More than halfway through our seven different modes of transportation, Matt, Craig, and I ended up arriving at the Grand Palace just as it was closing, so instead we walked down the block to Wat Po, also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. This temple, which tourists usually see after sweltering in the hot sun over at the Grand Palace, rarely gets as thorough a viewing as it deserves.
Predating the founding of Bangkok, the temple houses a 15 meter (46 foot) high, 46 meter (140 foot) long statue of the Buddha in a reclining pose, covered in gold plating with mother of pearl inlays on the soles of its feet.
That the soles of the feet are so prominent seems appropriate, because Wat Po is also the home of traditional Thai medicine, a large portion of which is massage. Thai massage uses a combination of stretching and deep tissue work and can be very therapeutic. In fact, a well-regarded school is located on the temple grounds and my visitors stopped in for an hour-long foot massage.
The temple is in the final stages of extensive renovations, and the entire place seems alive with color and light. Here are a trio of chedis, which contain the remains of various members of the Chakri dynasty. The current king is the ninth member of this dynasty.
New roof tiles and paint seem to almost pulsate with color.
And mirrored tiles catch the sun from every angle.
While there, we came across a group of university students who are studying tourism. They had to film themselves giving a speech (in both Thai and English – the Thai version is on the other side of the cue card) about the temple. I watched for a few minutes and then asked some questions, thoroughly embarrassing the young ladies.
The upside of my guests getting massages was that we were at the temple well after the time that tourists normally leave. The temple’s website still lists the closing time as 5:00 pm but almost half a year ago they extended it to 9:00 pm every night. The temple is beautifully illuminated as the sun goes down and is all the more enjoyable and inspiring when it is almost completely devoid of tourists.
With the sun going down early now that we are heading into winter, the sky quickly went through various shades of blue to pink to purple, making for some amazing contrasts with the vivid hues of the chedis and temple buildings.
There are many spotlights to bring out the details of the structures, including these decorations made from shards of broken Chinese pottery. Almost looks like the decorations on a cake, doesn’t it?
I’ve made up my mind that in the future, I am taking guests to Wat Po around sunset, a perfect time to see the real beauty of the temple without the crowds. Plus, there is a really nice restaurant called The Deck that is just across the street along the banks of the Chao Praya River. It is a nice place for an evening meal as another temple, Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn), is right across the river and is also lit up at night making a pretty backdrop. Ironically, it looks better at dusk than it does at dawn! (Here’s a picture of Tawn and me dining there a few years back.)