WAT ARUN

Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan (Thaiวัดอรุณราชวราราม ราชวรมหาวิหาร) or Wat Arun (Thai pronunciation: [wát ʔarun], “Temple of Dawn”) is a Buddhist temple (wat) in Bangkok Yai district of BangkokThailand, on the Thonburi west bank of the Chao Phraya River.

The temple derives its name from the Hindu god Aruna, often personified as the radiations of the rising sun. Wat Arun is among the best known of Thailand’s landmarks and the first light of the morning reflects off the surface of the temple with pearly iridescence.

Although the temple had existed since at least the seventeenth century, its distinctive prang (spires) were built in the early nineteenth century during the reign of King Rama II.

A Buddhist temple had existed at the site of Wat Arun since the time of the Ayutthaya Kingdom. It was then known as Wat Makok, after the village of Bang Makok in which it was situated. (Makok is the Thai name for the Spondias pinnata plant) According to the historian Prince Damrong Rajanubhab, the temple was shown in French maps during the reign of King Narai (1656–1688).

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The temple was renamed Wat Chaeng by King Taksin when he established his new capital of Thonburi near the temple, following the fall of Ayutthaya. It is believed that Taksin vowed to restore the temple after passing it at dawn. The temple enshrined the Emerald Buddha image before it was transferred to Wat Phra Kaew on the river’s eastern bank in 1785. The temple was located in grounds of the royal palace during Taksin’s reign, before his successor, Rama I, moved the palace to the other side of the river. It was abandoned, for a long period of time, until the reign of King Rama II (1809–1824), who had the temple restored and the main pagoda raised to 70m. The work was finished during the reign of King Rama III (1824–1851).

The temple underwent major restorations during the reign of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V, 1868–1910) and in 1980, prior to the bicentenary celebration of Bangkok’s foundation. The most extensive restoration work on the prang was undertaken from 2013 to 2017, during which a substantial number broken tiles were replaced and lime plaster was used to re-finish many of the surfaces (replacing the cement used during earlier restorations). As the work neared its end in 2017, photographs of the results drew some criticism for the temple’s new appearance, which seemed white-washed compared to its previous state. The Fine Arts Department defended the work, stating that it was carefully done to reflect the temple’s original appearance.

The main feature of Wat Arun is its central prang (Khmer-style tower) which is encrusted with colourful porcelain. This is interpreted as a stupa-like pagoda encrusted with coloured faience. The height is reported by different sources as between 66.8 m (219 ft) and 86 m (282 ft). The corners are surrounded by four smaller satellite prang. The prang are decorated by seashells and bits of porcelain which had previously been used as ballast by boats coming to Bangkok from China.

The central prang is topped with a seven-pronged trident, referred to by many sources as the “Trident of Shiva“. Around the base of the prang are various figures of ancient Chinese soldiers and animals. Over the second terrace are four statues of the Hindu god Indra riding on Erawan. In the Buddhist iconography, the central prang is considered to have three symbolic levels—base for Traiphum indicating all realms of existence, middle for Tavatimsa where all desires are gratified and top denoting Devaphum indicating six heavens within seven realms of happiness At the riverside are six pavilions (sala) in Chinese style. The pavilions are made of green granite and contain landing bridges.

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Wat Arun, locally known as Wat Chaeng, is situated on the west (Thonburi) bank of the Chao Phraya River. It is easily one of the most stunning temples in Bangkok, not only because of its riverside location, but also because the design is very different to the other temples you can visit in Bangkok. Wat Arun (or temple of the dawn) is partly made up of colourfully decorated spires and stands majestically over the water. Wat Arun is almost directly opposite Wat Pho, so it is very easy to get to. From Sapphan Taksin boat pier you can take a river boat that stops at pier 8. From here a small shuttle boat takes you from one side of the river to the other for only 3 baht. Entry to the temple is 100 baht. The temple is open daily from 08:30 to 17:30.

We would recommend spending at least an hour visiting the temple. Although it is known as the Temple of the Dawn, it’s absolutely stunning at sunset, particularly when lit up at night. The quietest time to visit, however, is early morning, before the crowds. Given beauty of the architecture and the fine craftsmanship it is not surprising that Wat Arun is considered by many as one of the most beautiful temples in Thailand. The spire (prang) on the bank of Chao Phraya River is one of Bangkok’s world-famous landmarks. It has an imposing spire over 70 metres high, beautifully decorated with tiny pieces of coloured glass and Chinese porcelain placed delicately into intricate patterns.

You can climb the central prang if you wish, the steps are very steep but there is a railing to balance yourself. Getting up is as tricky as getting down! When you reach the highest point you can see the winding Chao Phraya River and the Grand Palace and Wat Pho opposite. Along the base of this central tower there are sculptures of Chinese soldiers and animals. Head into the ordination hall and you can admire a golden Buddha image and the detailed murals that decorate the walls. Although Wat Arun is a very popular for tourists, it is also an important place of worship for Buddhists. Make sure you dress appropriately, or pick up one of the cover ups that are for rent near the entrance.