pier: Tha Tien Pier
HOURS: Daily 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
Just to the south of the Grand Palace  compound and just a block from the river is Wat Pho, the oldest and largest temple in Bangkok.
Originally built during the Ayutthaya period in the 16th century, before Bangkok  was the capital of Siam, the temple was renovated and expanded during the reign of Rama I and now houses the striking 40-meter gilded Reclining Buddha.
Wat Pho is perhaps the most popular tourist attraction in all of Thailand, and when the temple grounds are filled with people from all over the world jockeying for the best spot to snap photos it can be tough to enjoy the serene, elegant beauty of the hundreds of Buddha images and majesty of the four grand pagodas rising up into the air.
Visit Wat Pho early in the morning to avoid the rush.
The main attraction is the Reclining Buddha, housed in its own hall to the right of the main entrance. Made when Rama III renovated Wat Pho, the Buddha lives up to all the hype.
With mother-of-pearl eyes the size of beach balls and 7.6-meter feet covered in engravings illustrating the 108 qualities of the Buddha, the statue depicts the Buddha serenely passing from earthly life into Nirvana. The ornate hall, which seems to barely contain the statue, is covered from floor to ceiling in intricate carvings.
Throughout the grounds are hundreds of sculptures and statues of the Buddha, many taken from Ayutthaya  and Sukhothai in central Thailand. Walk around the cloister towards the back of the compound and you’ll see 400 larger-than-life golden Buddha figures quietly surrounding the ubosot, or coronation hall.
Inside the ubosot is yet another Buddha, this one a gold and crystal figure seated on a high gold throne. The hall alone, with its ornate two-story-high mural depicting the Ramakien, is worth seeing even if you’ve had your fill of Buddha for the day.
The temple grounds contain nearly 99 pagodas of varying sizes, including four large tiled pagodas right behind the Hall of the Reclining Buddha. These tall, stepped chedi are covered in intricate, colorful tile work that becomes more stunning the closer you get. The first of the three large pagodas that stand in a row was built by Rama I to house an image of the Buddha brought from Ayutthaya.
The second and third were built by Rama III to house the ashes of Rama II and for his own ashes, respectively. The fourth, which stands to the side of the first three, was built by Rama IV. Sometimes called the “blue chedi” because of the predominance of that color on the tiling, there is no consensus as to the reason it was built. Whatever its purpose, many say it is the most beautiful of the four.
In addition to Buddhas and pagodas, Wat Pho houses a school for traditional Thai massage and Thai medicine (02/221-2974, www.watpomassage.com , daily 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.). While you can enter as a student and enroll in anything from a one-week to a three-year course, you can also enter as a client and enjoy a Thai massage after a day of sightseeing for around 400 baht.