Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Temple of Dawn

I have come to the conclusion that one cannot have a favourite Temple in Thailand. There are just so many astounding Temples of different styles in so many different places in the country that it is simply impossible to choose a favourite. In Bangkok alone there are a magnitude of impressive temples.

One Temple I have visited numerous times is Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn, the impressive Temple on the west bank (Thonburi side) of the Chao Phraya river. From Saphan Taksin BTS station take the pleasant riverboat to Tha Thien pier. Tha Thien pier and surroundings is a great experience in its own right....but that can wait for another post...this is about Wat Arun! Once off the river boat you turn right, walk a couple of meters and you will see the turnstile entrance for the ferry across the river to Wat Arun. The crossing as at February 2011 cost 3 baht per person and the trip is 2 minutes or so, including docking time, which seems to require a bit of skill if the river is choppy.

Turn left off the ferry and you will come first to the Ordination Hall with its two giant guardians (Yaksha) standing out front. The main temple complex is off to the left of that, hard to miss really, just look up and you'll figure it out. The striking architectural feature of the complex is the massive Khmer style Prang (tower) which stands at about 76 meters high. It is surrounded by four smaller Prangs. You can climb up steep stairs to two different levels on the main Prang. It is easy going up but, if you suffer vertigo, coming down is a whole different matter.  Those steps are really, really steep. There is a handrail - make use of it. The views from up above (though you cannot go anywhere near the top) are spectacular so it is worthwhile making the trip up and suffering gut-wrenching, bowel-loosening, naked, raw, primeval fear on the way down. That gut-wrenching fear will soon be forgotten and the views and satisfaction of having 'conquered' the heights of Wat Arun will make it all worthwhile. (Otherwise just do as I do and descend sitting down on your ass one step at a time like the giggling Japanese university students do - I did the giggling bit too, but the visual effects were not so aesthetically pleasing!)

The detail on the Prangs is magnificent.  Each are covered in bits of brightly colored porcelain and seashells. These little chaps help to hold the whole structure up.  Without their tireless efforts day in, day out, the whole thing would have come crashing down by now:
Apart from the main Prang and the four satellite Prangs there are other buildings in the complex worth seeing. Monks also live on the premises and there appears to be some sort of military base or military living quarters in the vicinity as men in uniforms were much in evidence criss-crossing the area between the Wat and the river.  There are also opportunities for visiting females (or males if you are so inclined!) to dress up in traditional Thai dress, complete with elaborate headgear and those long fingernails, and pose for photographs in front of the temple, all for the reasonable price of 100 baht. (Dog in background does not cost extra but he may want a tip).

It is called Temple of Dawn, but I confess I have never been there at dawn.  I have only been there late afternoon, towards sunset, which is, so everyone says, the time to go. For sure, that is a beautiful time to go as the sun sets behind that magnificent Khmer style masterpiece of architecture, and the view from the opposite bank of the river is awesome, but I owe it to myself to one day rise early and really see the Temple of Dawn at Dawn!

Thai Connoisseur


  1. Peter you've written a very impressive review of the Temple of Dawn but even if I was in Baangkok my fear of water (and Asian safety standards) would stop me taking even a three minute ferry ride. If I did make the heights of the Prang my route down would be the same as yours. I must say the dressing up in traditional Thai headgear, gown etc. is a neat novel idea.

    Good post.

  2. Martyn, thanks for the kind words. I love nothing better than travelling up the Chao Phraya river on a boat to see the various sights and consider this one of the most pleasant travel options in Bangkok. However, I understand it is not for everyone. Last trip I learnt my teerak gets a bit dizzy traveling on the river boat. She did enjoy Wat Arun though and that made it worthwhile for her. But, if you want to avoid the water, take the newly extended skytrain to Wongwian Yai, which is on the left hand side of the Chao Phraya (same as Wat Arun) and take a taxi from there. Go for it, climb that Prang! Sure, you may look an ass climbing down on your ass, but the views from the top are worth it. For 100 baht the Thai costume gimmick is worth it if your significant other can be persuaded to partake. It is in the public eye and other people will be taking photos too (free of charge) even though you are the one who has paid for it.

  3. Wonderful photos! And, I agree, that it's impossible to choose a favourite temple. Each seems to have it's own magic and uniqueness. BUT :) if I had to pick just one up here in CM, it would be Wat Lok Molee. Not sure why, it's probably lacking in colour compared to most, but it's lacy trimmings are very appealing.

    Snap...had trouble signing in as me!

  4. Thanks Snap! I have been to Wat Lok Molee before and it does have its charms for sure. If you love temples CM is a great place to live!

  5. Hi Peter, is there anyway I can email you? I can't find a contact form here on the site.
    Thank you in advance!

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. Hi Peter, it's been a while since I've visited your blog, but I'm glad you're still finidng plenty to write about. I haven't been to the Temple of the Dawn yet, though I have it on my list of things to do one day. Great photos!

  8. Hi Ray, thanks for the nice comment. Hope you get to visit Temple of the Dawn soon, it is well worth it. Cheers!


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