Officially named Wat Phra Chetuphon Vimolmangklararm Rajwaramahaviharn, or simply known as Wat Pho, the Buddhist temple is one of the most well-known tourist attractions in Bangkok. Not only is it famed for the beauty of Thailand’s third biggest Reclining Buddha, but within its walls also lie many other interesting pieces of history waiting to be discovered. Today we present to you the 8 wonders of Wat Pho.
1. The Hall of the Reclining Buddha
An absolute must-see of Wat Pho, the Reclining Buddha is its stunning landmark created by the sculptors from Bangkok’s earlier golden days. The entire statue is gilded and lacquered, and the feet engraved with mother-of-pearl decoration, earning the title of one of Thailand’s most beautiful Reclining Buddha.
2. The Legend of Wat Pho’s Giants
One interesting story about Wat Pho is “The Creation of Tha Tien”. Legend has it that in the old days there were two giants who were friends, one guarding Wat Pho and the other guarding Wat Jaeng (Wat Arun or Temple of Dawn). One day the Giant of Wat Pho found himself short of money, so he decided to borrow some from his friend. However, the due date came and no payment was made. The Giant of Wat Jeang crossed the river to ask for his money back, but was met with refusal. Enraged, the two Giants resorted to an epic fight. Their huge physique and excessive strength left the area flattened, hence the name Tha Tien (literally translated as wiped-out pier). You can say hi to the Giant of Wat Pho, where he stands guarding the temple right in front of the main hall.
3. The Epigraphic Archives of Wat Pho
Wat Pho is considered to be Thailand’s first university. Predating the schools in Thailand, education was mostly provided within Buddhist temples. King Rama III wanted Wat Pho to become a ‘university’ for common people, and so he ordered many fields of knowledge, including medicine, literature, and archaeology, to be engraved into as many as 1,440 pieces of stone, and ordered that they were displayed on the walls all over the temple for the purpose of public education. With their rich collection of history and traditional knowledge, it is little surprise that UNESCO has registered these archives as the Memory of the World.
4. The Contorted Hermit Mount
In this area you’ll see statues of hermit in various positions from the book of yoga of India. This garden was built with the intention to create a compilation of knowledge on traditional medicine and art from Ayuddhaya period through the statues of hermits. The contorted positions are meant to relieve pain and stress from the body. If you pass by the area, don’t forget to try them out and see if the tricks work!
5. Chinese Ballast
Another charm of Wat Pho is the Chinese ballast, or huge chiseled statues decorating the gates and doors of the temple. The origin of these statues comes from the past of naval trade between Thailand and China. Thailand would export heavy goods, such as rice, sugar, sealing wax, or agarwood, while importing lighter cargo, such as silk or feather. In order to maneuver safely through the turbulent sea, the stone statues would be stored to provide weight and stability. When the ships arrived in Thailand and there were no more use of them, the statues were given to the temple and became one of its particularities.
6. The Great Pagodas of Four Kings
You wouldn’t want to miss the Great Pagodas of Four Kings when visiting Wat Pho. The pagodas are a mix of art between Thai and Chinese architecture, ornate with detailed and colorful enameled tiles and porcelain china. These beautiful and majestic pagodas come in four different colors, each one representing a king of Bangkok. The green pagoda is meant to be the Jedi of King Rama I, while the white and yellow ones represent Rama II and III respectively. The blue pagoda was built in Rama IV era in the honors of Queen Sri Suriyothai, a heroine figure in Siamese history from the Ayuddhaya period.
7. Traditional Thai Massage
Wat Pho isn’t only a place for religion or architectural grander, but within its walls is also located a Thai traditional massage School, where you could enjoy authentic traditional massage by professional masseurs for a low price of 260 baht per hour. The place is open daily from 8AM to 5PM.
8. Tha Tien Market
Another thing you shouldn’t miss is the small community next to Wat Pho. ‘Tha Tien’ is a community market alongside Chaophraya River. Spectacular view, shops, restaurants, and many other interesting things are part of the charms of this authentic Thai scene. If you have the chance to visit Wat Pho, don’t forget to mark Tha Tien as the next destination in your check list.
A small restaurant in Tha Tian market, Food Route offers one plate dishes that are meticulously made in each and every step, from when the finest ingredients are selected until they are served on the table. The simple and familiar atmosphere of the place makes the meal feel all the more deliciously homemade.
Recommended dishes on the menu include Stir-fried Crab Meat with Chilli and Salt, Salmon Salad, Salmon Garlic Fried-Rice, Creamy Crab Tom Yam with Omelet on Rice, and many more. The restaurant is open from Tuesday to Saturday, from 10AM to 4PM.
Tor Saeng Thong Café
An old-fashioned café with traditional Thai atmosphere which will bring you back to the old days when the former generation used to frequent it as a coffeehouse forum.
Apart from the classic appearance, the café’s signature toasted bread is also deliciously soft and juicy with fresh butter. Paired with a cold glass of Thai milk tea or lemon tea, the dessert will fuel you for the rest of the day’s trip.
How to get there
Getting to Wat Pho is easy. You can take a taxi or BTS skytrain to Saphan Taksin station, then take the ChaoPhraya Express Boat to the Tha Tien Pier. Walk through the small market and you’ll see Wat Pho across the street.
If you want to visit other attractions around Wat Pho area, you definitely will enjoy using Tuk Tuk Hop, an on-demand hop on hop off tuk tuk in Bangkok old town’s prime attractions. Pay once and you can hop on and off all day from 8.30 AM – 6.00 PM.