Wat Pho in Bangkok is home to a colossal Reclining Buddha that stretches 46 meters from the top of its head to the soles of its mother-of-pearl feet. An impressive amount of gold leaf blankets the brick-and-plaster statue. Decorating the five meter feet are the 108 auspicious characters of Buddha, among them birds, tigers and flowers. The reclining posture represents the moment Buddha attained nirvana through death. Just don’t plan on finding your own enlightenment here. A camera-wielding crowd always surrounds the Buddha.
The Reclining Buddha resides in a sanctuary within Wat Pho, one of Bangkok’s oldest temples. Although not a designated pilgrimage site, the temple is popular with Buddhist faithful. There are 108 bronze bowls in the hall facing the Buddha where worshipers deposit coins hoping for good fortune – I saw people dropping coins into every bowl as they walked along.
Away from the Reclining Buddha, Wat Pho is much less crowded and a pleasure to explore. The temple complex covers 80,000 square meters and boasts several dozen chedi of varying sizes. Colorful mosaic tiles adorn the facades, behind which rest the ashes of royal family members. In addition to its most famous resident, Wat Pho is home to hundreds of other Buddha images, supposedly one of the largest collections in the world.
Wat Pho is also at the center of efforts to preserve traditional Thai medicine and massage, with a famous massage school on the premises. (Sadly closed during my visit.) All the more reason to return!
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