Wat Arun

A trip to Bangkok—and, indeed, Thailand—would not complete without having experienced the magnificent temples, such as the majestic Wat Arun. Situated in the Bangkok Yai district of the country’s capital, on the west bank of the Chao Phraya river, this is one of Thailand’s most iconic buildings. A giant temple that looms over this part of the city, Wat Arun was built in dedication to Aruna, the Indian God of Dawn—hence its nickname, the Temple of Dawn. Whether you’re here at the beginning of the day or the end, this is the type of unforgettable sight that makes a vacation to Thailand so worthwhile.

Wat Arun was initially commissioned and constructed during the Ayutthaya period. (More temples from that era can be seen in the old capital of Ayutthaya, which is located north of Bangkok.) It underwent various changes and adjustments following its initial completion, however, and Wat Arun Thailand only took its current form after a succession of kings, included Rama II and Rama III, made their mark on its architecture. King Rama II’s influence was particularly important, as he gave Wat Arun its splendid central prang (tower).

This prang is far and away the standout feature of Wat Arun Thailand, especially after the Emerald Buddha was moved from the temple to the Grand Palace in 1784. Measuring around 230 feet (70 meters) tall, it’s supposed to symbolize Mount Meru, the center of the universe according to Thai mythology. Steps lead all the way up one side of this prang, allowing visitors to climb up and gaze at the metropolis of Bangkok from above.

While the central prang is the obvious attraction, Wat Arun is also notable for the four smaller prangs that mark its corners. These delicately decorated spires are dedicated to Phra Phai, the Wind God. Climbing these prangs is not possible, but they make for a great photo nonetheless.

In terms of visiting Wat Arun Thailand, you may think that sunrise was the best time, given its name Temple of Dawn. In actuality, while dawn is certainly a great moment to see the temple, it’s widely considered to be at its iridescent best at dusk, when the sun's fleeting rays reflect golden and silver off the temple’s surfaces. Needless to say this is a picturesque moment through and through, and plenty of tourists travel to Wat Arun Thailand in anticipation of the event every day.

Having visited the Temple of Dawn, the Grand Palace is an obvious next port of call, as the two sites constitute just about the two most photographed places in the entirety of Bangkok. A huge golden palace, it contains the dazzling Emerald Buddha, a tiny, 17.5-inch (45-centimeter) statue of Buddha whose history reaches back 2,000 years and through countless battles, kings, and dynasties. Other attractions on a tour of Bangkok generally include the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, and for those who are willing to brave it, the Red Light District.

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