The first temple we arrived to in Bangkok is the prestigious, the oldest temple, Wat Phra Chetuphon Vimolmangklararm Rajwaramahaviharn or also known as Wat Pho (thankfully.) We arrived there using the river boat service which is quite a unique experience. You get to enjoy some sceneries along the way where one side of the river is decorated with skyscrapers while another side is decorated with old buildings. It’s a very convenient way to travel to the famous temples. Read this for more information regarding the river boat services.
The first sight we were greeted with when we entered the temple was some monks along with the locals giving their offerings to the Buddhas (as seen in image 1). After kneeling down and either thanking/ asking for his blessing, some of the locals will proceed to stick a piece of golden leaf onto the buddha statues. It was definitely an interesting sight to behold as I have never seen such a Buddhist custom elsewhere.
Reclining Buddha Statue
After my friend was done giving her offering to the Buddha, we made our way into the room housing the biggest Reclining Buddha statue in Thailand. Up to 46 meters long and 15 meters high, I remember taking a longer time walking past this Reclining Buddha statue as compared to the ones in Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon and Wat Lokayasutharam. The only unfortunate thing about it is that the pillar can block your view if you merely just walk past it.
With such a huge statue being the main focus for tourists all around the world, one might wonder why does a reclining buddha statue hold such significance to the extent that they plaited it gold and housed it in the oldest temple in Thailand?
The reclining buddha statue actually symbolizes the entry of Buddha into Nirvana, a state where karma and the cycle of death ends. This means that the Buddha is free from reincarnation which is ultimately what Buddhists strive for.
Still, why this particular position though? Well, it is mainly because this was the exact position of how the Buddha posed himself when he last spoke to his followers. Before his death, he told his followers that he is neither god nor does he possess the power of one. Following that he told them that his body will die and decay just as any normal person’s would. He slept right after telling his followers all that and crossed over into Nirvana. (Liedtke M, 2011) Personally, to be able to say all that while posing in such a manner, it’s total BOSS!
Now if you pay attention to the feet of the Buddha, you will notice some carvings or drawings. Those are actually tablets that were constructed using mother of pearl and in total, there are 108 of them! Now, why 108? It’s because these are the 108 virtues that people who regard themselves as true Buddhists honor. (Liedtke M, 2011)
Oldest and the Largest
As the oldest and largest temple in Thailand, there were certainly a lot of things you could see. So much so that my friends and I almost got lost trying to look for the exit. An interesting thing to note is that the monks living here are the ones who clean and take care of the cleanliness. They even have a routine. Despite being so old as the first few buildings can even date back as far as the 16th century, Wat Pho was constructed in the 1860s. It is primarily because of those old buildings that Wat Pho came to be known as the oldest wat in Thailand. (Brockman N, 2011) Knowing this, it is amazing how well they are able to preserve everything incredibly well that they look perfectly fine.
Not Just a Temple
While one look at this place, you will only notice it as just a temple (a huge and beautiful temple), currently, it also functions as the national center for Thai massage! Now, in addition to that, they not only teach thai massage but they also research and preserve it as well! I knew Thai massage was a huge thing for the Thais but I never imagined them to actually research on it. I’m delightfully surprised. (Apfelbaum A, 2003)
While that was an interesting fact to know, however, a Thai temple (or also known as wat) having multifunctional purposes isn’t at all shocking. Most of the wats in Thailand not only function as a place of learning or worshipping, they also function to provide health care, to serve as a community storage and to serve as a venue for social events. They provide so much extra functions that they become the center of the community’s daily life! (Apfelbaum A, 2003)
After looking at whatever was accessible, we quickly passed through these colorful buildings. I was fortunate that my GoPro showed me a different perspective of these buildings as compared to a standard camera. After a few shots, we headed out and onto the next Wat!
Entrance Fee: 100 Baht
Opening Hours: 0800 – 1700
- Apfelbaum, A. (2003). Thai massage (1st ed., p. 29). New York: Avery.
- Brockman, N. (2011). Encyclopedia of sacred places (1st ed., p. 603). Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO.
- Liedtke, M. (2011). Thailand- The East (English Edition) (1st ed., p. 56). Norderstedt: Books on Demand.