You can’t miss a visit to Wat Arun when you’re in Bangkok. The temple, also known as the Temple of Dawn, boasts a 82-meter-high tower (prang) which can be seen from afar along the Chao Phraya River. We hopped on the taxi boat and braved the climb to the top.
Tourists pose for the camera in traditional Thai costumes. Pigeons keep watch from the exquisitely decorated red rooftops. Smiling children from a neighboring elementary school play on the temple’s staircase. Small, golden bells tinkle gently in the breeze. Welcome to the famous Temple of Dawn: Wat Arun.
Wat Arun: a Masterpiece of Broken Porcelain
Wat Arun owes its name and nickname ‘Temple of Dawn’ to the Indian god Aruna, the god of dawn. The enormous prang was built in a tiered, Khmer style; similar to the style of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. There are several levels with statues of warriors sitting on three-headed elephants. Around the prang there are four smaller towers that are just as richly decorated as the main tower.
Although you cannot see it from afar, the 82-meter-tall, white-green tower is fully decorated with hundreds, if not thousands of flower mosaics made from colorful, broken porcelain. The story is that back in the day many Chinese ships moored at the port of Bangkok and dumped loads of excess porcelain into the river. This porcelain was recycled and used to decorate many temples including Wat Arun.
Climbing the Temple of Dawn
Wat Arun is a steep climb – but is absolutely worth the effort. You can climb about halfway to the top, where you’ll have a stunning view of the temple complex, as well as the boats sailing up and down the Chao Phraya River.
The temple complex of Wat Arun
Wat Arun’s temple complex lies just beneath the large prang. The entrance alone is impressive; two huge, beautifully decorated guards with long, ivory swords and probing eyes await visitors. A number of stone lions with razor-sharp fangs keep intruders away.
As with the Grand Palace, Wat Arun’s complex and gardens are impeccably maintained. Gardeners are always busy, mowing the grass and trimming the life-sized bonsai trees. A painter works with a fine brush, adding more detail to one of the statues.
Enter the Temple of Dawn and you’ll walk past an endless row of one hundred golden Buddha statues. Although they have the same size and stance, they all differ. We suspect they were made by different artists. Underneath each statue, a photo is embedded with a name and an inscription. Are these the artists? Or are they deceased loved ones to whom the statues are dedicated? If you know the answer, please let us know in the comments section!
The boht: the resting place of Rama II
In the courtyard there is a temple (also called a boht) which is surrounded by dozens of stone statues of Chinese figures. These include a samurai, a farmer riding a cow and a musician playing his flute. During our visit the boht was being renovated, so the outside appearance was unappealing. Luckily we could still get in.
On a glittering pedestal a large, golden Buddha looks down upon the visitors. Beneath the Buddha is an urn which contains the remains of King Rama II. Opposite to the statue are two smaller Buddhas, giving their respects with a wai; the typical Thai greeting. There are several stools that are adorned with flowers, vases and candles. The walls of the temple are decorated with beautiful paintings depicting the Buddha and his students.
Opening hours and entrance fees
Wat Arun, The Temple of Dawn, is open daily from 8:30 AM to 6:00 PM. The entrance fee is 100 baht per person. Women should dress modestly and cover up from shoulders to knees. Sarongs to help you cover up can be rented.
Wat Arun is on the western shore of the Chao Phraya River and is easily accessible by boat. A ticket from pier N13 (Banglamphu / Tha Phra Arthit) to pier N8 (Tha Tien) costs 15 baht per person. From Tha Tien, a ferry departs to the other side of the river for 3 baht per person.
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Would you like to climb Wat Arun?
Credit page header image: Mark Fischer