Tag - wat arun

Bangkok, Thailand


Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok is Thailand’s bustling capital city. The city is commonly called Krungthep in Thai, whilst the full name; Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit has earnt the city a place in The Guinness Book of Records. In English, the name translates as; The city of angels, the great city, the eternal jewel city, the impregnable city of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukam.

Bangkok is perhaps one of the most spectacular capital cities in Southeast Asia, if not the world. There is no limit to what can be seen, done and experienced in this immense city of colourful contradictions where gentle traditional beliefs meet the fast pace of capitalism and everything is tempered by the uniquely Thai sense of style and priority.

Many first time visitors to Bangkok find it overwhelming as there is simply so much to see and do and every area offers a new and interesting aspect of this city, which somehow manages to be simultaneously vast and quite compact.

A great way to get to know the city is the take a ferry along the Chao Phraya River. The river stops at many different piers and there are a whole host of famous sites right on the river bank, which can be explored or simply viewed from the ferry. Look out for the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and Wat Arun, whilst China Town and Khaosan Road are just a short walk from their piers.

The central pier connects with the Skytrain or BTS, and this is another great way to see the city. The Skytrain soars over Lumpini Park and stops at Siam, where you can find the large shiny shopping centres of MBK, Siam Paragon and The Discovery Center.

If you are interested in shopping, make sure you pay a visit to the famous Chatuchak Weekend Market, while the Night Bazaar at Sanam Luang is a great place to pick up a bargain whilst avoiding the heat of the day.

Bangkok is well known for its rich and varied nightlife, which covers just about every possible style and trend. For those interested in go-go bars head to areas such as Soi Cowboy, Nana Plaza or witness an eyebrow raising show in Patpong. There are plenty of stylish clubs, and the area known as RCA contains dozens of different clubs catering for every style of music. Along the banks of the

river you will find dozens of bars in which to enjoy a cold drink and look at the stars, while in Sukhumvit you will find a number of Western-style theme pubs.

If the pace and pollution of the city get a bit much, there are plenty of city parks to get away from the traffic and relax for a while. Among the best are the enormous centrally located Lumpini Park, Chatuchak Park and Suan Rot Fai (Railway Park), where you can hire a bicycle or watch the butterflies in the insectarium.

What to do in Thailand

What to do in Thailand
What to do in Thailand
What to do in Thailand
What to do in Thailand

In this exotically inviting land where the weather is usually hot and sunny, travel is easy and the food is delicious and plentiful, there isn’t really much that you can’t do. No matter what you are into, whether it be extreme sports, sunbathing, exploring, discovering a new culture or pure hedonism, Thailand is the perfect place to do it, whilst getting a tan at the same time.

Thailand’s temples – known as wats – are big, richly decorated and contain an interesting assortment of treasures. Every town has a large assortment of temples, with perhaps the highest concentrations in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Ayutthaya. Some temples not to be missed are Wat Arun on the Chaopraya river in Bangkok, Wat Po, also in Bangkok and Chiang Mai’s Wat Benchamabophit. Whilst in Chiang Mai, climb Doi Suthet to see Wat Doi Suthep, which offers stunning views over the area.

As well as spectacular scenery, Thailand’s islands and beaches offer a good opportunity to take part in diving and snorkeling, the clear blue water offering glimpses of colourful coral and fish. Koh Tao is rapidly becoming the most popular island for diving and snorkelling, whilst Koh Phi Phi and Phuket are also popular. Other water ports available include sailing and windsurfing. At many places, bungee jumping and rock climbing are the order of the day, whilst paintballing offers a good opportunity to let of some steam.

Thailand has some beautiful golf courses, some designed by skilled international golfers. Muay Thai is the national sport and no trip is complete without watching a match or even training and competing yourself.

The amazing landscape makes Thailand a great place for walking and trekking, the hill tribe villages to the north making a great stop over or a three or four day trek.

Many come to this deeply spiritual country to learn about meditation, and there are numerous meditation courses available. Whilst here, you can also learn the ancient art of massage or join yoga classes on the beach.

Thai food is some of the best in the world, and you will find some outstanding restaurants, offering everything from international style dining, dining aboard river cruises or simply eating at a tiny table on the street.

The spas and saunas are also a great place to unwind and be pampered; whilst for many cosmetic surgery and cosmetic dentistry provide the opportunity for self improvement. Also, there are plenty of chances to indulge in a little retail therapy.

Thailand has a great selection of outdoor markets, floating markets, stores and shopping centres. Do not miss Bangkok’s Chatuchak market, MBK, Paragon or the night bazaar at Suan Lum, whilst Chiang Mai’s Night Market draws visitors from all over the world.

For people wishing to take in some culture there are some interesting museums, art galleries, exhibitions and displays of Thai dancing. Thailand also has some interesting theme parks, shows and zoos such as Sri Racha Tiger Zoo.

There is always something to see and do in Thailand, and the numerous festivals can add colour and life to your holiday, especially if you are lucky enough to be in the country during Songran or Loi Krathong.

There are plenty of opportunities to get in touch with nature in the national parks, such as Khao Yai where parts of the movie The Beach was filmed or Koh Samet, where the outstanding natural beauty has led to its being preserved as a national park.

Whatever you decide to do, there never seems to be quite enough time, and it is almost certain that Thailand’s charms will draw you back time and again.

Wat Arun

Wat Arun
Wat Arun
Wat Arun
Wat Arun
Wat Arun

For me, the Temple of Dawn always triggers images of adventure, heroism and, unfortunately, Indiana Jones. Even now, as I sail down Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River to visit the magnificent temple, the Indiana Jones theme tune is stuck in my head on repeat, an annoying side effect.

As the ferry rounds a bend in the river I am treated to my first glimpse of the Temple of Dawn, which is officially named Wat Arun after Aruna, the Indian god of the dawn.

Viewed from the river, Wat Arun is a stirring sight. Situated on the far side of the river it towers above the other buildings around it and looks very different to other Thai temples. Whilst the surrounding wats are short with shining gold roofs, Wat Arun looks greenish-grey from a distance and has an enormous bell-shaped tower, known as a prang, which stretches heavenwards.

I carefully step off the ferry at the Tha Tien pier and take another, much smaller boat across the flowing river to where Wat Arun waits. It costs just 4 baht to cross the river and the journey takes a couple of minutes.

I step gingerly from the bobbing boat onto a gently creaking and swaying metal pier and walk through a corridor into a large open garden.

I wander through the garden to the Ordination Hall, which contains the golden Niramir Buddha image said to have been designed by King Rama II. The way into the Ordination Hall is guarded be two gigantic demons, called yaksha in Thai. These demons stand either side of the entranceway and look very intimidating with their toothy scowls and huge swords. The white demon is named Sahassa Deja, while the green one is known as Thotsakan, who also appears in the Ramayana as Ravana.

I tentatively pass by the two demons and find myself in a courtyard of sorts, watched over on all sides by shining Buddha images. I wander through a doorway and into another, much larger courtyard, where many people are eating simple meals together at large tables.

I make my way through the courtyards around a small prang and through the garden to the main part of Wat Arun; the enormous 80 meter high central prang. I am surprised to see that this towering totem is covered with colourful pieces of porcelain, shaped into flowers and other geometrical shapes. In the past, this pottery was used as ballast by trading ships coming from China. The ballast was dumped when the boats filled up with goods in Thailand, so the porcelain is both a unique form of temple art and an ancient form of recycling.

The central prang is surrounded by four smaller prangs, marking the four main compass points. Around the base of these prangs are stone figures of ancient Chinese soldiers and animals as well as ornate bonsai plants.

One of the things that makes Wat Arun so interesting is the many styles it incorporates in its design. As well as the blending of Thai and Khmer styles in the central prang, there are also elements of Chinese, Japanese and Indian influences.

There are steep stone steps leading up each of the four sides of the central prang, which is divided into sections with platforms leading around each section. It is possible to climb up the first section, and those who make the effort will be treated with an interesting view across the river and surrounding area.

The temple dates back to the 16th century, when it was known as Wat Makok – the Olive temple. A highly revered temple, it had the honour of playing host to the mighty Emerald Buddha for a short time.

King Rama II started work on the central prang in the early 1800s. he also changed the temple’s name, which carries the full title of Wat Arunratchawararam Ratchaworamahavihara, a bit of a mouthful, to say the least!

The central prang was built to symbolise Mount Meru, where the gods reside in Hindu mythology. The four smaller prangs represent the four winds and are devoted to the wind god Phra Phai, who can be seen riding his horse atop each of the four towers.

Walking back down the stone steps is quite tricky as they are very steep and several are broken. Around the temple are several souvenir stalls, and I browse for a bargain before taking the ferry back across the river.

Within walking distance are the Grand Palace with Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Po, home to the Reclining Buddha and visiting these magnificent places of worship can make a good inclusion to a day of temple hopping.

The best time to see Wat Arun is at sunset, when the sky behind the temple comes alive with colour. The riverside restaurants just opposite make a good viewing spot. As the sky darkens, Wat Arun is illuminated by spotlights and the scene is very romantic, making this a great place from a date.

Information:

Wat Arun is open daily from 8:30 – 5:30.admission is just 50 baht for foreigners.

About the author:

Kirsty Turner (Kay) is a freelance writer currently living in Bangkok. She has kindly agreed to write for KhaoSanRoad.com and share her love of all things Thai and, especially, all things Khao San Road!