Wat Arun is the oldest temple in the city of Bangkok and is set on the bank of the mighty Chao Phraya River. In the past, the river was used as a hub by trading ships coming from China. The ballast was dumped when the boats were filled up with goods in Thailand, hence the porcelain is both a unique form of temple art and an ancient form of recycling in these parts.
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 make Wat Arun so interesting is the many styles it incorporates in its design. Apart from 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 upto each of the four sides of the central prang which is divided into sections with platforms leading to 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 areas.
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 honor of playing host to the mighty Emerald Buddha for a short time. King Rama II started work on central prang in the early 1800s.
The central prang was built to symbolize 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 of them are broken. Around the temple are several souvenir stalls, and you can bargain while shopping before taking the ferry back across the river.