How much money does the Temple of the Reclining Buddha make?

One of the most popular pictures taken during President Obama’s visit to Bangkok was this one where the President, Hillary Clinton and assistant abbot Phra Suthee Thammanuwat are seen sharing a joke. A lot of people have been asking what they were talking about to make them laugh like that. The answer is in this morning’s edition of The Nation.

“Several people asked me what we were talking about when we were seen laughing,” said Phra Suthee. “At that moment, Clinton asked how many people visited the temple a day. I said that about 7,000 to 8,000 people visited and foreigners were charged Bt100 each. Clinton responded that the temple was making a lot of money and should be able to support Obama’s work in helping poor children. I replied that the US president and his entourage should instead support the temple because the visit prompted half of the temple to be closed and caused the temple to lose money.”

This interestingly also gives an insight into the practice of charging to visit a place of worship. Most temples in Thailand are free and don’t charge people an admission fee. Which I think is the right thing as I am sure the Buddha wouldn’t be happy about it. However, a few temples that are popular with tourists charge them an admission fee. Most seem to be about 50 Baht. Looks like Wat Pho is the most expensive at 100 Baht.

I have blogged before that I was once visiting a temple in Chiang Mai that was seemingly deserted. I like visiting temples as I am very interested in Buddhism. I even do a blog at www.ThaiBuddhist.com. While I was walking around I heard someone shouting at me. Then a novice monk came running to me with his hand stretched out. All he said was “50 Baht”. The man that was shouting at me was a monk and he had sent the novice monk to get the admission fee from the foreigner.

Thai people are not charged any admission fee for these temples. After all, they contribute in other ways by donating money for things like lotus flowers and incense sticks. I have actually tried a couple of times, out of interest, to see what they would say if I told them in Thai that I was a Buddhist. They just said that it doesn’t matter. I am a foreigner and have to pay. So, what about Thais who are not Buddhists and go to Wat Pho as a tourist? Obviously they get in for free as admission is based on your nationality and not your religion.

This now brings us to the question of how much money these temples are making from foreigners. According to Phra Udornkanarak who was quoted in The Nation last week, each day Wat Pho has about 10,000 visitors and half of them are foreigners. So, at an admission fee of 100 Baht per head for 5,000 people, it means they make 500,000 Baht a day! This is $16,302. In just one month they will make 15.5 million Baht ($505,379). And this is just from foreigners at one temple. Doesn’t include the large donations that Thais make themselves to temples.

So, where does the money go? And more importantly, do they pay tax on this income? Does anyone have any answers?

10 thoughts on “How much money does the Temple of the Reclining Buddha make?

  • November 20, 2012 at 8:02 am
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    Wats and religious institutions do not pay tax is what I understand. Income from “selling” amulets and etc is tax-free too. But I could be wrong…..

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  • November 20, 2012 at 8:03 am
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    Some money goes to charitable causes. An abbot at an expats meeting in Chiangmai explained some of their projects but when confronted with the maths of it, changed the subject saying it was the lay staff that handled the money. Obama made a good point and the deputy abbot responded with a similar non answer.

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  • November 20, 2012 at 9:28 am
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    Look at the car park of the Abbot’s at big Temples. They all have Mercedes Benz with chauffeurs.

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  • November 20, 2012 at 10:05 am
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    “Obviously they get in for free as admission is based on your nationality and not your religion.”

    Really? Surely it’s based on skin colour.

    The only place I’ve been to that does this properly is Chiang Mai zoo. Show them your Thai driving license and you pay the Thai price. Every where else will charge Thais with Farang parents the foreign price purely because of their skin colour.

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  • November 20, 2012 at 1:27 pm
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    It is the same everywhere…who doesn’t want money!

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    • November 20, 2012 at 1:27 pm
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      “who doesn’t want money?” – Well, monks for one as they are supposed to leave worldly goods behind them when they enter the monkhood. But some are more interested in how much miney they can make. To the extent that there are sometimes turf fights during morning alms rounds.

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  • November 20, 2012 at 1:28 pm
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    The visitors to the temple can never be accountable so unvailable. When get to the temple in the very very early morning around six no one charge any of admission fee. I had never paid a fee of admission when always been to. In order to avoid a fee for Farangs wake up and get there around five or six in the very very early morning. Just act like a dilligent local prayer.

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  • November 20, 2012 at 3:03 pm
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    Obama and Hillary deprived the temple of stealing, I mean profiting, from the tourists.

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  • November 22, 2012 at 1:28 pm
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    Wat Phra Keo charged me recently 400thb. Thai Nationalities are free. Even showed them my local driving license; still had to pay to bring in some visitors.

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  • April 14, 2013 at 8:05 pm
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    It’s a real sadness to accept that there is a very low proportion of monks who did the actual practice of mind among those bald men wearing yellows.

    I’m Thai and Buddhist,

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