Wat Pho: Temple of the Reclining Buddha

Wat Pho (วัดโพธิ์); Temple of the Reclining Buddha; Phra Chedi Rai
Temple Rating:8.7

With its sprawling grounds, intricate architecture, and iconic reclining Buddha image, Wat Pho stands as one of the oldest and largest temples in Bangkok. It’s a must-visit destination for travelers seeking a deeper understanding of Thai history.

Architecture: 9.5
Aesthetics: 8.5
Culture: 9.0
X Factor: 8.5
Value: 8.0

In Thai: วัดโพธิ์

Full Name: Wat Phra Chetuphon Wimon Mangkhalaram Rajwaramahawihan

Address: 2 Sanam Chai Rd, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon

Opening Hours: 8.00 – 16.30 daily

Admission Fee: 200 baht for foreigners

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Length of Trip: 2-3 hours.

Trip Type: cultural / historical.

Age Restrictions: none. 

Dress Code: modest and conservative. 

Religious Affiliation:

Classification:

  • First-class Royal.

Table Of Contents

Wat Pho Guide

The Reclining Buddha

The reclining Buddha at Wat Pho stands at an imposing 46 meters in length (115 ft) and 15 meters in height (49 ft). 

Crafted from plaster-covered brick and gilded with gold leaf, this monumental  image represents the Buddha’s transition into Nirvana and the end of the cycle of samsara (rebirth). This is signified by its reclined posture, known as the sihasaiyas or “sleeping lion” pose.

The reclining Buddha’s feet feature 108 panels of meticulously designed mother-of-pearl shell inlays. Within each panel, an array of auspicious symbols are displayed, depicting flowers, dancers, white elephants, tigers, and other sacred elements.

Each foot centers around a wheel symbolizing a chakra energy points, conduits through which universal energy flows into the body.

Wat Pho Guide

The Phra Maha Chedi

The temple grounds of Wat Pho encompass a vast amount of chedis, 95 to be exact. 

Of the 95 chedis, the most visually captivating are the ones found within the Phra Maha Chedi Si Rajakarn, a group of four towering stupas that reach a height of 42 meters.

Each chedi is dedicated to a Chakri kings: the green mosaic-tiled first chedi, constructed by Rama I, safeguards the remains of the Buddha from Ayuthaya; Rama III erected the second and third chedis in white and yellow tiles to house the ashes of his father Rama II and himself; the fourth chedi, adorned in blue, was built by Rama IV, enclosing these chedis as a symbolic testament to Thailand’s Chakri dynasty.

Surrounding the chedis is a monolithic vihara – a grand hall that showcases a unique set of golden Buddha images, many of which have historical and cultural significance. 

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Wat Pho Guide

The Phra Mondop

The Phra Mondop is a significant structure within the temple complex that houses important Buddhist teachings. During the 18th century, King Rama I ordered the collection and compilation of various Buddhist scriptures from different regions of Thailand. These scriptures were inscribed on palm leaves and stored within the Phra Mondop for safekeeping and accessibility. 

To honor these scriptures, the structure’s gilded doorways serve as a symbolic tribute. These ornate doorways, embellished with intricate designs and details, reflect the reverence and importance placed on the sacred teachings contained within the structure.

Wat Pho Guide

The Phra Ubosot

The Phra Ubosot, also known as Phra Uposatha or bot, is the central ordination hall, where Buddhist rituals take place. Constructed in the Ayuthaya style during King Rama I’s reign, it was later expanded and renovated in the Rattanakosin style by King Rama III.

Surrounding the ubosot are covered walkways featuring Phra Rabiang that contain ~400 Buddha images. These images, placed on matching gilded pedestals, hail from different periods of Siamese history, including Chiangsaen, Sukhothai, U-Thong, and Ayutthaya eras.

The Phra Rabiang cloister is intersected by four viharns. The eastern viharn houses an eight-meter-tall standing Buddha named Buddha Lokanatha, originating from Ayutthaya. Its antechamber features Buddha Maravichai, seated under a bodhi tree, originally from Sawankhalok during the late Sukhothai period. 

In the western viharn, a seated Buddha is sheltered by a seven-headed naga, known as Buddha Chinnasri. The southern viharn showcases the Buddha Chinnaraja, surrounded by five seated disciples attentively listening to his inaugural sermon. 

Both the southern and western viharns house Buddhas that were relocated from Sukhothai by Rama I. The northern viharn enshrines the Buddha Palilai, cast during the reign of Rama I. 

The Reclining Buddha

The History Of Wat Pho

The origins of Wat Pho date back to the 16th century, during the reign of King Rama I (1782-1809) of the Chakri Dynasty. The king initiated the restoration and enlargement of a pre-existing temple within Wat Pho’s grounds, an area with historical roots dating back to the Ayutthaya era.

King Rama I held a visionary aspiration to establish a hub of knowledge and wisdom. His vision encompassed diverse fields, spanning traditional Thai medicine, literature, arts, and spiritual teachings. Under his patronage, Wat Pho began to evolve as a repository of traditional Thai wisdom, fusing both practical and spiritual facets.

In the subsequent reign of King Rama III (1824-1851), Wat Pho underwent extensive revitalization efforts, culminating in its transformation into a sprawling complex covering an expansive area of over 50 rai or 80,000 square meters. This elaborate renovation included the creation of ornate structures, housing chapels, monastic residences known as viharas, stupas, and a collection of over 1,200 Buddha images. 

The temple’s transformation solidified Wat Pho’s status as not only a place of worship but also a revered center of learning, artistic expression, and cultural heritage.

The Reclining Buddha

Wat Pho's Dress Code

Wat Pho, like many Buddhist temples in Thailand, maintains a dress code to ensure respect for the sacredness of the site. Visitors are expected to dress modestly and appropriately when entering the temple premises. The dress code guidelines are as follows:

Clothing: Both men and women should wear clothing that covers their shoulders, arms, and knees. Sleeveless tops, short skirts, and shorts are not allowed. Loose-fitting and breathable clothing is recommended, considering the tropical climate.

Insider Tip: Avoid tight-fitting and see-through clothing to ensure modesty.

Footwear: Visitors are required to remove their shoes before entering any temple building, including the temple grounds. We recommend wearing shoes that are easy to slip on and off.

Headgear: Hats and caps should be removed when entering buildings as a sign of respect.

Visitors who arrive in attire that doesn’t meet the dress code may be asked to cover up with a sarong or scarf, which can often be rented or borrowed at the temple entrance.

The Reclining Buddha

How To Get To Wat Pho

Getting to Wat Pho is relatively straightforward, and there are several transportation options available to reach this iconic temple in Bangkok. 

MRT Subway: Take the MRT Blue Line to the Sanam Chai station. From there, you can either take a short tuk-tuk ride or walk to reach the temple, which is located in the vicinity of the station.

BTS Skytrain + Boat: Take the BTS Skytrain to the Saphan Taksin station, which is on the Silom Line (dark green line). From the BTS station, make your way to the nearby Sathorn Pier, where you can catch the Chao Phraya Express Boat. Take the Chao Phraya Express Boat (orange flag) heading north. Exit at Tha Tien Pier (N8), which is the closest pier to the temple.

From Khao San Road: Walking at a brisk pace, the temple is ~25 to 30 minutes away. 

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Wat Pho (วัดโพธิ์)

Where Should I Go Next?

After exploring the temple, we recommend heading over to Pak Khlong Talat, Bangkok’s iconic flower market. 

This bustling market is full of vibrant aisles filled with a kaleidoscope of fresh flowers, tropical blooms, and ornamental plants, that play a role in ceremonies and rituals across Thailand.

Whether you’re an enthusiast of flowers, photography, or simply want to soak up the lively ambience, Pak Khlong Talat offers a vivid experience that complements the serenity of Wat Pho.

Wat Pho (วัดโพธิ์)

Actionable Insights

The best time to visit Wat Pho is generally during the early morning hours shortly after opening or in the late afternoon. During these times, the weather is relatively cooler and the lighting is more favorable for photography. 

Additionally, visiting outside of peak hours can help you avoid larger crowds, allowing for a more enjoyable experience as you explore the temple complex and its attractions.

Yes, you can get traditional Thai massages at Wat Pho. These massages are performed by trained therapists and are a popular experience for tourists visiting the temple.

As of 2023, the entrance fee to Wat Pho costs 200 baht for foreigners. 

For Thai nationals, entrance is free. 

“Wat” means temple, and “Pho” refers to the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, India, under which Gautama Buddha is believed to have attained enlightenment. 

Absolutely, Wat Pho is definitely worth visiting. As one of Bangkok’s oldest and largest temples, it offers a rich cultural and historical experience. From its impressive architecture and intricate design details to the iconic Reclining Buddha and serene courtyards, the temple provides deep insight into Thai Buddhism and architecture. 

To get from Wat Pho to Wat Arun, you have a couple of convenient options:

Cross the River by Ferry: The easiest way is to take a ferry. Walk to the Tha Tien Pier, and then catch a ferry to the opposite side of the river. The ride takes just a few minutes and offers scenic views of both temples and the river. Once you arrive at pier on the other side, you’ll be at the entrance of Wat Arun.

Take a Taxi or Tuk-Tuk: You can also hire a taxi or tuk-tuk to take you directly to Wat Arun. Make sure to specify the destination in Thai (วัดอรุณราชวราราม ราชวรมหาวิหาร) to avoid any confusion. This option is more convenient but may be subject to traffic conditions.

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Wat Pho's Location

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Welcome to North of Known! We’re Alan and May, a married couple who have embraced digital nomadism while calling Bangkok, Thailand, our current home base. Over the past 7 years, our shared passion for exploration and adventure has fueled our journey across the globe. Join us as we continue to embark on our nomadic adventures, sharing our insights, discoveries, and travel tales along the way.

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