Wat Pho In Bangkok
Wat Pho, short for Phodharam, and also known as Wat Phra Chetuphon, is a large temple and culture center in Bangkok. First built in the 18th century, it is the oldest temple in the Thai capital and one of the most important.
It lies just down the Chao Phraya River from the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, and though it hides somewhat in the shadow of this top-level tourist site it is definitely an interesting site to visit and a classic example of a grand Thai Buddhist temple.
Temple of the Reclining Buddha
Wat Pho is a quick stop on most Bangkok tours if for no other reason than it is home to the largest reclining Buddha image in Thailand. The reclining posture represents both the Buddha relaxing or sleeping, and also the moment of the Buddha’s enlightenment before death. The 46m Phra Buddhasaiyas image at Wat Pho is one of the best-known examples of this posture in Thailand. It was constructed in the mid-1800s by King Rama III and has been since restored and maintained. This enormous gilded statue’s most interesting feature is its feet, which are inlaid in mother of pearl with 108 (an auspicious number in Thailand) scenes from the Buddha’s life.
In the same hall, freshly restored murals depict vibrant scenes and episodes from the life of the Buddha, Thai mythology, and historical Thai life.
Wat Pho’s Ramakien Engravings
The main hall of the temple, the ubosot, is set in the main courtyard and is surrounded with 152 stone carvings of scenes from the epic story the Ramakien. This epic story is based on the Indian classic the Ramayana and details the life and adventures of Phra Ram who battles with demons who kidnap his wife, Nang Sida. The Ramakien was adapted and written by King Rama I to stress the importance of the presumed links between the current Chakri dynasty and the founding leaders of the Thai kingdom.
The stone carvings of the Ramakien at Wat Pho are one of the most popular representations of this legend. Until recently, pencil rubbings of the carvings were sold to tourists all over Bangkok, though recently they seem to have dropped in popularity.
Massage at Wat Pho
Traditional Thai massage <insert link for thai massage> has been passed down for generations between practitioners who provide muscle relaxation, pain relief, and also, it is believed, cure from several diseases. Wat Pho has been the center of Thai massage education for hundreds of years and continues to be both a seat of teaching and the top place in the country to have a massage from a professionally trained masseuse.
Since the mid-20th century an official medical school, the WATPO Thai Traditional Massage School <http://www.watpomassage.com/2009/index.php?page=&lang=EN>, has been offering training courses to Thais and foreigners alike. Courses generally run 1-5 weeks at a time and participants study 6 days a week, then must pass examinations to receive accreditation. Courses range from general practitioner to specific expert courses for therapeutic massage and massage for children and infants.
If you’re just coming by for a look around the temple and a bit of a rub down, head right to the massage school and book a massage time, then look around the temple while you wait, if you need to wait. Usually they can handle a large number of patients and there is little waiting time.
To visit Wat Pho, there is a small entrance fee of 50 THB which you can pay at ticket windows just inside the entrances at the north and south of the compound. Professional English-speaking guides can be hired to lead groups for 200-500 THB depending on group size and have a lot to tell about the history and artefacts in the temple compound.
You can have a massage at the temple for 400 THB for an hour, 600 for 2 hours, and 500 for a 90-minute foot massage. Other spa and facial treatments are available and so are multi-hour packages.
This post is also available in: French