End of the Month Roundup - September 2013

I enjoyed blogging about Wat Arun or the Temple of Dawn. I enjoyed it so much that I took almost a month posting about it.

Wat Arun is the first popular Bangkok tourist spot that I visited. I learned much about the culture of the Thai people when I made my posts about it. One thing that I learned is that Thai Buddhists (or Buddhists in general) incorporates deities and beliefs of other religion to their belief. This is why I saw Chinese and Hindu deities during our adventures to Wat Arun.

The first “Ber” month is over but I noticed that the forced Christmassy spirit was toned down this year. Maybe the reason is that Filipinos realized that it is a bad idea to have a very long Christmas Season. Or maybe the people are very angry or worried about many things like the Pork Barrel Scam that still rages on, the war in Zamboanga, or the calamities in Olongapo City because of the rains and landslides.

Images of Francisco Tatad and Edwin Lacierda
Tatad vs Lacierda

Speaking of Pork Barrel Scam, I posted on Tome of a Layman the press statement of former Senator Francisco Tatad regarding the challenge of presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda. I think that the Pnoy and his minions are having a hard time in explaining the irregularities that they committed when they met up with pork barrel scam “mastermind” Janet Lim Napoles in MalaƱang Palace.

I also posted my reflection for this Sunday's Gospel reading, which is about the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. I said in that post that those who don't believe in the teachings of Moses and the Prophets will not believe in Jesus Christ.

The entrance exam for the Polytechnic University of the Philippines or PUPCET is finally open. I posted about it on my blog to help those who will be taking PUPCET. I also have other posts about PUPCET on Ahab Reviews and Tips that will be of great help to examinees like “Tips for PUPCET” and “Qualifications and Requirements for PUPCET”.

Facebook Page of Ishmael Ahab

Oh, by the way, I now have a Facebook page! Please go to my page and “like” it. You can send me message or interact with me through that page. I really really urge you to like my Facebook page. Yes, really like my page now. ;-)

Aside from talking about travel, I also posted about the yummy breakfast that Foong (my travel companion to Wat Arun) and I partook. We ate some roasted duck from Prachak and the very yummy durian with sticky rice dessert.

I took so many photos during our visit to Wat Arun. I have some favorites, of course, so let me share some of it.

Chinese lions at Wat Arun
"Angry Lions"

These lions reminds me of the ones I saw in San Agustin Church.

White guard of Wat Arun
"Standing Ground"

Ceiling of the ubosot of Wat Arun
"Red Sky, Golden Stars"

Demons lifting the prang of Wat Arun
"Demon Pillars"

Climbing up Wat Arun
"Up to Mount Meru"

Demon statue design on Wat Arun
"I am Atlas"

My posts about our trip to Wat Arun is finished but it doesn't mean that my adventures with Foong is over. Next month, I'll be talking about our trip to Bangkok Chinatown. So please stay tuned.

Before this month ends, I want to say “thank you” to the regular commenters of this blog for the month of September.

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.



*”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:

Adventures at Wat Arun: The Ubosot

I previously posted about the courtyard of the most important place in Wat Arun and my confusion with the presence of the Chinese, or more accurately the Taoist, elements at that place. I couldn't imagine that elements of other religion will be accepted almost wholly by the Thai Buddhists. What confounded me the most is that these elements are present in the most important of all the Buddhist places.

For tourists, the most important structure would be the high tower of Wat Arun. However, for the Thais, what's really important is Wat Arun's ubosot, which was loosely translated as the ordination hall. This is the place where the major and most important Buddhist ceremonies are conducted. Aside from that, this is the place where Wat Arun's major statue of Buddha was placed.

Statue of Buddha at Wat Arun ubosot

Due to its importance, it is not surprising that Wat Arun's ubosot is well decorated. It's entrance is “guarded” by two demons from Hindu myth and Chinese lions. It has an outer courtyard that serves as buffer zone from the outside world. It's inner courtyard lined up with statues of Buddha and Chinese deities.

Chinese and Buddhist statues at Wat Arun ubosot

Since the ubosot is the most important place for Buddhists, people are asked to remove their shoes before entering. My travel companion, Foong, and I had to walk with our socks as we look around the ubosot.

I recall that some Thai Catholics that I met at the Rangsit Catholic Church removed their shoes before entering the church. I believe that such habit was carried over from the custom of removing footwear when entering a Buddhist temple.
Hallway of Wat Arun ubosot

Wat Arun's ubosot is white and with the gold and red combination that is usually found in Thai arts and architecture. The foot and head of its columns are gilded with “gold”.

The ceiling is afire with red and gold. It eerily reminded me of the ceiling of the Holy Redeemer Church that is being managed by the Redemptorists.

Ceiling of Wat Arun ubosot
Can you see the lotus flowers?

Inside the ubosot is the big golden statue of Buddha.
Interior of Wat Arun ubosot

We saw Buddhist monks in front of this golden statue chanting or praying. Good thing that photography is allowed inside this ubosot.

The walls of the ubosot is painted from top to bottom. I am not sure what the painted scenes are all about. What I understood that some of it tell the story of war like this one:
Painting in Wat Arun ubosot

Visiting the ubosot is not essential for our Wat Arun trip but it gave me a little idea on how the Thai Buddhists think, well at least from the religious perspective.


Want to read more about my trip to Wat Arun? Please visit the following blog posts:

Adventures at Wat Arun: A Dash of Chinese

Most of the foreigners going to Wat Arun has one goal and that is climbing the steep steps of the towering temple. But there more to Wat Arun than its tower and that is what I discovered during our visit to this place last January.

White demon of Wat Arun
White giant of Wat Arun.

We passed between the giant demon guards of Wat Arun and entered a silent sanctuary.

Outer courtyard of the Wat Arun ubosot

It is silent during that moment because there is no person other than me and my travel companion and Malaysian-blogger-friend Foong PC. The noise of tourism went back immediately.

Tourists of Wat Arun

I immediately noticed the presence of non-Buddhist elements in this place. Present in this place are statues that are definitely of Chinese origin. The totem pole has dragons and the two statues near the door look like terracota statues.

The place that we entered is the outer courtyard of Wat Arun's ubosot or the ordination hall, the most important place in a Buddhist temple complex. It is the place where the Buddhist ceremonies take place.

I think that this outer courtyard was placed to separate the ubosot from the outside world.

Statues of Buddha at Wat Arun

Statues of Buddha line up the wall of the ubosot's inner courtyard. Eric Lim, the owner of Tour Bangkok Legacies website, said that these statues were made during the reign of King Rama II. This means that these statues are at least 189 years old.

The Buddha statues may be interesting but what caught my attention are the row of Chinese statues. I think it weird to see statues of Chinese deities in a Buddhist temple.

Elephant statue at Wat Arun

I have an inkling that the Chinese deities were placed to become the outer guards of the ubosot. They were placed at the place where there is no roof unlike the Buddha statues sitting at the side.

Inner courtyard of the Wat Arun ubosot

I bet the Chinese deities are angry with this. Imagine, they were revered for so many centuries as gods in China and yet in Thailand they are just guards.

Towers at Wat Arun ubosot

Small towers are located at the corners of inner courtyard. These towers also contains the Chinese deities. Two of them is a lady holding a gift and an old man holding a pole sword.

Statue of Chinese dieties at Wat Arun

I am surprised with the liberality of the Thai Buddhists in mixing elements of other cultures or religions to their Buddhist faith. Even their kings bear the name of Rama, who is the hero of the Hindu legend Ramayana.

I think that placing non-Buddhist elements to their temples is not a big deal to the Thais as long as gods of other religion will not replace their Buddha. But I think that Chinese deities still disagree.

Chinese statues at Wat Arun

Adventures at Wat Arun: Meeting Demons and a King

Seeing Wat Arun from the Chao Phraya River express boat brought excitement to my heart. I can finally climb up its tower and say to my friends that I visited a prime tourist spot in Bangkok.

I only expected to see Wat Arun, climb its steep steps, and then leave. I didn't know that I had to pass between two giants, look the Chinese lions at the eyes, or even see a king standing under the sun.

Our adventure began the moment we passed through the gates of Wat Arun. Giants greeted me from afar.

Grounds of Wat Arun

I had no idea who these giants are during that time. With my little knowledge of the Thai culture, I know that these are demons posted to guard a Buddhist temple. The building behind the giants is not Wat Arun nor even a temple. It is just a hallway to the Ubosot of Wat Arun. The ubosot is the most important building in a Buddhist temple complex.*

Demon guards at Wat Arun

The hallway to the ubosot is not an important structure yet the builders of Wat Arun also made it beautiful. Its roof is adorned with inticate design of lotus flowers.

Intricate facade at Wat Arun

The two giants guarding the Wat Arun have an interesting story. They are the villain of the epic Ramakien, which is the Thai version of the Hindu myth of Ramayana. The green giant is called Indrajit and the white one is called Sahatsadecha.

Statues of Indrajit and Sahatsadecha at Wat Arun
Indrajit and Sahatsadecha

I find it weird that the demons of the Hindu myth are guarding the entrance to the most important Buddhist place. Is it their punishment? Or does Indrajit and Sahatsadecha went over to Buddhism since they were the villains in Hinduism?

Thai culture is a great hotpot. The mixture is very evident at Wat Arun. The two giant statues came from Hinduism. Wat Arun was built to honor Buddha. Then I also saw some elements from the Chinese culture like the Chinese lanterns and the Chinese lions.

Chinese Lanterns at Wat Arun

The Chinese elements are very familiar since the the Chinese culture are well ingrained in the Filipino culture. Our ancestors had traded with the Chinese for hundreds of years. The Binondo Chinatown in Manila is the oldest Chinatown in the world! Even some elements of the Chinese culture can be seen at our churches like the Chinese lions in front of San Agustin Church.

Chinese lions at Wat Arun
The pose of these Chinese lions are very similar as those in front of San Agustin.

One of the peculiar character of the Thai is their reverence of the royalty, including those who are long gone. In the many places that I've been in Thailand, I saw the statues of their kings and local heroes bedecked with garlands and burning incense. An example would be the statue of King Rama VI at the entrance to Lumphini Park.

A well-adorned king, or rather statue of a king, can also be found at Wat Arun. It is the statue of King Rama II. The king restored Wat Arun so it is fitting that his monument was placed here.*

Monument of King Rama II at Wat Arun

There are many things that can be done at Wat Arun. There are souvenir shops, food shops and other shops. But the most most interesting shop is the one where you can rent a set of Thai national costume and have your photo taken.

Thai costume for rent at Wat Arun

Foong and I were not silly enough to try wearing those things. But I bet girls will look like a Thai princess if they wear those and have Wat Arun as the background of their photos. :-)

The grounds of Wat Arun was interesting enough but the real deal is waiting for us. We will be visiting the main attraction soon, that if we defeated the two demon guards and their lion pets.

A minor prang of Wat Arun

Aboard Chao Phraya River Express

After filling ourselves with roasted duck and sticky rice with durian, Foong and I started our adventure around Bangkok. Our first destination is Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn.

There are many ways to reach Wat Arun from Charoen Krung Road but the fastest way is by riding a Chao Phraya River express boat at Sathorn Pier. The express boats transport passengers to interesting places along Chao Phraya River.

Krung Thonburi Road crossing the Chao Phraya River
Somdedprajaotaksinmahalad Bridge or Krung Thonburi Bridge

I was always amazed with the bigness of the Chao Phraya River. I never saw a river this big. Even Pasig River, the biggest river that I encountered in the Philippines, is narrow compared to this river. There was a time that I mistook it for a bay during our journey to Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary.

Chao Phraya River is Thailand's major artery. It is important, especially during the pre-modern period, because it connected the major settlements in Thailand. Two capitals of the Kingdom of Thailand, namely Ayutthaya and Bangkok, were established beside this river.

Now, Chao Phraya River became one of the tourism assets of Thailand. Many foreigners go to Bangkok to experience the Chao Phraya River cruise or go to the tourist spots erected along this river.

Sathorn Pier along Chao Phraya River
Sathorn Pier

Riding the Chao Phraya River express boat is confusing for a first timer like me. Good thing that I was with Foong the veteran tourist of Bangkok, who explained to me how to ride the Chao Phraya River express boat.

The first thing that you should know when riding a boat at Sathorn Pier is the different kinds of boats plying the Chao Phraya River. The Chao Phraya River express boats carry color-coded flags that can be used by tourists as guides. Green, yellow, orange and blue are the colors of the flag that a boat may carry.

Foong said that the boat bearing the orange flag has the cheapest fare so waited for it.

Tourists lining up for boats at Sathorn Pier, Chao Phraya River

The line is long at the Sathorn Pier. Both foreigners and Thai had to wait for the Chao Phraya River express boat to come. We waited a little longer because the orange flag express boat took a long time to come. Foreigners already rode the yellow and blue flag express boats but we were still waiting.

It seems that the orange flag express boat is in demand because it is very crowded. The express boat that we rode is full to the brim with people, which reminds me of the MRT train or the crowded ordinary bus that I usually ride in Metro Manila.

Chao Phraya River express boat - orange flag

Our long wait at Sathorn Pier and the being crushed inside the boat paid off because we just paid the lowest fare possible when travelling on the Chao Phraya River. We just paid 15 Thai Baht each for our trip to the Tha Thien Pier, which is the pier nearest to Wat Arun.

Travelling in this crowded boat is not a big deal to me because I'm a veteran when it comes to riding crowded public transport. This is a perk of being a commuter in the Philippines. :-)

I'm fortunate that I stood at the side of the boat. I got a good view of the Chao Phraya River. And, of course, I took some photos. One building that caught my attention during our trip down Chao Phraya River is a church.

Santa Cruz Church located along Chao Phraya River
Santa Cruz Church, Bangkok

I was surprised to see another Catholic church. I didn't visit this church. Google Maps showed that this church is the Santa Cruz Catholic Church. I guess that it is an old church based only on its architectural style. You can read more about Santa Cruz Church in the Tour Bangkok Legacies website.

Of course, Buddhist temples are everywhere. We even passed by a set of buildings, which I think is part of the complex of Buddhist temple.

Thai structures along Chao Phraya River

Boats are plenty on Chao Phraya River. There are boats owned by hotels, there are government vessels and of course the Chao Phraya River express boats. But the most common vessel on Chao Phraya River are the small boats that usually have garlands hanging at the bow.

Small boat on Chao Phraya River

In less than 30 minutes, I finally saw our destination: the Temple of Dawn.

View of Wat Arun from Chao Phraya River

I got excited the moment I saw the towering structure of Wat Arun. It will be my first time to visit a major tourist destination in Bangkok.

View of Wat Arun on Chao Phraya River
Wat Arun

Before we reached Wat Arun, we had to go down to Tha Tien Pier and transfer to a boat that will ferry us across Chao Phraya River to the pier of Wat Arun. We had to pay around 5 Thai Baht (I can’t remember exactly) to make this cross.

Crossing Chao Phraya River
Crossing Chao Phraya River.

And thus end my morning adventure Chao Phraya River.

It was a pleasant trip and everything was new to me. I actually envy Thailand for keeping Chao Phraya River alive. Yes, Chao Phraya River is dirty and polluted with trash but it is not as polluted as the Pasig River. Chao Phraya River is not as neglected as our Pasig River.

I believe that Pasig River can be like Chao Phraya River if we at least stop ignoring it. We should treat Pasig River as an artery of economic life of Metro Manila and not just a place to dump our waste. We can make Pasig River a waterway for boats just like in Jose Rizal's time.

How I wish to see the day when Pasig River is truly rehabilitated.


For more info on traveling on Chao Phraya River, please visit the Chao Phraya River express boat website.