Temple of the Dawn, or Wat Arun, is across from Bangkok in the sister city of Thonburi. It is most easily reached by water-taxi from any of the piers along the river. The closest pier is at Tha Tien, just on the opposite bank, where boats leave frequently in the morning. It has recently undergone major renovations.
Wat Arun Construction of the tall prang and four smaller ones was started by King Rama II 1809-1824 and completed by King Rama III (1824-1851). The towers are supported by rows of demos and monkeys. Very steep and narrow steps lead to a balcony high on the central tower. The circumference of the base of the structure is 234 meters, and the central prang is 250 foot high.
Wat Arun or the Temple of Dawn, is named after Aruna, the Indian God of Dawn. Sitting majestically on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya River, the legendary Wat Arun is one of the most striking riverside landmarks of Thailand. Despite the name, the most spectacular view of the glittering monument can be seen from the east side of the river at sunset, when the spires of Wat Arun make an impressive silhouette against the skyline.
This Wat or Buddhist temple is an architectural representation of Mount Meru, the center of the world in Buddhist cosmology. In the mythology of Tibetan Buddhism, Mount Meru is a place that simultaneously represents the center of the universe and the single-pointedness of mind sought by adepts. Thousands of miles in height, Meru is located somewhere beyond the physical plane of reality, in a realm of perfection and transcendence. The four-corner prang of Wat Arun, which house images of the guardian gods of the four directions, reinforces this mystical symbolism.
An older temple, Wat Chaeng, was on this site when King Taksin established his capital at Thonburi, and he used it as the royal temple. In the early years of the 19th century, King Rama II enlarged the temple and raise the central tower from 15 to its present 79 metres, making it one of the tallest religious structures in the country. Because of the soft earth, this engineering feat took years and was completed during the reign of his successor.
The great rounded spire is covered with pieces of multicoloured Chinese porcelain embedded in cement. After the builders ran out of porcelain, Rama III called upon his subjects to contribute any broken crockery they could find to complete the decoration; he was rewarded with thousands of pieces. Visitors can climb halfway up the tower and get a fine view of the temple compound and the river.