Adventures at Wat Arun: Hanging on for Dear Life

After visiting the ubosot, Foong and I went to the main goal of our trip which is the prang of Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan or Temple of Dawn in simple English.

View of Wat Arun from Chao Phraya River

People mistake Wat Arun as the tall prang. Actually, Wat Arun is the ubosot and this is the beauty that King Taksin saw in the light of dawn as he fled from the Burmese invaders.

It is way beyond dawn when we reached Wat Arun aboard the Chao Phraya River express boat so we didn’t see what King Taksin saw 246 years ago. But the prang is still a view to behold even when the sun was already far above the horizon.

Entrance to Wat Arun
Entrance to Wat Arun.

I was excited to go near Wat Arun since it was my first time to visit a Buddhist pagoda (also known as prang). My plan was to climb its tallest tower, if possible.

Unlike the ubosot where anyone can enter without paying any fee, the entrance fee to Wat Arun is 50 Thai Baht. I believe that the fee is cheap due to the fact that Wat Arun is one of the royal temples.

Wat Arun - worshiping Thai kings?

A tarp at the entrance to Wat Arun caught my attention. It said “Worshiping the 9 Great Kings”. It made me wonder if the Thais really worship their kings. Or maybe the translation was wrong.

I again saw Chinese deities standing guard like this elegantly dressed warrior:

A statue of a Chinese deity at Wat Arun

Wat Arun is composed of the main prang, standing tall at the center, and four smaller prangs located at the corners.

One of the satellite prangs of Wat Arun

Wat Arun is filled with Thai art. The five prangs are embellished with creatures from Thai, Buddhist and Hindu myths. Seashells and porcelain, used as ballast by boats coming from China, were embedded on the sides of the prangs thus making it glow in the sun.*

The main tower is a Khmer-style prang.* It is said to represent Mount Meru, which is the center of the Buddhist cosmos.**

Demon statues "lifting" the full weight of Wat Arun
Demons lifting "Mount Meru".

Demons and other creatures were made to lift the tower. Well, I find that weird. If they are really demons then they should make the tower fall. Maybe they cannot do that because somebody is standing guard.

The view looking up at the base of the main prang is very good. I bet that it will look better during sunset, when the sky is burning red.

The major prang of Wat Arun

Climbing up the main prang of Wat Arun is not a joke. My heart beat wildly during my ascent. I gripped the railings hard. It is in that moment that my mind shouted that “I must not fall because I don’t want to die in Bangkok”. Foong and I were fortunate that no accident happened during our climb.

A tourist climbing up the steep steps of Wat Arun
Climbing up Wat Arun.

The walkway at the end of the steps is narrow that we had to give way when we meet another tourist.

Second level of Wat Arun

The steps that we climbed only took us to the second level of the prang. The steps to the upper levels were blocked so I had no choice but to look up the top of Wat Arun’s prang.

Another demon statue at Wat Arun prang
"Pasan ko ang mundo."

I thought that I will be able to reach the higher levels of Wat Arun. Oh well, for a tourist like me, this climb is already enough.

Statue of Indra at Wat Arun

Located up the main prang is not the statue of Buddha but the statue of the Hindu god Indra sitting on a three headed elephant. He is placed on the prang because it was said that he protected Buddha. Another legend, documented in the very long name of Bangkok, says that Indra gave Bangkok to the Thais.***

View of the temple ground from Wat Arun prang

The view from Wat Arun is perfect. I had a good view of the grounds of Wat Arun and the Chao Phraya River. I saw the Tha Tien Pier and other temples on the other side of the river.

View of the Chao Phraya River from Wat Arun prang

The minor prang near the river looks elegant:

Minor Prang of Wat Arun

If going up is already difficult then going down the steps of Wat Arun is worse. It is not advisable to go down the usual way because you might fall headlong to the ground below. The best way, which is what we did, is to go down like the way we went up. We faced the steps, held on the railings and went down slowly.

Looking down from Wat Arun prang

I took my time going down Wat Arun. I didn’t my body to get smashed on the heavy concrete below. Thank God that we reached the ground safely.

Our visit to Wat Arun is one of my best trip in Bangkok. I agree with many travel bloggers and other tourists who say that Wat Arun is an excellent tourist spot in Thailand. For an entrance fee of 50 Baht you'll be able to see a royal temple. Its pagoda cannot be matched by any pagoda located in other parts of Thailand, even those located in Ayutthaya and Sukothai.

So, if you're going to Bangkok, I highly recommend Wat Arun.

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References:

*”Wat Arun” in Wikipedia.
**”Wat Arun – the Temple of Dawn” in Wat Arun.net.
***”Bangkok” in Wikipedia.

Read my other posts about our adventure to Wat Arun. Please visit the following:

6 comments:

  1. I had to commend you for your excellent narration as if I am touring with you and you were my guide. Thanks for the brief history, glad to know a little bit more of Thailand.

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  2. We had a great time climbing Wat Arun, didn't we? Still remember that Caucasian lady above me on the steps shouting "Can you please move away?" or something like that cos she wanted her photo taken without me below her? LOL!

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  3. I think those Demons are a bit different from the Christian's demons. LOL! They are lower realm beings and they respect those above them like the deities.

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  4. Very nice. Those stairs are really narrow a. Kakatakot. But the view from top.. very nice. =)

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  5. ...Demons and other creatures were made to lift the tower. Well, I find that weird. If they are really demons then they should make the tower fall. Maybe they cannot do that because somebody is standing guard... >>> Actually what you called demons is what Thai called "Yaak" mean giant. But let called the demon since it has broader meaning.

    In Hindu-Buddhist myth demons are not always bad, even angel are not always good. Demon or angel are just what species of deity they were born to, not what they will do or have to do. Some angel might do bad things and some demon might do good deed. Take the Ramakian you interested, one of the Rama side soldier (actually he's kind of Chief of Staff, not the field soldier) is a demon named Pipek.

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    1. I am coming from a Christian perspective so I had a hard time understanding about the demons and angels in Thai culture. Thank you very much for explaining. Very much appreciated it.

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