Emerging from the interior of the building where Wat Pho’s glorious Reclining Buddha resides, I was confronted by a long line of people waiting to get in. One of the criticisms of Bangkok’s main tourist sites is how crowded they become, although Wat Pho doesn’t receive as many visitors as the Royal Palace just up the road. The Reclining Buddha building hadn’t been open long, and early morning may seem like rush hour, but things really hot up later in the day as more and more people arrive. Not so the rest of this large and intriguing temple complex.
Away from the Reclining Buddha it felt quite low key, there were plenty of people wandering around but I often found myself alone – well as alone as anyone can be in a place with so many Buddha status staring at you from every direction. It is a fascinating place to explore, although even at a very sedate pace the heat and humidity were crushing the life out of me as I walked around. Luckily the authorities have the foresight to give out a bottle of water to everyone, and there are juice carts dotted around offering only slightly overpriced juices.
A downside of visiting Wat Pho and Royal Palace area, is that the mass of tourists attracts a host of scammers and extremely persistent touts. Inside the temple complex it’s fine, only the heat and the other tourists make life uncomfortable; outside it can be a different story and I heard a number of tales of people getting hassled or scammed.
This ranges from the irritating (actually infuriating) tuk-tuk drivers who refuse to take you because you won’t pay massively over the odds for a fare, or agree to stop at a ‘friends’ shop en route; to the out-and-out rip off where scammers will intercept you and tell you that the temple is closed and wouldn’t you prefer to see some semi-precious gems instead? Others will direct you to ‘ticket booths’ that aren’t legitimate, or try to get you on a private boat tour instead of a cheap ferry. Nothing sinister perhaps, but to the unwary it can be costly and under a hot sun the street hassle can be exhausting.
I spent most of the morning wandering Wat Pho. It is endlessly fascinating but the heat had gotten the better of me. Leaving the golden glories of Wat Pho behind, I spent a fruitless 20 minutes trying to get a tuk-tuk driver to accept a reasonable fare. There are so many tourists the odds are that someone else will come along and pay the inflated price they are demanding. Negotiating is a one-sided affair in this area. I ended up walking several blocks before finding a tuk-tuk to take me back to the hotel and a cooling shower for only twice the typical price.