VIP tourists: Obama, Clinton hit Bangkok's Wat Pho

VIP tourists: Obama, Clinton hit Bangkok's Wat Pho

Home to Thailand's biggest reclining Buddha statue, the temple complex is one of the country's top religious sites
Wat Pho's dean of the Faculty of Buddhism, Chaokun Suthee Thammanuwat, takes U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on a tour of the temple complex in Bangkok on November 18, 2012.

Tourists hoping to check out Bangkok's iconic Wat Pho, a temple complex that is home to the country's biggest reclining Buddha statue, were out of luck on Sunday. 

The popular religious site was closed to visitors for most of the day due to the arrival of two VIP tourists -- U.S. President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The well-dressed pair was shown around by one of the temple's highest-ranking monks Sunday afternoon before Obama headed to Siriraj Hospital for an audience with 84-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The president has since left Thailand for Myanmar, and is also due to attend an East Asia summit in Cambodia. 

More on CNN: Obama: Myanmar trip not an endorsement 

Why Wat Pho?

Right next door to the equally famous Grand Palace, Wat Pho's main attraction is the reclining Buddha statue. The soles of the 46-meter-long statue's feet are inlaid with mother-of-pearl, depicting the 108 auspicious signs of the Buddha, while the statue itself is covered in gold leaf.

According to the Thai history books, after moving to the Grand Palace King Rama I recognized the old temple nearby as a site of religious significance and ordered his noblemen to restore it in 1788. This first restoration took seven years, five months and 28 days. 

During the reign of King Rama III another great restoration/expansion period took place, which took 16 years and seven months.  

Wat Pho is also home to a highly respected massage school, where Thai masseurs have trained since 1955. Visitors can drop in for a full traditional Thai massage or enroll in short or long-term courses. Neither Obama nor Clinton received a rubdown. 

For a look at more Bangkok temples, check out our list of seven of the city's best

Wat Pho is located on Sanam Chai Road and Maharaj Road, next to the Grand Palace. Open daily, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; +66 (0)2 225 9595. 

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