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Temple of the rising sun

Thailand has tens of thousands of temples. One of the best known is Wat Arun in Bangkok. This complex on the Chao Phraya River is very special; it is encrusted with thousands of pieces of porcelain that glisten in the light. The view across the river and city is equally as impressive as the rich collection of mythical figures and Buddha statues on display here.

The 5 towers of the Wat Arun temple look out over the Chao Phraya, Thailand’s most important river. The central and tallest pagoda symbolises Meru, a mythical mountain which, according to Buddhists, is the centre of the universe. Chinese porcelain fills every square centimetre of the wall. The fragments come from tiles and dishes that were used as ballast on ships that sailed from China to Bangkok. The temple takes on a magical appearance as evening falls and the mosaics on the towers sparkle in the spotlights. The wonderfully lit building is also mirrored on the surface of the river – a perfect moment for a cruise on a teak dinner boat.

In the lonely west

Most of Bangkok’s major sights can be found on the eastern bank of the mighty Chao Phraya River. Except for Wat Arun that is, which stands alone on the western bank in Thonburi. This is because King Taksin established the capital on that side of the river some 230 years ago. One day, at dawn, he moored his boat at the temple and decided to make it part of his palace. Since this visit, the Wat Arun complex has been known as the ‘Temple of the God of Dawn'.

Thonburi was not the nation’s capital for very long as Taksin’s reign lasted less than 15 years. Following this heyday, monks began to leave the temple and the building fell into disrepair. It was many years later before another king decided to restore and expand the ruined temple. The prang, its corn cob-shaped tower, received the most attention. With its impressive 79-metre height, it literally towers above all other buildings in the vicinity.

Supporting the prang

Between Buddhas and demons

You won’t enter the complex unnoticed: two mythical giants keep watch at the entrance gate. And they’re not the only statues which await you here. The first terrace, or first heaven, is full of statues of Buddha depicting various stages of his life. And each floor of the temple is supported by demonic guards and kinnaree, or half-humans.