Like symptoms of an overzealous Cathedral Craze in Europe, too many visits to too many Buddhist Temples in Southeast Asia soon cause Wat Weariness.
n(Non-Christian Religions / Buddhism) a Thai Buddhist monastery or temple
[Thai, from Sanskrit vāta enclosure]
Yes, the “seen one, seen ’em all” attitude runs the risk of missing beautiful spots, but the “must make a stop at each recommended site” leaning leads to lunacy.
Throughout Southeast Asia, we took the following approach: When feeling energetic and curious, we’d poke around places and give them our attention and appreciation. When we weren’t, we didn’t.
Hence, no visits this trip to Bangkok’s Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Saket, Wat Benchamabophit, Wat Traimit, Wat Prayoon, Wat Suthat, Wat Mahathat, or Wat Arun (well, unless you count our balcony overlook across the river at sunset).
But…we did decide to explore the temple grounds at Wat Phrachetuphon Vimon Mangkararam Ratchaworamahawihan (let’s call it Wat Pho, for short), and absolutely enjoyed the calm, unhurried visit.
Just twelve years after our U.S. founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, Thai leaders on the other side of the world began restoration work on a temple dating back to the 16th century.
Remember King Rama IV (the ruler depicted in the decidedly Hollywoodized stories of “The King and I” and “Anna and the King”)? His predecessor, King Rama III (1824-51), continued restoration work on this same site and championed a seventeen year expansion project beginning in 1839, leading to construction of the Wat Pho temple complex known today.
Most famously, the site contains Thailand’s largest Buddha statue and is also known as the birthplace of Thai massage and original home of Thailand’s first public university.
We went in for a peek and came out with pictures and a sincere appreciation for the beauty and traditions of Thai architecture.
Laying 150 feet (46 meters) in length and resting at a respectable 49 feet (15 meters) high, Thailand’s largest Buddha statue is covered in gold leaf, and the enormous feet are decorated with mother-of-pearl inlays.
It was easy to find the enormous, golden Reclining Buddha, but truthfully, we had much more fun peeking into other corridors and courtyards and spotting beautiful variations on the theme.
Loved finding this lounging kitty under the rolly-polly-smiley-Buddha and seeing one particularly revered tree propped up by painted poles…
In the groove…
We came, we admired, and then…we carried on.
WHAT TO KNOW:
(Or, say it with me now, Wat Phrachetuphon Vimon Mangkararam Ratchaworamahawihan)
2 Sanam Chai Road, Bangkok, Thailand
Admission: We paid 100 Baht ($3.23) per person…and got a free water bottle thrown in for good measure.
Conclusion: Our tricks for staving off Wat Weariness (or Cathedral Craze, for that matter):
- Limit temple visits: quality over quantity.
- Don’t let a rush to see “famous” sites cause you miss beautiful details tucked in quiet corners.
- Stay hydrated. (Water really does work miracles!)
- Make time to reflect on what you’ve actually seen…better to treasure a few memories than miss the meaning in the madness.
After leaving Wat Pho, we walked down the street in search of the Amorosa Bar and its quiet views of Wat Arun from across the Chao Phraya River, quite content to forgo crossing to the other side…