Wat Arun, locally known as Wat Chaeng, is a landmark temple on the west (Thonburi) bank of the Chao Phraya river. It’s easily one of the most stunning temples in Bangkok, not only because of its riverside location but also because the design is very different from the other temples you can visit in Bangkok. Wat Arun (nicknamed the Temple of the Dawn) is partly made up of colourfully decorated spires and stands majestically over the water.
Wat Arun is almost directly opposite Wat Pho, so it’s very easy to get to. From Saphan Taksin boat pier you can take a riverboat that stops at Pier 8. From here, a small shuttle boat takes you from one side of the river to the other.
Visiting Wat Arun
We would recommend spending at least an hour visiting the temple. Although it’s known as the Temple of the Dawn, it’s absolutely stunning at sunset, particularly when lit up at night. Even so, the quietest time to visit is early morning, before the crowds.
Given the beauty of the architecture and the fine craftsmanship, it’s not surprising that Wat Arun is considered by many as one of the most beautiful temples in Thailand. The prang (spire) by the Chao Phraya is one of Bangkok’s world-famous landmarks. The imposing spire rises over 70 metres high, beautifully decorated with tiny pieces of coloured glass and Chinese porcelain placed delicately into intricate patterns.
You can climb the central prang if you wish – the steps are very steep but there’s a railing to help with your balance. Getting up is as tricky as getting down! When you reach the highest point you can see the winding Chao Phraya River and the Grand Palace and Wat Pho opposite. Along the base of this central tower are sculptures of Chinese soldiers and animals.
Head into the ordination hall and you can admire a golden Buddha image and the detailed murals that decorate the walls. Although Wat Arun is very popular for tourists, it’s also an important place of worship for Buddhists. Make sure you dress appropriately or pick up one of the cover-ups that are available for rent near the entrance.
History of Wat Arun
Wat Arun was envisioned by King Taksin in 1768. It’s believed that after fighting his way out of Ayutthaya, which was taken over by a Burmese army at the time, he arrived at this temple just as dawn was breaking. He later had the temple renovated and renamed it Wat Chaeng, the Temple of the Dawn. It used to be the home of the Emerald Buddha before the capital and Palace was moved to the other side of the river. This can now be seen at the Grand Palace.
The central prang was extended during the reign of Rama III (between 1824 and 1851) and is now one of the most visited sites in Thailand. It was also Rama III who added the decoration of the spires with porcelain so that they glimmer in the sunshine.
Opening Hours: Daily from 8am to 5.30pm
Location: 158 Wang Doem Road, Wat Arun, Bangkok Yai, Bangkok 10600, Thailand
Tel: +66 (0)2 891 2185