Wat Arun is the most awkward to access of the three main temples in central Bangkok, as it’s on the western banks of the river Chao Phraya river. Once you’ve been to the Grand Palace and Wat Phu, it would be easy to think you’ve seen enough.
Don’t make that mistake!
Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan or ‘The Temple of Dawn’, felt very different to the other two temples we visited:
Firstly the colours. Compared to the golds, terracottas and royal greens from Wat Pho they are more reserved. At Wat Arun the coloured tiles are all laid in a white background, giving a greater contrast.
Secondly it felt more peaceful. I’m don’t think as many tourists make it over here, as there is a ferry to negotiate. It was definitely alot calmer that Wat Pho. This might be due to the fact that it doesn’t have the big draw of the Reclining Buddha, but either way it’s their loss!
Thirdly it felt like a more spiritual place. Maybe this was just our timing, as there seemed to be preparations for a big event going on, with marquees, red carpets and PA systems being set up. The whole place had a very special feeling to it, monks everywhere, incense burning and traditional music echoing off the giant prangs.
- Being interviewed by a local student for his English project (I hope I haven’t taught him too many bad habits!)
- Watching monks be very normal. Smoking cigarettes, drinking bubble tea and using iPhones! I don’t know why I didn’t expect this, but I see an orange robe and expect constant meditation and silence. A stereotype that was quickly busted.
- Watching local children play traditional music on types of instruments I have never seen before.
- Feeding fish with the security guard whilst waiting for the boat. Throwing an entire roll down, almost knocking out one of the big carp.
- Sitting in the cafe just outside the grounds and sipping iced tea whilst being refreshed by the ‘mist fans’. A great invention that – given it’s combination of electricity and water – I’m sure wouldn’t be taken up in the west! This created a beautiful oasis of plants in middle of the gardens.
- Watching ladies in traditional dress have their photos taken in front of the temples. We think they were tourists, but they made it work for them either way!
- People watching. It’s amazing the length people will go to when trying to get the perfect photo. One Japanese lady even bought a bouquet of flowers in with her to enhance her shot!
The ferries really aren’t as difficult to navigate as you’d think, and hardly cost anything. I think we paid some ridiculous like 7 Baht each. There is a ferry crossing right beside Wat Pho that takes you to the banks of the river beside Wat Arun.
For a more adventurous and interesting route though, wander up the banks past the Navy buildings, and get the ferry crossing over to Wat Rakangkositaram Woramahayihan. There is a busy little market on the east side of the river that is a great experience, and Wat Rakangkositaram Woramahayihan is lovely too. The walk along to Wat Arun isn’t that rewarding, as it’s mostly a main road, however you feel like you’ve earned the experience by the time you arrive.