Wat Arun: Bangkok’s Temple of Dawn

Wat Arun Central Prang

Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan, known locally as Wat Chaeng, is at its best in the early morning. Visit before the temple gets too crowded. It’s such a beautiful and serene place, even amongst crowds, but it’s sure better with some breathing space.

How’d Wat Arun get it’s name?

The Hindu god, Aruna, is a chariot driver for the goddess Surya deva. He is often personified as the radiations of the rising sun. The temple gets its name from this god, as the Wat itself shimmers and shines when the morning sun rises to shower it in warmth. There is so much glitter, our niece Ashley would not know what to do! ❤️ Seventh heaven for a glamour girl!

As I read about Aruna, I came across a fantastic blog on Hindu Mythology. It’s incredibly well written, by a 14 year old, who’s been researching and blogging for the past four years. I may have forgotten to write for a very long while, as I read Aarsh’s blog instead! Check it out!

Why visit this temple?

Visit Wat Arun because it’s stunning and amazing and beautiful and peaceful. Even when its full of tourists, the temple exudes peace. I really loved the serenity I felt here. Sometimes a place can simply exude good will and this temple does that for me.

We viewed it at night from our hotel across the river and it’s just as beautiful. The temple sparkles and is lit up like it’s a star itself.

Wat Arun Central Prang

The temple’s spire (prang) rises about 230 feet (70 meters) into the air. It’s decorated with tiny pieces of glass and Chinese pottery (found in a shipwreck) that shine in the sunlight.

Wat Arun Entrance View
Wat Arun Entrance View of the Central Prang

Well the whole temple shimmers in sparkly-ness, but the spire is one of Bangkok’s landmarks.

Close up with Chinese pottery flowers at Wat Arun
Close up with Chinese pottery flowers

The (approximately 1,000,000) pieces form into flowers and other designs to produce the temple’s glittering effect. The prang symbolizes Mount Meru, which is the home of the Hindu gods and is the center of the physical and spiritual universe. The mythology and the beauty have made Wat Arun one of my favorite temples in Bangkok.

When we visited, the stairs to the highest part of the spire were blocked. However, we read that you can usually climb up for amazing views of Wat Arun’s grounds, the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and the Chao Phraya River. During the reign of Rama III (between 1824 and 1851), the prang got its shiny glitter job and its current height.

Wat Arun's intricate details
Wat Arun’s intricate details

I especially enjoyed the sculptures & statues of fantastical animals surrounding the central prang. On the bottom row, demons represent hell. Then the middle row contains monkeys representing the earth, and the top row includes angels signifying heaven. It’s stunning!

Monkey guards at Wat Arun
Monkey guards

Reverence within temples

Wat Arun serves as a cemetery, since people place their ashes here after death. I can only imagine the cost involved with burial at such a beautiful and important temple.

Buddha Pavillion with burial spaces

It reminds me of the need for dress code requirements when visiting. Wat Arun is a beautiful site for touring to other tourists and me. But to others, it represents much more when family members are honored here.

The Buddha at Wat Arun

Wat Arun’s Buddha resides in the Ordination Hall. So, please remove your shoes before entering and avoid pointing your feet toward the image. Photos are allowed, but quiet reflection is encouraged.

King Rama II (reigned 1809-1824) claims the design for this beautiful image of Buddha. And his ashes are interred in the Buddha’s base.

The murals surrounding the image were created during King Rama V’s reign. I especially liked the sign outside the Hall, which gives a good basic tutorial on Buddhism.

I loved our time in Wat Arun, but it is best in the morning, as we began melting from the heat. So remember, carrying water and wearing hats are necessities!

Alongside the temple are places to receive a blessing, buy tourist trappings, and have a much-needed ice-cold beer with lunch. Additionally, we sat in the shade of an outdoor restaurant/food stall to enjoy Green papaya salad and chicken with rice. So delicious.

The food in Bangkok definitely meets all my expectations. We ate and drank slowly, discussing the morning’s beauty and enjoying a bit of shade.

Visitor Information

Open Hours: 8:30 am to 5:30 pm.

Official Website: https://www.watarun1.com/en

Where it’s located

Wat Arun sits in the Thonburi area of Bangkok. It’s on the West Bank at the mouth of the Chao Praya River.

Address: 158 Thanon Wang Doem, Wat Arun, Bangkok Yai, Bangkok 10600, Thailand

During the Ayutthaya period, this area was one of the most important in the region. It’s name translates to the “City of Treasures Gracing the Ocean”.

And this temple is a treasure in Thonburi and all of Thailand! It’s right across the river from Wat Pho, less than a five-minute boat ride.

How To Get To Wat Arun

Take BTS Skytrain to Saphan Taksin Station. It’s easy to get around Bangkok on the Skytrain, so buy a day pass or Rabbit card.

If you’re like us, you hop on and off the Iconsiam boats and travel the river for free. But, of course, they want you to end up at their mall, so they offer free transport.

Take the public ferry boat from Tha Tien Pier (#8) for about 8 baht. Many independent boat taxis are willing to ferry you across the river. But you’ll pay an exorbitant price. Boat operators will laugh at ripping you off. 

Just walk down to the public pier and get on the public boat. Please save yourself the cost and humiliation, and take my word for it. 

Wat Arun across the Chao Praya River
Wat Arun across the Chao Praya River

Along the pier are plenty of places to eat, get a Thai massage, or shop for all kinds of treasures. So if you’re heading to Wat Pho after visiting Wat Arun, this is a good area for lunch.

How Much Time Should I Spend at Wat Arun?

We spent about two hours at Wat Arun. And that seemed to be a good amount. We saw everything we wanted to. But we would’ve loved to take them up to the Central Prang if the stairs were open. So that would add another half hour or so.

Beware of Tuk-Tuk Driver Temple Scams

Before heading to Thailand, I read that tuk-tuk drivers would tell you the temple (or other attraction) was closed. Then they’ll offer to take you on tour to another temple. 

And unfortunately, I found this warning to be 100% true. It happened to us at multiple locations.

Drivers were waiting at the BTS stations or pier stops to say the desired location was closed today. They’re sneaky; honestly, it hurt my feelings to be directly lied to. 

So check your destination’s opening hours before going. And then don’t listen to the tuk-tuk drivers!

What To Wear To A Temple in Thailand

As with every temple, be sure to dress appropriately with knees, bellies and shoulders covered.

  • No tank tops or strapless tops.
  • No off-the-shoulders or low necklines.
  • No crop tops showing the stomach or back.
  • No shorts or leggings.
  • No mini-skirts.

There are rental coverings available, if you decide on a last-minute temple visit. Or you can buy a scarf from any of the shops and stalls around the market. Wear a scarf over your shoulders. And wrap a scarf around your waist as a sarong-style skirt.

Dress Code Sign for temples in Thailand
Appropriate Temple Clothing

While the women’s dress code remains strict, it relaxes some for men at temples in Thailand.

  • Wear a shirt with sleeves (short or long is okay), but no tank tops.
  • No disrespectful sayings, images, or slogans on T-shirts.
  • Preferably no ripped or torn clothing.
  • Longer shorts are better. To the knees or long pants are best.

When is the Best Time to Visit Wat Arun?

Visit early in the morning, before crowds arrive and the temperature rises. I consider hats and sunglasses a necessity. However, consider carrying a sun umbrella or parasol too. And remember to bring a water bottle.

You might visit Wat Pho in the afternoon, where you’ll enjoy a relaxing massage. It’s quite an experience!

Save time in your Bangkok schedule for a day trip to Ayutthaya. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is incredible and so worth a visit.

Steve and Noelle sitting at the Buddha head in a tree
Decorum requires that you sit to be lower than the Buddha.


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