The Temple of the Dawn, or Wat Arun, is one of the more stunning temples in Bangkok. Located on the western bank of the Chao Phraya River, this iconic temple reflects the early morning light from its surface and as such was named the Temple of the Dawn and remains to this day the major attraction on the Thonburi side of the river.
In 1767 King Taksin arrived on the western bank of the Chao Phraya River after liberating Siam from the Burmese occupation, in order to establish the city of Thonburi and to name it as capital of the region. When he arrived he discovered the original Wat Arun temple standing on the bank of the river. Since that time it has undergone many changes and additions.
Construction of the tallest prang as well as four of the smaller ones was started by King Rama II and completed by King Rama III. Today the temple stands as an iconic representation of Thai culture with influences from China and India. The temple stands proudly, reflecting the light of day and is best viewed from the eastern bank of the river.
The luminous towers of Wat Arun are a dazzling sight. Covered with many thousands of pieces of Chinese porcelain in a multitude of colors, there are niches scattered along the towers contain decorative figures such as the God Indra who is seated on the Thai three-headed elephant, Erawan. Other figures such as the Moon God and Shiva can be seen elsewhere along the towers.
The Wat Arun temple complex is open daily to visitors and is a wonderful and peaceful way to take a trip through history. Begin your day with a ferry trip across the river to the temple. Then enjoy the narrow lanes, shrines, tranquil pools of turtles and elegant traditional white buildings that will give you a sense of a Thailand that existed hundreds of years ago. From the central balcony of the temple one can see Bangkok and the Grand Palace as well as the Emerald Buddha and the majestic Wat Pho Temple. The more adventurous can pay a small fee to climb the myriad stairs up the central phang for these stunning views.
Each year the Wat Arun Temple plays host to a cultural festival. This festival celebrates the Thai culture and heritage through a celebration of dance, song, art, plays and shadow puppet shows. The costumes, music and food are all traditional and this festival has become an important part of the preservation of Thai culture and is an excellent opportunity for the tourist to gain a fuller understanding of the cultural history of Thailand.
No trip to Bangkok would be complete without crossing to the river and spending some time at the Temple of the Dawn. And even if you don’t manage to visit, do stop for a few minutes near dawn or sunset to admire the way the sunlight reflects off the tall central phang lighting the way to this iconic and historic temple.