Wat Pho in Bangkok

Wat Pho in Bangkok

By Chris QuanUpdated Aug. 12, 2021

Wat Pho is a beautiful, ornate temple in Bangkok that should be on everyone’s bucket list. You can admire the huge reclining Buddha statue, the 394 gilded Buddha statues in the four chapels, the Bodhi tree, and the courtyard, all while considering getting a massage at the end of your visit.

If you are unsure about what to expect when visiting the Wat Pho temple, you have come to the right place. This guide will provide information about the temple, reasons for visiting it, and what to look forward to. Spend a few minutes reading our guide before adding Wat Pho to your Bangkok itinerary.

Ihe Grand Palace The Grand Palace

Facts about Wat Pho

  • Built: 1781
  • Popularity: ranked #1 among temples in Bangkok 
  • Popular activities: reclining Buddha statue and Thai massage
  • Suitable for: temple/culture/architecture lovers
  • Time needed: one hour (longer if you include a massage)
  • Location: Maharat Road, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200
  • Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., everyday (massages end at 6 p.m.)
  • How to get there: Wat Pho is accessible via the MRT subway, riverboat, taxi, or tuk-tuk

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Highlights of Wat Pho

Wat Pho, the oldest and largest temple in Bangkok, is an attraction worth visiting while in Thailand’s capital city. Within the temple, over 1,000 statues, murals, and images can be found — more than in any other temple in the country.

Also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, this temple is one among six in the country where the ashes of the royal family reside.

King Rama III, during his reign of Thailand, ordered the extension and renovation of Wat Pho. It took 16 years to accomplish what people can now admire.

The top attractions to see at Wat Pho are listed below.

The Reclining Buddha

Wat Pho Wat Pho

The main attraction at Wat Pho is, undoubtedly, the gold-plated statue of the reclining Buddha. Locally known as the Phra Phuttha Saiyat, this huge statue is about 45 m (150 ft) long, and 15 m (50 ft) high.

You might, understandably, expect a statue so large to be out in the open, but unbelievably, this statue is enclosed inside a building. Built in 1832 during the reign of King Rama III, the statue represents the passing of the Buddha to his final nirvana.

The reclining Buddha’s feet are decorated with 108 Buddhist Sanskrit symbols, representing 108 actions that helped the Buddha find his way to enlightenment. The feet are about 5 m (16 ft) long and the soles are about 3 m (10 ft) high.

Four Chapels and Courtyard

After admiring the beautiful reclining Buddha, the four chapels should be next on the itinerary. As many as 394 gilded statues of the Buddha can be found in and around the four chapels.

Of these statues, 150 are inside and along the walls, and 244 are outside the chapels. All these statues come from different parts of Thailand and depict the Buddha in the same lotus position.

There are a plethora of murals, extremely intricate in design, alongside the statues. The artwork alone is worth admiring, even if you cannot understand the meaning of each mural.

The courtyard at Wat Pho is well worth your time. It boasts of numerous beautiful Chinese statues that were previously used as ballast on ships. Visitors can admire 91 different stupas, every segment of which are decorated with ceramic flowers.

While in the courtyard, the Bodhi tree, supposedly grown from the original Bodhi tree under which Buddha meditated, is worth visiting. 

Birthplace of the Thai Massage

Wat Pho is considered the birthplace of the Thai massage. This temple used to house the first school of Thai Medicine and Massage, started in 1955.

While the actual school has been relocated to a building outside the complex, you can still enjoy a massage there, which might be appealing after walking around in the heat.

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Things to Know Before Visiting

Wat Pho, unlike other tourist attractions such as the Grand Palace, does not get too crowded. We recommend visiting as early in the morning as possible, before it gets too hot, or just before sunset. 

Appropriate clothing is required within the temple area. Shorts, skirts, or shirts that expose skin above the knee or the shoulders are not allowed.

Visitors to Wat Pho need to remove their footwear before entering most buildings in the complex, in compliance with Thai tradition and culture, or entry can be refused.

On entering the building with the reclining Buddha, you can purchase a bowl of coins; Thai people believe that it is good luck to drop the coins into the 108 bronze bowls placed in the hallway. This money also helps the monks maintain and improve the Wat Pho temple.

While photographs are not permitted in many temples in Thailand, they are allowed at Wat Pho.

The venue shuts for lunch between 12 noon and 1 p.m. 

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Attractions Near Wat Pho

The Grand Palace The Grand Palace

Wat Pho is located a 10-minute walk from the Grand Palace, the Emerald Buddha Temple, and the National Museum; it is a good idea to visit these sites on the same day. You could probably fit all four into one morning if you leave early enough.

Built in 1782, the Grand Palace is one of Thailand’s landmark attractions, and was home to the royal family in Thailand until 1925. Locally known as the Wat Phra Kaew, the Emerald Buddha Temple is within the Grand Palace complex.

The Bangkok National Museum was the first museum in Thailand that was opened to the public. Built in 1874, it houses the country’s largest collection of Thai art and other historical artifacts. 

How to Get to Wat Pho

If you are in Bangkok, getting to Wat Pho is easy. Located on the east bank of Chao Phraya River and close to the Grand Palace, the temple is accessible via the MRT subway, riverboat, taxi, or tuk-tuk.

If you go by the MRT subway, the nearest station to the temple is Sanam Chai Station, opened in 2019. From there, walk north for about five minutes to get to Wat Pho.

You could also take a tuk-tuk, but beware that the driver might try to scam you, saying that the temple is closed.

The tuk-tuk driver may alternatively attempt to take you on a guided tour, and make stops at jewelry and clothing stores, where pushy salespeople may try to force you to make a purchase or may attempt to charge you for their time.

Be firm with the tuk-tuk driver: tell him you want to take the ride even if the place is closed. When you arrive, the temple will, miraculously, be open! 

If you plan to take a riverboat, get on the orange Chao Phraya Express and get off at Tha Tien Pier. Once there, the walk to Wat Pho is short.

The final option is taxi. All the drivers know the way to the temple. Make sure that the taxi’s meter is working before you begin the trip.

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