Wat Arun, Bangkok


This is the oldest temple in the city of Bangkok and is nestled on the bank of the Chao Phraya River. This magnificent temple is also known as the Temple of Dawn and dates back to the Ayutthaya period. One of the most striking features of Wat Arun is the large central prang, which has been decorated with pieces of broken pottery that washed up on the bank of the river and visitors can climb this prang to take in pretty views of the Chao Phraya River and surrounding area.

A Brief History

Wat Arun was established back in the 16th century and was originally named Wat Makok, which means the Olive Temple in Thai. This temple is considered to be very sacred and was used to house the Emerald Buddha before the completion of Wat Pra Keaw. The most noticeable feature of the temple complex is the enormous central prang, which was commissioned by King Rama II around the turn of the 19th century. When they prang was finally completed, the name of the temple was changed to Wat Arunratchawararam Ratchaworamahavihara, or Wat Arun for short.

The striking central prang symbolises Mount Meru, which is believed to be the home of the gods according to Hindu mythology. Each of the four smaller prangs that surround the central prang have been created as a representation of the four winds devoted to Phra Phai the wind god and a statue of the god seated on his horse also tops each of these towering prangs. The pottery that covers the outside of Wat Arun was originally used as ballast by numerous trading ships that sailed to Bangkok from China. Once the ballast was dumped at the side of the river, it was decided to preserve it by incorporating the pottery into the design of the temple.

What to See

Wander through the garden to the Ordination Hall, which contains the golden Niramir Buddha image said to have been designed by King Rama II. The way into the Ordination Hall is guarded be two gigantic demons, called yaksha in Thai. These demons stand either side of the entranceway and look very intimidating with their toothy scowls and huge swords. The white demon is named Sahassa Deja, while the green one is known as Thotsakan, who also appears in the Ramayana as Rāvana. Visitors can follow a set of stone steps that lead up the four sides of the main prang and follow the narrow walkway that runs around the first level to take in impressive panoramic views.

Tips for First Time Visitors

The temple is floodlit in the evening and looks particularly impressive lit up against the night sky. A number of bars and restaurants can be found on the opposite side of the river to Wat Arun and visitors can sit with a meal and a drink or two while taking in the sight of the temple. Another good way to see the temple in all its floodlit glory is by taking an evening cruise along the Chao Phraya River.

Area of Bangkok

Wat Arun is located in the Thonburi district of Bangkok.