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Sunday, December 09, 2012

Wat Arun: A Striking Bangkok Landmark

If you have ever been to Thailand, you would have definitely seen the Wat Arun temple. After all, it appears on the ten baht coin and is the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s logo. But, seeing the temple in real and climbing to its top is an altogether surreal experience.

Wat Arun from the Chao Phraya River
This temple, Wat Arun, named after Aruna, the Indian god of dawn is located at Thon Buri and on the other side of the Chao Phraya river. It owes its name to the legend that, in October 1767, King Taksin, arrived here at sunrise from the sacked capital, Ayutthaya. He soon enlarged the tiny temple that stood on the site into a Royal Chapel to house the Emerald Buddha. 

Steep Flight of Stairs that lead to the top of Wat Arun, Bangkok
Rama I and Rama II (the 1st and 2nd kings of Thailand) were responsible for the size of the current temple. In the 19th century, King Monkut (Rama IV) added the ornamentation created with broken pieces of porcelain. One can see this ornamentation on the exterior of the main prang where rows of demons were decorated with pieces of porcelain. 

Prayers being offered at Wat Arun, Bangkok
Wat Arun, which is built using Khmer architecture is unique in Thailand. The monument’s design symbolizes Hindu-Buddhist cosmology. The central prang (tower) is the mythical Mount Meru, and its ornamental tiers are worlds within worlds. The layout of four minor prangs around a central one is a symbolic mandala shape.

A city view from the top of Wat Arun in Bangkok
Getting to this temple is fairly easy. One can either take the 3THB boat across the Chao Phraya river from the Tha Thien pier (near the Grand Palace) or take a tuk tuk or taxi across the longer route. Personally, I would recommend taking the boat as that is how you will get to see the striking image of the Wat Arun towering across the Chao Phraya river. This is the image on the 10 baht coin.

Traditional Architecture next to Wat Arun
The temple has an entrance fee of 50 THB for all tourists and has food stalls and rest rooms close by for the convenience of the tourist. The best part about this temple is climbing its steep flight of steps to be rewarded with the aerial view of the Chao Phraya river, Bangkok downtown and the colorful Buddhist monuments surrounding the Wat Arun temple.

Steep climb to Wat Arun
The climb is very steep and one needs to hold onto the railings and climb carefully. Apparently, these steep steps represent the difficulties of reaching higher levels of existence. Apart from the climb, one can offer prayers at the temple and can also explore the neighboring Buddhist buildings and check out its interesting architecture.

Wat Arun - Bangkok, Thailand
This temple is one place you should definitely visit given the diverse experience you will get in a short while: a Chao Phraya boat experience, aerial view of the river and downtown Bangkok, the magnificent temple in itself and the interesting Khmer architecture that is rarely seen in Thailand.



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