The Wat Arun or the Temple of the Dawn is located in Bangkok Yai district in Bangkok along the Thonburi riverside of the Chao Phraya River. It is named after the Indian God of dawn, Aruna and is locally known as Wat Chaeng (originally Wat Makok or Olive Temple). It is a famous riverbank landmark in Thailand, often photographed at daybreak when the sun is rising up the horizon and the water from the river glistens from the light, reflecting a kaleidoscope of color on the surface of the temple. Some, however, claim it is actually most beautiful at sunset when its central prang or tower appears to be framed by the glowing light of the setting sun.
The prang or the spiraling tower is the most notable structure of the temple. Its construction dates as far back as the reigning period of King Rama II in the 19th Century. The final leg of its construction was completed during the ruling era of King Rama III. The base where the tower sits on the other hand is much older. The base temple originated from the Ayuthaya period during the reign of King Taksin and formed part of the King’s palace.
The tower is 104 meters tall meticulously decorated with bits of seashells and China porcelains. The porcelain materials were originally used as ballasts by Chinese trading boats that came to visit Thailand during the early days. There are four other prangs identically designed that surround the center prang. The whole structure of the prang follows the Buddhist’s philosophical understanding of the origin of the universe. The central prang symbolizes Mount Meru or the home of the gods, while the four smaller ones represent the four winds.
The four smaller prangs enshrine four Buddha images. These depict the four stages of the Buddha’s life: birth, meditation, preaching and the enlightenment. These Buddha are said to guard the second and the third levels of the prang. These levels used to be open to the public. Nowadays, however, visitors of the Wat Arun are only allowed to climb the first level.
In the temple grounds, there are quite a few other small prangs with beautiful gardens around. Up the several steps of the main prang, the Chao Phraya River provides a magnificent view as well. The temple is stunning from afar, but it is equally remarkable up close where you can see the tiniest details and the intricacy of the design.
The temple is open from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm daily. There is a minimal entrance fee and donations are also encouraged. Any time of day is a good time to visit. If, however, you want to see the temple at sunset, a good time to head on will be before 6:00 pm. The sun sets from 6 to 7 in the evening in Bangkok, and restaurants lining the streets on the opposite side of the river are ideal for waiting for and watching the sunset. Truly, the Wat Arun is an extraordinary place to visit, and would be worth your time in Bangkok.