on the list for next time though!

        Like

      • getsetandgo August 10, 2013 at 22:38 #

        That is a definite must try 🙂

        Like

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