on September 5, 2007
The “Temple of the Dawn” is a Bangkok landmark and probably my favourite wat. Dramatically jutting into the air from its location on the Thonburi banks of the Chao Phraya River, the central Khmer-style prang has been elongated to give it an appearance that is unmistakably Thai. Four smaller prangs of similar design surround the main spire. The name comes from Aruna, the Indian god of the dawn.All five spires are covered with broken pieces of porcelain that were used as ballast by Chinese ships that formerly came to Thailand. Steep steps lead halfway up one side of the main prang to a point where there are good views of the river and surrounding areas, including Wat Pra Kaeo and The Grand Palace. These towers, although best known, are only part of Wat Arun. It also contains narrow lanes, elegant, old white buildings, shrines, pools of turtles, and two giants.It is believed that after fighting his way out of Ayutthaya, which was besieged by a Burmese army at the time, King Taksin arrived at this temple just as dawn was breaking and decided to build a palace next door. He later had the temple renovated, added the huge prang, and renamed it Wat Chaeng. Many locals still call this temple by this name. During his reign (known as the Thonburi Period), Wat Chaeng was the chief temple, and it once enshrined the famous Emerald Buddha and another important Buddha image, the Phra Bang, both of which had been removed from Vientiane.Even though the Thai capital was transferred across the river to Bangkok, the temple has flourished throughout the Rattanakosin Period (since 1782). The beauty of the architecture, the location and the fine craftsmanship declare its status as one of the most outstanding temples in Thailand.The towers of Wat Arun are built of brick covered with stucco. The decorations are unique; thousands of pieces of multicolored Chinese porcelain. In niches in the central tower are green figures of the God Indra seated on Erawan, the traditional Thai three-headed elephant. In my view, the main prangs probably really look better from a distance than close up but the grounds are pleasant and peaceful, with good murals and a main Buddha image supposedly designed by King Rama II. The mythical guardians here are also quite impressive, though very similar to those at Wat Phra Kaew. Don’t miss taking a photograph from the river as you approach the temple.The interior of the temple’s bot is also worth exploring. The murals picturing Prince Siddhartha encountering examples of birth, old age, sickness, and death are particularly impressive. The wat is open daily from 7:30am to 5:30pm; admission is 20 baht. It can be reached from the Bangkok side of the river by taking the ferry from Tha Tien Pier to the Wat Arun Pier. The ferry crossing costs 3 baht. Buses that go near Tha Tien are ordinary buses 1, 25, 44, 47, 62 and 91 which stop on Maharat Road.
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