Saturday, November 21, 2020

Wat Pho

Any visit to Bangkok would need to include a temple visit in its itinerary, wouldn't it? On our itinerary, we chose to visit Wat Pho, also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. The temple is one of six temples considered to be of the highest grade of the first-class royal temples in Thailand. As it is related to King Rama I, some of his ashes are enshrined here. King Rama III then expanded the temple complex, which enabled it to house the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand, including the 46m-long Reclining Buddha, which it is well known for. The expansion also allowed for it to be used as a public education centre and became the royal monastery. The marble illustrations and inscriptions placed in the temple for public instruction are recognised by UNESCO's Memory of the World Programme for its preservation of, access to and documentary heritage. The complex also contains a school of Thai medicine, and is also known as the birthplace of traditional Thai massage, which is still taught and practiced today.


The temple complex is divided by a road into two walled compounds. Of the two compounds, one is restricted to monks and students while the other is open to public. No prizes for guessing which compound we entered. They are pretty strict with the dress code - I was wearing knee-length bermudas and very nearly was not permitted to enter.

Medicine Pavilion

The compound had various pavilions, gardens and viharas (halls). Dotted around the compound were also many smaller chedis in addition to the four great chedis. A chedi is actually a stupa, I learnt that chedi is the Thai term for it. In total, there are 91 of these smaller chedis and they are known as the Phra Chedi Rai. Of the 91, 71 were built by King Rama III. These 5m tall chedis contain the ashes of the royal family. King Rama I built five groups of four chedis that share a single base. These chedis contain Buddha relics.

The chedis that took my breath away were the four great chedis. Known as the Phra Maha Chedi Rajakarn, they measure 42m in height and are dedicated to the first four Chakri kings, Rama I to Rama IV.

I was very taken in by the huge amount of attention to detail that the craftsmen involved must have given in the completion of these chedis. The careful organisation of the colourful glazed mosaic tiles in all sorts of sizes, the placement of different shapes to form patterns and ornaments, and the symbolic representation of each chedi.

The first great chedi that was constructed was the mint green one. It was built by King Rama I to keep the relics of the Buddha from Ayutthaya, which was scorched to remove its gold covering by the Burmese.

King Rama III built two great chedis. The white one was built to hold the ashes of his father, King Rama II while the yellow one was built for himself.

Despite yellow being my favourite colour, my favourite of the four great chedis is the one in the shade of blue. This one was built by King Rama IV, or more famously known as King Mongkut. Yes, the same king that we were introduced to as children when watching the award-winning musical entitled The King and I.

I did not take any photos of the huge Reclining Buddha, as it has somehow become a habit of mine to not take photographs when inside any place of worship. I do not remember when this habit started, though, but yea, apologies for not having any photos of the Reclining Buddha, which was magnificent, by the way.

Wat Pho
2 Sanam Chai Road, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, 10200 Bangkok, Thailand.
Daily 8:00am to 6:30pm
Guided tours available, enquire at ticketing counter

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