Along with housing one of the most famous reclining Buddha statues in the world, more than 1,000 other Buddha images are kept within the temple grounds. Wat Pho is the birthplace of Thai massage and still serves as an important center for studying traditional medicine.
The official name of Wat Pho is Wat Phra Chetuphon Wimon Mangkhalaram Rajwaramahawihan. Fortunately, saying “Wat Pho” (pronounced like “watt poe”) will suffice!
- Temple Hours: Every day from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
- Massage Center Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Entrance Fee: 200 baht (around $6.60); children under 4 feet tall get in free.
- Phone: +66 (02) 226 0335
- Website: http://www.watpho.com/en
Wat Pho predates the moving of Siam’s capital to Bangkok after the fall of Ayutthaya. No one is certain how old the temple is or even who constructed the original shrine (known as Wat Photoram) on the site.
King Rama I (1736-1809) used Wat Pho as his royal temple and constructed the Grand Palace beside it. King Rama III (1788-1851) improved Wat Pho and turned the temple complex into an important center for health and public education.
How to Get to Wat Pho in Bangkok
Wat Pho is located on Rattanakosin Island, the oldest part of Bangkok, on the eastern bank of the Chao Phraya River. It is situated directly south of the Grand Palace.
The most exciting way to get to Wat Pho is by river taxi. Boats are inexpensive and allow you to bypass city traffic. Take the Chao Phraya Express boat to Tha Tien Pier then follow signs the short distance to the entrance of Wat Pho.
The nearest MRT station to Wat Pho is Sanam Chai, an 8-minute walk to the south. Unfortunately, the BTS Skytrain doesn’t reach into Rattanakosin Island.
Stubborn taxi drivers who won’t turn on the meter love to fleece first-time visitors to Wat Pho. Tuk-tuk drivers are even worse. Only go with a metered taxi or use Grab, Southeast Asia’s most popular rideshare app.
Technically, visitors are always expected to dress appropriately at temples and state buildings throughout Thailand. Travelers often ignore, and enforcement is sometimes lax—but that isn’t the case at Wat Pho. Same as when visiting the Grand Palace, a dress code is strictly enforced. You’ll be denied entrance if you turn up in shorts.
- Knees and shoulders should be covered.
- Don’t wear shirts portraying religious themes or symbols of death (e.g., skulls).
- Avoid stretch pants and any other revealing clothing.
- Remove hats, headphones, and sunglasses.
Tips for Visiting Wat Pho
- With an abundance of sights in the area, visitors often cram in to see the reclining Buddha statue in the primary viharn then leave. The rest of Wat Pho is rarely busy. Take some time to wander the halls and pavilions where stupas contain important relics and the remains of kings.
- Fundraising efforts make Wat Pho especially busy during Songkran, the traditional Thai New Year, in mid-April.
- Putting coins into the 108 bronze bowls supports the temple.
The Reclining Buddha Statue
The reclining Buddha statue is the impressive centerpiece of Wat Pho. At 150 feet (46 meters) long and nearly 50 feet (15 meters) tall, the figure is considered to be one of the biggest and most important reclining Buddhas in the world.
Buddha statues in a reclining attitude are usually meant to portray the final moments of Gautama Buddha on earth before he succumbed to illness at age 80. Although debated, many scholars believe food poisoning was the cause.
Getting a Massage at Wat Pho
Wat Pho is considered the most prestigious place in the world to study Thai massage and traditional Thai medicine. That said, your massage experience at Wat Pho isn’t guaranteed to be the best you’ll enjoy on your trip to Thailand. There’s often a long wait during the busy season, and prices are relatively high compared to other places. You’re paying for Wat Pho’s reputation, but the massage experience largely depends on the mood and skill of your practitioner.
Massages (full body and foot) are available in 30-minute or 1-hour sessions. Unlike in spas, massages are given in a communal room with recipients wearing loose-fitting clothing.
If your time in Bangkok is short, you can book a massage in advance by calling one of the following numbers: 02 662 3533, 02 622 3551, 08 6317 5560, 08 6317 5562. Add (+66) and drop the leading (0) if dialing from an international number.
Also in the Area
Wat Pho is directly south of the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), the busiest tourist sights in Thailand. Many travelers choose to make a full day of visiting all three places before retreating somewhere riverside for a sunset drink.
If you’ve already seen the Grand Palace or it looks too busy, take a walk through Tha Tian Market on the river then grab the ferry across to Wat Arun. The temple is usually less busy, and the glowing spires are impressively photogenic.
For something different, consider walking 15 minutes south to the Pak Khlong Market, Bangkok’s beautiful flower market that’s open 24 hours a day.