Wat Arun is the probably the most beautiful and atmospheric temple in Bangkok. It is certainly our favourite. It isn’t big, but it is beautiful and the location on the banks of the Chao Phraya River adds to the romance.
To get to the temple you should take to the river. Pick up the Chao Phraya Express Boat either in Khao San at the Phra Ahtit pier or from the Saphan Taksin Skytrain station and transfer to the nearby pier. Alight from the express boat at Tha Tien pier and then take another ferry across the river to the Thonburi side. This ferry goes every 10 to 15 minutes, it cost only 2 baht a trip (0.06 USD) and takes less than 5 minutes. The temple is open every day from 8.30am to 5.30pm.
The main feature of this temple is the central prang which is a Khmer style tower, and the four smaller the prang grouped around it. The central prang is approximately 80 meters tall and is striking against the river, particularly so at the dawn. Wat Arun in fact means the Temple of the Dawn – Aruna being the Indian god of the dawn.
The Prang are ornately decorated by pieces of porcelain. The construction took place between 1810 and 1850 and the porcelain is reputed to have come from the Chinese trading ships visiting Bangkok. These ships used broken porcelain as ballast which was dumped on the river bank before the ships made the return journey to China with goods and raw materials from Thailand. If this is true, it makes the temple a very early example of recycling in architecture and is testament to the skill of the craftsman who managed to create perfectly matched recurring designs throughout the temple complex using what was in essence, rubbish.
If you want to enjoy the romance of the temple at dawn you should try booking a room at the superb Sala Arun hotel on the opposite bank. There is an uninterrupted view of the temple from several of the guest rooms and the river side dining terrace and cafe.