Friday, 2 April 2010

The Night Temple

As soon as I heard Wat Pho had extended its opening hours to 9 p.m. I was itching to pay it a night-time visit. I'll never get tired of Wat Pho, which has an edge over most of the temples in Bangkok for me because it's just weirder: the dimensions of the Reclining Buddha obscured by thick pillars and leaping suddenly out, surely too big to be contained in that chapel; stupas mosaicked with ceramic instead of mirrors, in picture-book colours. A courtyard full of Chinese ballast statues, cartoonish faces, unreal bodies, mad expressions. My favourite are the hatted and bulb-nosed European stone giants that guard the inner gates - they even manage to be surreal when described on dry tourist information sites, as "four pairs of Marco Polo".

Night just makes it more unreal. To start with, when I went down at sunset yesterday, I wasn't sure if it was open - most of the gates were shut, and the signs outside said it closed at 5 p.m. Then I found one last open gate, beyond which the ticket booth was still selling tickets (B50) and another sign said that the temple closed at 6 p.m. I wandered around the grounds for a while, and they were still letting people in when I left, some time around 8. Seeing it without crowds, and with stray night breezes gusting through the courtyards, was pleasant and a little creepy. It wasn't as well-lit as I'd expected, which made going through the statue-filled grounds all the creepier; I couldn't stop thinking of Miyazaki's Spirited Away and expecting lanterns to glimmer into being and the stone creatures to come to life. A few buildings were lit up golden among the shadow-spires; a few stray cats and dogs kept me company.

After that I walked out and away to the river to Saranrom Royal Park, which has in its lifetime been a palace garden and a zoo, and has a monument to a drowned queen, some lovely haunted-looking trees and good night-time people-watching.

In all, an excellent evening out for a loner flâneur with an overactive imagination.

Wat Pho is located on Sanam Chai road and Maharaj road next to the Grand Palace. Admission 50 baht, 'polite dress' required (no shorts). Very close to Tha Tien express boat pier.


  1. I love your pictures of my home-city, most particularly because I'm looking at them while traveling away from it for three months. Thank you for letting me feel Bangkok in Hong Kong.

  2. Thanks Janet! I know I pine for Bangkok terribly when I'm away from it for very long, so knowing a fellow Bangkokian is enjoying my pictures from elsewhere means a lot :)

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