Stepping over the threshold into Wat Pho, I was surprised – and then surprised at my surprise, if you can follow that – at the size of the famous Reclining Buddha. After all, in today’s day and age, we can easily view not only the professional, perfectly lit photos – but also a neverending supply what seems like every tourist in the world’s snapshots through the wonder of Google. And me, being me, had seen a significant percentage. Artsy angled shots, cheesy selfies…
And yet, the Reclining Buddha still has a startling impact when I step through and find myself right alongside the head. It’s higher (15 meters) and the view more obstructed by the columns than I expect.
What I’m not surprised by is the crowd of people. We had all been filing in together, putting shoes in the bag we were given to carry them through, a few people pulled aside and given lengths of fabric to cover knees and shoulders while some were inexplicably passed over and allowed to enter despite similar bareness.
Entering we quickly realized that if we want the most popular view, beside the head viewing the full 46 meter length to the feet, it would require the delicately balanced use of patience, assertiveness, and love of the intimate knowledge of your neighbors personal space. After a moment’s reflection, I decided to follow the husbands immediate and unhesitating decision to bypass this mob entirely and walk the length of the corridor beside the Buddha statue.
Between the columns, there are still beautiful views of the statue, and the walls and columns themselves are also intricately painted and worth the perusal. There are closer viewing areas at the midpoint of the statue, as well as at the feet, and we were able to step closer for an unobstructed view at those points. It’s also a significant advantage in these places to be an American or European, taking in the view and taking pictures with the advantage of height.
I am not well versed at all in Buddhism and the related symbolism, so the fact that this statue of Buddha is lying down is different than all the statues I’ve seen before, but I hadn’t given it much thought. What I learned was that the Reclining Buddha represents Buddha as he entered Nirvana, and it is called sihasaiyas.
If you visit, be sure not to rush out past the Buddha as you leave, without checking out the soles of the feet, maybe the most interesting part of the statue. The feet are detailed with 108 mother-of-pearl panels depicting auspicious symbols of Buddha.
We exited past the feet, walked along the side of the temple, and re-entered on the opposite side and came to the 108 bronze bowls, also related to the auspicious symbols of Buddha. Buying a small bucket of coins for 20 baht, and dropping a coin in each bowl is supposed to bring luck and a number of visitors were doing so.
As we stepped out into the bright sunshine, back on went the shoes and we returned the bag we had carried them in. There’s still a whole temple complex to see…