Wat Arun: A Guide to the Temple of Dawn

Wat Arun; Phra Ubosot; Side profiles golden Buddha image lining a long hallway
Temple Rating:8.5

Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn, is a stunning architectural gem situated along the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok. As one of Thailand’s most iconic landmarks, it’s a must-visit destination for travelers seeking cultural  immersion.

Architecture: 9.5
Aesthetics: 8.0
Culture: 8.5
X Factor: 8.0
Value: 8.5

In Thai: วัดอรุณราชวราราม ราชวรมหาวิหาร

Full Name: Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan

Address: 158 Thanon Wang Doem, Khwaeng Wat Arun, Khet Bangkok Yai

Opening Hours: 8.00 – 18.00 daily

Admission Fee: 100 baht for foreigners

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Length of Trip: 1 – 2 hours.

Trip Type: cultural / historical.

Age Restrictions: none. 

Dress Code: modest and conservative. 

Religious Affiliation:

Classification:

  • First-class Royal.

Table Of Contents

Wat Arun Guide

The Temple's Central Prang

The central prang of Wat Arun which represents the mythical Mount Meru in Traiphum cosmology. stands at an imposing height of over 70 meters (230 feet). Its construction commenced during the early 19th century, during the reign of King Rama II, and was completed in the subsequent reign of King Rama III. 

What truly makes the central prang truly unique, are the countless pieces of colorful Chinese porcelain and seashells embedded into its surface, forming intricate patterns and motifs. These ceramics, originally used as ballast on Chinese ships, were recycled into the prang’s design. 

Further more, the prang is embellished with a multitude of divine figures from Hindu and Buddhist mythology. These include depictions of gods like Indra, the king of the heavens, and Vishnu, the preserver of the universe, as well as celestial dancers known as Apsaras. 

Additionally, you can find intricate sculptures of Kinnaras, half-bird, half-human creatures, and Garudas, mythical bird-like beings. 

Wat Arun Guide

The Temple's Phra Ubosot

Wat Arun’s ubosot, or ordination hall, features a distinctive design characterized by a multi-tiered, sloping roof adorned with intricately carved wooden gables, that are painted in vivid colors and adorned with ornamental glasswork.

The interior of the ubosot houses an important Buddha image known as the Phra Buddha Thammisorarat Lokathatdilok, and serves as a place for monks’ ordination ceremonies. 

These rituals mark significant milestones in the lives of individuals who commit themselves to the Buddhist monastic path. It’s within the sacred confines of the ubosot that aspiring monks take their vows, don the saffron robes, and officially become part of the monastic community.

Surrounding the ubosot are halls that feature numerous Buddha images and intricate murals that depict aspects of the Jataka tales – a large collection of Buddhist morality stories.

The Temple Of Dawn

The History Of Wat Arun

Wat Arun, is one of Thailand’s most iconic and historically significant temples. Its history is deeply intertwined with the evolution of Thai Buddhism and the country’s monarchy.

Early History: Wat Arun’s origins can be traced back to the Ayutthaya period when it was initially called “Wat Makok.” The temple was situated on the western bank of the Chao Phraya. However, its name changed to “Wat Makok Nok” when a new temple, “Wat Makok Nai,” was built nearby.

Renaming to Wat Chaeng: In 1767, King Taksin the Great led the establishment of Thonburi as a new capital for Siam. During his march down the river at dawn, he arrived at Wat Makok Nok and renamed it “Wat Chaeng” which means “Temple of Dawn,” in commemoration of this significant event. 

King Rama I & Rama II: During the 18th century, when King Rama I moved the kingdom’s capital to the eastern bank of the Chao Phraya River, Wat Chaeng was no longer apart of the Royal Palace. So it was then assigned to monks for residence and underwent renovations. King Rama II continued this work and ultimately changed the temple’s name to “Wat Arun” in 1820.

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The Temple Of Dawn

Wat Arun's Dress Code

Wat Arun, like many Buddhist temples in Thailand, adheres to a strict dress code to maintain the sanctity of the religious site. Below is a detailed breakdown of the dress code:

Upper Body: Visitors should wear shirts or blouses with sleeves that cover the shoulders. Sleeveless tops, tank tops, and spaghetti straps are not permitted.

Lower Body: Long pants or skirts that cover the knees are essential. Short pants, mini-skirts, or beachwear are not allowed.

Insider Tip: Clothing should not be too tight or transparent. It’s essential to maintain modesty while visiting the temple. Also, hats and sunglasses should be removed before entering the temple buildings as a sign of respect.

Footwear: Shoes, sandals, or flip-flops should be removed before entering the temple buildings. It’s customary to leave your footwear outside and walk barefoot within the temple grounds.

The Temple Of Dawn

How To Get To Wat Arun

To reach Wat Arun, you have several transportation options:

Chao Phraya River Ferry: Experience the canals of Bangkok by taking a river ferry. These scenic boats depart from various piers along the river and will take you to the Tha Tien Pier near the Grand Palace. From there, you can hop on a ferry that crosses the river and drops you off at the entrance of Wat Arun. 

MRT (Subway): The most convenient way to get to the temple is by taking the metro to to Itsaraphap MRT station that crosses the Chao Phraya underground. Via exit 1, you can either walk for ~15 minutes or take a motorbike taxi to reach the temple. 

Bus: Bangkok boasts an extensive public bus network, with several routes passing by Wat Arun. Look out for buses numbered 19, 57, 83, or 91 that’ll take you within walking distance of the temple.

Taxi: Metered taxis are readily available around Bangkok, which offer the most direct route to the temple. You can also utilize ride-hailing services like Grab to secure a taxi. Just ensure you communicate your destination using its Thai name, “วัดอรุณราชวราราม ราชวรมหาวิหาร.”

Tour: If you’re interested in a group tour, please click here. For a private tour, please click here.

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Wat Arun Travel Tips

Where Should I Go Next?

We highly recommend exploring Wat Pho after your visit to Wat Arun. These two iconic temples offer contrasting yet complementary experiences. 

Wat Arun is a symbol of Thai craftsmanship and artistry, providing a glimpse into Thailand’s architectural and religious heritage. On the other hand, Wat Pho, just across the river, offers a deeper cultural dive. It’s often referred to as Thailand’s first public university due to its historical role in education and healing practices. 

Here, you can admire the famous Reclining Buddha, explore serene courtyards, and even experience a traditional Thai massage. Together, these temples create a well-rounded and enlightening exploration of Thailand’s Buddhist traditions.

Wat Arun Info

Actionable Insights

The best time to visit Wat Arun is early in the morning when it opens or late in the afternoon. Here’s why:

Morning Visit: Visiting the temple, early in the morning as it opens (usually around 8:00 AM) has several advantages. The weather is cooler, and the crowds are significantly smaller. This allows you to explore the complex in peace. The soft morning light also creates beautiful photo opportunities, especially if you want to capture the temple’s intricate details.

Avoiding Crowds: Like many tourist attractions, Wat Arun tends to get crowded as the day progresses, with tour groups and visitors arriving in larger numbers. By going early or later in the afternoon, you can enjoy a more serene experience and have the chance to appreciate the temple’s beauty without feeling rushed.

Sunset: Another great time to visit is in the late afternoon, closer to sunset. The temple takes on a different ambiance as the sun sets over the Chao Phraya River, casting a warm glow on the temple’s spires. 

Illumination: The central prang is beautifully illuminated in the evenings, offering a different perspective of its architecture. If you choose to visit around sunset and stay until dusk, you can witness the temple’s gradual transition from daylight to nighttime illumination.

The entry fee for Wat Arun is 100 Thai Baht for foreign tourists, which includes a small bottle of water. 

For Thai nationals, entry is free. 

A visit to Wat Arun typically takes about 1 to 2 hours, depending on your level of interest and the crowd size. This timeframe allows you to explore the main attractions within the temple complex, including the central prang, the ubosot, and the riverside views. 

You can spend additional time exploring the temple’s intricate details and enjoying the serene atmosphere. However, Wat Arun is not as extensive as some other temples in Bangkok, so a couple of hours are usually sufficient to appreciate its beauty and history thoroughly.

To get from Wat Arun to Wat Pho, you have a couple of convenient options:

Cross the River by Ferry: The easiest way is to take a ferry. Walk back to the entrance pier, and then catch a ferry to the opposite side of the river. The ride takes just a few minutes and offers scenic views of both temples and the river. Once you arrive at Tha Tien Pier on the other side, you’re just a short walk away from Wat Pho.

Take a Taxi or Tuk-Tuk: You can also hire a taxi or tuk-tuk to take you directly to Wat Pho. Make sure to specify the destination as “Wat Pho” in Thai (วัดโพธิ์) to avoid any confusion. This option is more convenient but may be subject to traffic conditions.

Yes, there is a small cafe located on the temple grounds, where visitors can find refreshments and light snacks. While it may not offer an extensive dining experience, it provides a convenient option for a quick bite or a drink during your visit.

Wat Arun is famous for its stunning architecture, particularly its central prang, which is adorned with intricate ceramic tile and seashell decorations. The temple’s design is a masterpiece of Thai craftsmanship, reflecting the rich artistic heritage of the country. 

Moreover, its location on the banks of the Chao Phraya River offers a picturesque setting, making it one of Bangkok’s most iconic landmarks. 

A “prang” is a term used in Thai architecture to refer to a tower or spire-like structure, often found in the design of Buddhist temples. These towers are typically characterized by their tall, slender, and pointed appearance. 

Prangs can serve various purposes within the temple complex, including housing important relics, symbolizing significant aspects of Buddhist cosmology, or simply as ornate decorative elements. 

Wat Arun derives its name from the Hindu god Aruna. In Hindu mythology, Aruna is the charioteer of the sun god Surya, symbolizing the radiant glow of the rising sun. In particular, the temple’s architectural elements pay homage to the splendor of Aruna’s chariot and the celestial transition from night to day.

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Welcome to North of Known! We’re Alan and May, a married couple who have embraced digital nomadism while calling Bangkok, Thailand, our current home base. Over the past 7 years, our shared passion for exploration and adventure has fueled our journey across the globe. Join us as we continue to embark on our nomadic adventures, sharing our insights, discoveries, and travel tales along the way.

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