The Reclining Buddha – To Visit Or Not?
There is always a danger of being disappointed in a place, especially if you have spent years hoping to visit. But as I gaze up into his large thought-provoking eyes, I cancel out the boisterous tourists surrounding me whose only wish is to snap a quick selfie for a facebook update before moving on, I realise that this place in particular is the one reason I wanted to visit Bangkok.
The Golden Reclining Buddha has been an image that has stuck with me since I first opened a textbook at school and saw the gigantic statue in all its horizontal glory. There was something about it that captivated me and led to my obsession with Wat Pho, one of the largest temple complexes in Bangkok.
This 46 metre mass of plaster bricks and golden leaf is encased within its own shrine with walls and a ceiling that have been intricately designed with beautiful painted murals and floral patterns and it has become a tourist haven. It is on all of the ‘must see’ lists for Bangkok; it has become one of those iconic images used by travel agents and websites the world over to promote Thailand to the thousands of visitors that grace this wonderful city each month.
And, I can’t deny it is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen, but how many people wandering around, snapping away realise that this is the oldest and largest Buddhist temple within Thailand’s capital. How many tourists that shuffle past the reclining Buddha each day actually understand the importance of this site to the religious?
Now don’t get me wrong, during our visit, we too took many photos, but we were also considerate to the sacredness of the temple as a place of worship. We covered up accordingly, making sure our shoulders were covered and that are backsides were not hanging out the bottom of our shorts (ladies take note – this is not an appropriate way to dress although many seem to this so!), Paul removed his hat as requested and when those that were there to worship appeared we gave them space to honour and pray accordingly.
So why is it people fail to remember this? Has the popularity of taking a selfie at every location override the right to respect others and what they believe?
By all means, take your images, and your selfies, but do so without intruding on those that are actually there to show respect to the Buddha.
Why You Should Visit The Temple of Golden Reclining Buddha and Wat Pho?
Wat Pho is one of just six temples across Thailand to be awarded the distinctive honour of a first-class royal temple. Built on the site of another temple (an Ayuttaya era temple named Wat Photharam), Wat Pho has been extended and renovated several times and is now recognised by UNESCO in its Memory of the World programme.
The reclining Budhha, which depicts the Buddha’s pose at death when he entered Nirvana, and its stunning mother of pearl soles is just one of 1,000 buddhas to be found at this site, more than any other temple in Thailand. Many people however, simply pay the entrance fee to see the spectacular golden statue, not allowing enough time to enjoy the rest of the temple; but trust me when I say that this is a big mistake.
After spending time staring in wonderment at the huge effigy, don’t rush off, wander around and enjoy the other historical aspects of the site. After all, it is home to the first, and still active, royal monastery, is home to the library of the 7th Holiness Prince, Krom Phra Paramanujit Jinoros, one of the most famous Thai poets who was honoured by UNESCO as the Great Poet Laureate, and contains several different assembly halls, where at varies times of day you will see monks mediating or communities coming together in pray.
It is also home to four huge pagodas, each one standing at 42 metres and covered in alluring mosaic tiles, to symbolise the four Kings of the Chakri Dynasty.
Every time you turn a corner, something new will catch your eye – perhaps a Chinese statue will capture your imagination or a pavilion, intricately designed to both compliment its surrounds and stand out in its own right, will give your reason to pause and reflect.
Maybe you will be amazed by one of the 91 stupas (also known as chedi), or you are an individual that can appreciate and enjoy the delicately designed gardens complete with yogi statues. Perhaps it will be the peaceful areas tucked away at the edge of the 8 hectares that will appeal to you or the fact that you can have a traditional massage in Wat Pho’s own Thai traditional medicinal and massage school.
Ultimately, this is a temple that regardless of religious belief will cause you to ponder and contemplate.
Whilst within its white walls, you begin to forget that the bustling and chaotic city lays just footsteps away. Inside Wat Pho, apart from the crowds that move in an orderly fashion each day around the reclining Buddha, tranquillity reigns, monks in bright orange robes meditate and worshippers fill up the prayer rooms. Offerings are made to the mighty Buddha, chants are performed and then everyone retreats, heading back into the crowds of people to continue with daily life.
Have you visited the Golden Reclining Buddha? Did you take the time to wander around Wat Pho whilst you were there? We would love to hear your thoughts about this highly regarded temple in Bangkok.
Looking for a place to stay whilst in this area? Then why not stay at Casa Nithra which is within walking distance of this famous site.