Big Buddha Toes at Wat Intharawihan in Bangkok.

I’ve visited Bangkok’s Wat Intharawihan several times. I just never knew its name. The locals who were responsible for my visits called it Big Buddha. That went along with Lucky Buddha. And Special One Day Only Government Authorized Gem Sale. Wat Intharawihan is a cool little wat, and its ‘big Buddha’ alone should be enough to entice a few touri to check the temple out. But most visit are thanks to being enticed by a 50 baht tuk tuk ride when the Grand Palace is closed.

I have several pictures of the wat in my collection, but could never manage to post an article about it because of its missing name. But then while recently doing an internet search on Bangkok scams I managed to finally identify the temple. I’d recognize those Buddha toes. An updated article on scams is still to come, though it may be different than what you’ll expect (or not). I will mention now however that there is a new twist on the Grand Palace Is Closed Scam. It’s now the Central World Is Closed Scam. I don’t know if the recent move by authorities to install loudspeakers around the Grand Palace that announce it is open is the reason scammers have moved their trick to one of Bangkok’s most famous shopping malls, or that they finally figured out there are more touri headed for a day of shopping than a day of palace viewing. But reports are that when you are in the area of Central World you are now likely to be approached by a helpful local who will tell you the mall is closed because of a Buddha holiday. Same, same, but different. I’ll have to check it out on my next visit to see which wats in that area the scammers are including on their tour.

The Luang Pho To is the main attraction at Wat Intharawihan.

If you haven’t visited Wat Intharawihan, I’m sure you can still indulge in scamming a scammer by the Grand Palace and getting a ride to the temple for 50 baht. I’m also sure you could find a tuk tuk or taxi to take you there without the scam, but that takes half of the fun out of the visit. And visit you should. The Big Buddha is worth the price of admission. Which is free unless you agree to buy some pricey jewelry as part of your outing.

Located near the Rama VIII bridge, the temple predates the founding of Bangkok in 1782 and was originally named Wat Rai Phrik. The temple saw its first restoration during the reign of Rama I at the hands of a member of the Lao royal family who Rama I brought to settle in the area after battling a rebellion in Laos. A very revered monk, Somdej Phra Buddhachan, at the age of 80, began construction on the giant Buddha statue in 1867, only to die at its feet one night before the statue had been completed to navel height. The statue, in Wednesday morning’s Receiving position (Phra Um Bhat) was finally completed during the reign of Rama VII in 1927 and today stands some 32 meters in height, towering over the surrounding neighborhood. Each year a temple fair is held in early March to celebrate, honor, and pay homage to the Big Buddha.

Locals pray at the Big Buddha for weath and success.

The statue, called Luang Pho To, was visited twice during the 1960s by the current royal family who covered its forehead and topknot with gold leaf. Then, in 1978, on behalf of his father, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn visited the temple to install relics of The Buddha in Luang Pho To’s topknot, which were a gift from the government of Sri Lanka. The statue received its final treatment during the 200th year celebration of Bangkok when it was decorated with Italian golden mosaics.

Many monk statues covered in goldleaf adorn the temple’s compound.

The wat is popular with locals for grabbing bottles of the Buddhist version of holy water as well as the amulets for sale at the temple that bear the likeness of some of the more revered monks who have served as abbot there. Likenesses of the monks, some of which are quite life-like while others are covered in masses of gold leaf are scattered around the temple’s grounds. The big draw, of course, for locals and tourists alike is the Big Buddha; locals believe praying to Luang Pho To can bring wealth and success, particularly if they present the head of a mackerel fish, a boiled egg, and a lei of flowers. Rumor also has it that delivering a tuk tuk full of touri to the wat can bring riches too.

Unusual copper prayer bells at Wat Intharawihan.

Most touri visiting the wat are on a limited time schedule and only have the opportunity of grabbing a few quick photos of the temple’s famous statue and possibly paying a local vendor to free caged birds, a merit making activity frowned upon at many wats these days. If you don’t have a gem sale to rush off to, the wat’s ubosot is worth visiting too. Though quite small its walls are adorned with a series of interesting murals and its window shutters are lavishly gilded. There is also a museum attached with old Buddha images, paintings, porcelain, and antiques, as well as an area filled with cremation urns and, in case you still haven’t had the opportunity to say a prayer at the Buddha image for your birth day, a line of all eight of the birth day Buddha images.

Wat Intharawihan is open daily from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm.

I see dead people.

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