Wat Arun is one of Bangkok’s most important temples and one of its most beautiful, too. Impressive at any time of day it is particularly majestic at sunrise and sunset.
Wat Arun illuminated at dusk, Bangkok © firstname.lastname@example.org
Alongside the Grand Palace and Wat Po, Wat Arun is in the pantheon of Bangkok’s most iconic sights. Originally founded in the 17th century, Wat Arun’s distinctive prang (central spire) was added in the 19th century during the reigns of Rama II and Rama III.
Wat Arun and Royal Portraits, Bangkok © email@example.com
Today, Wat Arun continues to dominate Bangkok’s Chao Phraya river, sitting directly across the water from Wat Po and the Grand Palace. Surrounded by a beautifully maintained park, the temple was re-opened in 2017 after five years of restoration on the 82 metre high central prang and the delicate tiles and porcelain fragments that cover every inch of the prang and its surrounding smaller spires. Much of this porcelain came from trading boats travelling from China to Bangkok and had been used as ballast.
Porcelain fragments detail, Wat Arun, Bangkok © firstname.lastname@example.org
Wat Arun, Bangkok © email@example.com
The temple’s full name is Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan, the Temple of the Dawn. The temple derives its name from the Hindu god Aruṇa, often personified as the radiations of the rising sun.
Indra and Erawan, Wat Arun, Bangkok © firstname.lastname@example.org
If you pay a visit to Wat Arun and get up close to the temple’s spires, you’ll see intricate details from Hindu cosmology. The central prang itself symbolises Mount Meru, while the demons at the gateway are yaksha. On the second terrace of the central prang is a statue of the Vedic god Indra riding the three-headed elephant Erawan (Airavata).
Yaksha, Wat Arun, Bangkok © email@example.com
Mount Meru constantly recurs in Thai and Khmer temples because it is considered the centre of all the physical, metaphysical and spiritual universes. Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the world’s largest religious monument, is also modelled as a representation of Mount Meru.
Central Prang, Wat Arun, Bangkok © firstname.lastname@example.org
The Wikipedia entry on Wat Arun explains “In Buddhist iconography, the central prang is considered to have three symbolic levels — the base level for Traiphum indicating all realms of existence, the middle level for Tavatimsa, the Tusita Heaven where all desires are gratified, and the top level denoting Devaphum, indicating six heavens within seven realms of happiness.”
Wat Arun garden, Bangkok © email@example.com
Coffee shop by Wat Arun, Bangkok © firstname.lastname@example.org
Having a good tour guide can greatly enhance your understanding and enjoyment of the significance of the temple’s structure and iconography. But, it’s also just a serene and beautiful place to visit and contemplate on your own, and the surrounding gardens which house the Buddhist sanctuaries are also great spots to sit and people watch.
Purple sky sunset, Wat Arun, Bangkok © email@example.com
Don’t Miss Wat Arun At Sunset
Perhaps the ideal way to visit Wat Arun is to come in the late afternoon from 3pm onwards and then by 5pm head across the river and locate one of the bars and restaurants that have unobstructed views of Wat Arun. There you can watch the sun go down and the the temple’s floodlights illuminate the prangs – if your luck is in, the colours of the sunset from blood red to royal purple can be a jawdropping sight. Even if the sunset doesn’t deliver, Wat Arun itself still looks magical and being on the Chao Phraya at dusk is also a great time to experience Bangkok’s riverside district. (See Travelhappy’s guides to the royal island of Rattanakosin surrounding the Grand Palace and Wat Po and the Bangkok Riverside area).
Places for the best views of Wat Arun at sunset include:
- The Deck restaurant at Arun Residence, especially the bar on the top floor.
- Sala Rattanakosin – boutique hotel with a big window restaurant and large rooftop bar.
- Eagle’s Nest at Sala Arun – another hotel rooftop bar, almost next door to Sala Rattakosin
- Rongros – restaurant at river level with big windows
You can go to any of these places just for a drink, you don’t need to book dinner. Unsurprisingly, it can get busy at the rooftop bars so it’s wise to get there by around 5 for a decent chance of claiming a good spot to watch the sun go down – particularly important if you’re keen on taking photos.
Central prang and satellite prang, Wat Arun, Bangkok © firstname.lastname@example.org
Getting To Wat Arun
Getting to Wat Arun is relatively straightofrward – if you’re already in Rattanakosin, you can take the ferry across from Tha Tien pier. It’s a short but fun trip and being on the Chao Phraya always gives a great perspective on the city.
Alternatively, if you’re travelling there from central Bangkok, you can catch the MRT to Itsaraphap station and walk back to Wat Arun, or you can get off at MRT Sanam Chai, then walk to Tha Tien pier and get the boat across. You can also get a taxi. See our detailed BTS and MRT map for more information.
The entry fee for Wat Arun is 100 Thai Baht.
Rama II statue at dusk, Wat Arun, Bangkok © email@example.com