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Sitting majestically on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, Wat Arun or the Temple of Dawn is one of the most striking riverside landmarks of Thailand. It is thus one of the most-visited attractions in Bangkok.

Built in the Ayutthaya period, this old temple was renovated in the reign of King Rama II of Rattanakosin period and later designated as the King’s royal temple.  The outstanding central prang or pagoda of this temple is an architectural representation of Mount Meru, the center of the universe in Buddhist cosmology. The four-corner prangs, which house images of the guardian gods of the four directions, reinforces this mystical symbolism.

Despite its name, the most spectacular view of the glittering pagoda can be viewed from the opposite bank of the river, at sunset or at night when it is illuminated by spotlights.

The Origin of Wat Arun

Wat Arun, formerly known as Wat Makok and later called “Wat Makok Nok”, is an ancient temple that was built in the Ayutthaya period. It is said that the royal fleet of King Taksin (reign 1767 – 1782), the founder of the former capital of Thonburi, arrived at Wat Makok Nok precisely at dawn. He stopped his vessel and disembarked to pay homage to the Buddha’s relic inside the pagoda. The temple was renamed Wat Chaeng _ the Temple of Dawn by the king. When King Taksin crowned himself the monarch, the temple was designated a royal temple and his palace was built nearby.



The temple briefly enshrined the Emerald Buddha, one of Thailand’s most sacred Buddha image, before it was moved to Wat Phra Kaew on the river’s eastern bank by King Rama I in 1784. 

Wat Arun 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 Rama V (1868–1910) and in 1980, prior to the bicentenary celebration of Bangkok’s foundation.

Amazing Temple Architecture

The main feature of this famous temple is its massive elongated prang or Khmer-style pagoda, surrounded by four smaller prangs. The central prang represents Mount Meru, the centre of the world in Buddhist cosmology. It is 81.8 meters high and has a circumference of 234 meters. Construction of the tall prang and the four smaller ones were started by King Rama II in 1809.

The prangs of Wat Arun were built from brick and covered with stucco. The central prang is topped with a seven-pronged trident of Shiva. It is decorated with seashells and fragments of multicolored porcelain which had previously been used as ballast by boats coming from China. The design on the porcelain is mostly of delicate flowers and leaves.

The main prang has three levels and each level has a terrace that forms the base of the next level above. Each level of the prang is supported by statues of demons, monkeys, and angels. The base is decorated with statues of Kinnon and Kinnaree (the male and female half-bird and half-human figure). Over the second terrace are four statues of the Hindu God Indra riding on Erawan, a white three-headed elephant. There are stone statues in the shape of Chinese soldiers and animals standing around the prang.



There are very steep and narrow steps that lead to each level. The terrace offers impressive views of the Chao Phraya River and its surrounding area.  The Grand Palace, the temple of the Emerald Buddha and Wat Pho can all be seen from here.

Next to the prang is the ordination hall which  houses the main Buddha image in the subduing Mara position. The image is said to have been designed by King Rama II himself. Mural paintings inside the ordination hall were created during the reign of King Rama V, depicting scenes from the previous lives of the Buddha. There are over 100 stone lion sculptures standing around the ordination hall.

Besides, there are two mythical giants, or temple guardian figures, in front of the arched entrance to the ordination hall. The cloister surrounding the ordination hall contains more than 100 Buddha images and there are more than 100 stone Chinese warriors around the cloister. At the riverside, there are a monument of King Rama II and six Chinese style pavilions that contain landing bridges where the Royal Barge Procession arrives.

Historic Renovation

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 refinish the surface (replacing the cement used during earlier restorations). Under direction from Thailand’s Fine Arts Department, the renovation work of Wat Arun was carefully done to secure the base of the majestic pagoda and reflect the temple’s original appearance.

Each level of the prang is supported by statues of demons, monkeys and angels.

 

The Temple of Dawn will officially be reopened the end of this year after being closed to visitors for three years to undergo repairs and renovation. There will be a grand celebration to mark this special occasion. A 10-day long celebration of the completion of Wat Arun’s renovations will take place at the end of this year from 27 December through to 5 January, 2018.*

The festivities will include a tribute to King Taksin the Great, who ordered the restoration of the temple during his reign, along with cultural and Thai dance performances. There will also be an exhibition on the temple’s history, showcasing the importance of its role in Thai society, highlighted by a display of award-winning photos of the temple taken over the years with the first images of Wat Arun dating back to 1865.

Tourist Information

Wat Arun is open to the public daily from 8.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. The admission fee is 50 baht for foreigners. There are several other major tourist attractions located on the opposite bank of the river such as Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and the National Museum. Moreover, with its location on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, Wat Arun is a main attraction always included in half-day Bangkok Canal Tours. 

Regarding the dress codes, the following is a list of prohibited clothing at the temple that you should keep in mind : shorts, mini-skirts, tight fitting trousers, see-through shirts and blouses, spaghetti strap and sleeveless shirts. You will also be required to take off your shoes when entering a temple building.

Accessibility: Located on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, this temple can be reached either by Arun Amarin Road or by boat from Tha Tien Pier, near Wat Pho. The Tha Tien boat pier, at the southwest corner of the Grand Palace or Wat Phra Kaew, is diagonally opposite Wat Arun and boats ply at very frequent intervals. You can take Chao Phraya River Express Boat from any other pier to Tha Tien Pier.

*Schedule is subject to change without notice.

______________________________________________________________________________
For package tours to Wat Arun or Bangkok Canal Tours, contact Alex Holiday Co., Ltd.,
Tel: +66 (0) 2880 7388 to 9.
Website: www.alexholiday.com.


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