Monks of Wat Pho are excitedly preparing to meet United States President Barack Obama on Sunday.
A tourist captures a picture of a giant Buddha image in a reclining posture at Wat Pho which is on US President Barack Obama’s list of places to visit this weekend. He will be in Thailand on Sunday and Monday. APICHART JINAKUL
Vendors around the temple, however, are worried about a possible loss of income as the street will be closed for security reasons on their busiest day of the week.
Udorn Kanarak, the assistant to Wat Pho's abbot, said the temple and its monks would be honoured to have the chance to welcome Mr Obama.
"It's also a good chance for us to introduce the temple and Thai Buddhism to the world," said monk Udorn.
The 230-year-old Wat Pho, known officially as Wat Phra Chetuphon Vimolmangklararm, was rebuilt and renovated from the former Wat Photharm by King Rama I after he finished building the Grand Palace.
It served as the King's royal monastery. The King's relics were enshrined underneath the principal Buddha image in the temple's main ordination hall.
The temple is well known among foreign tourists for housing the finest image of the reclining Buddha, and for its centuries-old stone inscriptions covering a wide range of subjects. Monk Udorn said the temple's ticket kiosk will be closed at 10am on Sunday.
Mr Obama's security team had asked monks to clear out visitors by midday, he said.
The temple will be closed until the end of the day for Mr Obama's visit, although the president might spend only about 45 minutes at the temple. Mr Obama is scheduled to have an audience with His Majesty the King after that.
At the temple, the US president will be guided among the temple's landmarks including the main ordination hall, the reclining Buddha and the Four Stupas representing four Chakri Kings.
Only three senior monks will be allowed to accompany Mr Obama.
During Mr Obama's visit, the temple will be guarded by Thai police and the US security team who have visited the temple to prepare security plans.
Although no special arrangements were evident at the temple yesterday, monk Udorn said some lights would be prepared to welcome the president on Sunday.
Several residents who live around the temple appeared less enthusiastic about the US president's visit when approached by the Bangkok Post. Many said they were concerned about losing income on the day of the visit, because the streets around the temple will be closed for security reasons.
They said Sunday is their busiest day of the week.
A 38-year-old fruit vendor named Pon said she had heard from authorities that local vendors would be cleared from the streets surrounding Wat Pho for the day.
Vendors did not know at what time they would be allowed back following the president's visit, she said.
"We are not against Mr Obama. But we want good traffic management so we can still do some business before or after Mr Obama's visit," the vendor said.
She said she usually earned around 3,000 baht on a Sunday, three times her daily income on weekdays.
A 32-year-old tuk-tuk driver who gave his name as Ae said he might not be able to drive his tuk-tuk in the area on Sunday. "We understand the streets must be closed for the day for the president's safety," he said. "We could still earn a living if authorities ensure security is tight enough to let us back in once he has gone."
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Writer: Paritta Wangkiat