After arriving in Bangkok the day before and watching Muay Thai live at night, I spent my first full day visiting Wat Pho and the museum. This required taking a rivertaxi on the Chao Phraya river as there are no subway stations near Wat Pho, which is near the Grand Palace. It was a pleasant journey, taking in interesting sights like highrises, riverfront temples, fort and Wat Arun, a domed Buddhist temple, on the opposite side of the river. Wat Pho is one of the largest temples or wats in Bangkok, and it’s where the Reclining Buddha is. As the name suggests, it’s an enormous statue of the Buddha reclining on his side, housed inside a complex within the temple grounds. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say the Reclining Buddha is probably as big as a small airliner, as you can see from the photos.
Around the grounds, there’re many beautiful stupas (holy mounds inside which are Buddhist relics) which are probably the most impressive sights next to the Reclining Buddha. There are a few stupas that are exquisitely covered with colored tiles. At several gates you’ll see giant Chinese-looking stone guards.
There is a main hall building in which the main centerpiece is a golden seated Buddha seated on a tiered platform.
The temple is also a main school of traditional Thai massage and it’s possible to get a massage there, however I didn’t get one. Wat Pho is a beautiful complex that is also good to walk around in, so don’t miss it if you visit the Grand Palace.
After Wat Pho, it was already 3 (I left late in the morning) so I didn’t have enough time to go to the Grand Palace. I went to the Bangkok National Museum instead.
It was a decent museum though a bit old and not very modern in terms of the rooms and displays. I was a bit underwhelmed. The museum seemed neglected considering how fancy or modern attractions and facilities like the Grand Palace and Wat Pho and the airport and malls were.
Starting off, I learned a great deal about Thai history from the displays that featured impressive dioramas and paintings (similar to the museums in Vietnam). Thailand originally began as a kingdom centered on the ancient capitals of Ayutthaya and Sukothai before Bangkok, built in 1785 making it a relatively young city in Asia. Wars against Burma, now Myanmar, were a constant part of Thai history, and the Burmese even conquered Thailand briefly in the 16th century.
There was a nice weapons display, with the most impressive exhibits being a mock war elephant and some menacing long bladed spears. Other display rooms included ivory, Buddhas, music instruments, and palanquins, on which the king, queen and other nobles were carried on and hoisted by servants.
In addition to the main building and display rooms, there were a few separate attractive structures. There is a Buddhist chapel that is a vast hall overlooked by a Buddha seated on a throne. In the lawn stands a statue of Vishnu holding a bow and arrow, a red teak house and some of the fanciest garden shelters I’ve ever seen.
I probably saw about 90 percent of the museum before I had to go since it was closing time. I took a walk by the large public park nearby, Sanam Luang, which neighbors the Grand Palace and gives you a nice view of the tops of the buildings inside.
Buddhist chapel with a seated Buddha, National Museum
Main building of the National Museum
Outdoor pavilion on the National Museum grounds
Sanam Luang park with the Grand Palace in the background
Main hall in Wat Pho that houses the seated Buddha below
Entrance to Wat Pho
Red teak house at the National Museum
This was one of the few non-stern door guards, but a little creepy.