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.

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. 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 definitely a treasure in Thonburi and in all of Thailand! It’s basically right across the river from Wat Pho, literally less than a five minute boat ride.

Take the public ferry boat for about 8 baht from Pier 8. Don’t be like us and pay an independent taxi boat, it will cost much more. Also, the operators will laugh at you because they just ripped you off. And it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Just walk down to the public pier and get on the public boat. Take my word for it. Along the pier are plenty of places to eat, get a Thai massage or simply shop for all kinds of treasures.

As with every temple, be sure to dress appropriately with knees, bellies and shoulders covered. There are rental coverings available, if after all the notices, you still wear inappropriate garb.

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

I especially enjoyed the sculptures & statues of fantastical animals that surround the central prang. On the bottom row are demons representing hell. The middle row contains monkeys representing earth and the top row containins angels to represent heaven. It’s stunning!

Reverence within temples

Notice in the picture with Steve sitting in front of the Pavillion and in the next photo, that people place their ashes here after death. I can only imagine the cost involved with burial at such a beautiful and important temple. It reminds me of the dress code requirements and the respect required when visiting. To me, it may be a beautiful site for touring. But to others, it represents much much more.

Buddha Pavillion with burial spaces

The Buddha at Wat Arun

Wat Arun’s Buddha resides in the Ordination Hall. Remove your shoes before entering and remember not to point your feet towards the image. Photos are allowed, but quiet reflection is encouraged. King Rama II (reigned 1809-1824) claims the design for this image of Buddha and it’s a beautiful one. His ashes are entombed in the Buddha’s base. The murals surrounding the image were created during the reign of King Rama V. 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 definitely best in the morning, as we began melting from the heat. Carrying water and wearing hats are necessities!

Alongside the temple are places to receive a blessing, buy tourist trappings and a much-needed ice cold beer with lunch. 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.


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