Wat is a Thai word that refers to a Buddhist temple. One of the most well-known temples in Thailand is Bangkok’s Wat Pho. Housed in one of Wat Pho’s ornate temple buildings is a 43 meter long, shiny golden statue of Buddha lying on his side. This large, frequently visited statue is called the Reclining Buddha.
One of the most impressive features of the Reclining Buddha is its feet, which measure some 3 meters in length. The soles of the feet are inscribed in mother-of-pearl with 108 Buddhist symbols. The Buddha’s toe pads are decorated with various swirling black lines. Unlike Chinese Buddha statues, which have a fat belly to signify abundance, Thai Buddhas are svelte, elegant, and exude composure and serenity.
While Wat Pho is perhaps best known for its Reclining Buddha, this temple complex is a veritable wonderland of Buddha statues. Walking around the extensive temple grounds, one will encounter dozens and dozens of gold Buddhas. Many of these statues are lined up in a row and reside in alcoves of white temple buildings. Witnessing a row of life-sized, golden Buddha statues seated serenely in contemplation draws one from distracting thoughts and into the present moment.
My favorite aspect of Wat Pho is the presence of numerous golden statues of female monks (bhikkhuni). The statues are placed in groups of threes and stand together on pedestals. They wear flowing robes that look like capes and hold their hands in different, aesthetically appealing meditative postures. Their smiling faces convey and elicit a lightness of being.
Wat Pho is home to dozens and dozens of Buddhist stupas, also called chedis in Thailand. Most of the Thai stupas look like fancy steeples built on the ground. These structures vary in size and house the remains of the deceased or sacred Buddhist relics. Some of the stupas at Wat Pho are enormous, standing dozens of meters tall and having a massive base. But most are of a more modest size. Smaller stupas grouped together near ornate temple buildings make for aesthetically satisfying pictures.
For those wanting to do a lot of praying, Wat Pho has various temples open to the public. These temples have a typical central Buddha statue seated behind an altar. Worshippers must remove their shoes before entering the temple and then kneel before Buddha. From a kneeling position, it is standard practice to bow three times before Buddha. With each bow, the arms reach forward and the hands touch the floor. With each rising of the body, the hands are brought together in front of the chest in a prayer posture.