Some Things to See and Do: Wat Po

So close to the National Museum that most folks walk from one to the other. There are three things worth noting about this place: it is less crowded than the National Palace for those who want only a glimpse of Thai culture, it has a gigantic reclining Buddha as its centerpiece and there is an inexpensive, delightful massage school right on the grounds that you should indulge in.

If your kids are not holding up in the heat, or time is short, or you really, to be honest, have a limited need for culture, I must quietly say a visit to Wat Po might be sufficient. You can get a look at some beautiful religious architecture in the traditional Thai style with (generally) a smaller crowd than at the nearby National Palace. Admission in 2004 was only 40 baht, about US$1, and the dress code is more relaxed; men were admitted with shorts, and the standard seemed to be one of flexible modesty for women.

The reclining Buddha is huge, and maybe long, like a couple of houses in length and beautiful gold. Though you walk down its length by design, slip to your left just as you enter and you can stand near the head and see the whole thing, well, laid out before you. Photos are allowed, shoes are not.

Thai etiquette says that the bottoms of the feet are unclean, and it is rude to point one's foot at someone. You'll see this noted on signs around temples so that visitors do not offend people. It is interesting then to so the efforts made to decorate the soles of the Buddha's feet to turn them into something close to a work of art, with delicate inlays.

As you round the back of the Buddha (and yes, people made inappropriate jokes about His backside), look for a guy weighing out bowls of coins. Along the back of the Buddha are dozens of metal pots. For luck, one purchases a bowl of coins (sold by weight) and drops one into each pot while walking past the statue. It makes a nice sound.

Last but perhaps best, Wat Po houses at its back end a massage school, very legitimate and very delightful after a long day and lots of hot walking around. The massages are done on open-air mattresses in a large room, well equipped with fans and a nice breezeway. One can choose between a male or female massager and, in 2004, the price was 300 baht (about US$8) for an hour. Families can enjoy this together, clothing remains firmly on, and it is very pleasant to lay back in the breeze, half nap, half listen to the light banter among the workers, while your muscles whisper “thank you thank you thank you” to you. Foot massages and more complex courses are also available. Indulge, people.

User Feedback

Related Bangkok Articles