Monday, January 23, 2012

Sunday January 22, 2012: Wat Arun

Our plan for the day was to visit Wat Arun.  We'd had a nice view of this old temple during our ferry ride to the Grand Palace on Friday, and we were intrigued.  This is a view of the main prang from the ferry:

We were a bit lazy this morning and didn't get an early start.   Instead of the Sky Train and river ferry route, which involves a couple of station changes and long waits for the ferry, we  decided to just catch a cab.   It was about a 40 minute drive, and cost a whopping $4!  It was interesting to see some different areas of Bangkok along the way, and the cab was air-conditioned, a definite plus!  

Our nice driver dropped us off right at the entrance, and we paid our 50 baht entrance fee (about $1.60) and walked through the gates of the temple.  We were in luck, as this weekend is the Chinese New Year, there was a festive atmosphere in the temple.  Traditionally,  families go to the temple on Chinese New Years Eve to pay respect to their elders.

Wat Arun, also called Temple of the Dawn,  was built in 1767. It was named for the Indian god Aruna, god of dawn.  The main prang is 266 feet high, and is topped by a thunderbolt, the weapon of the god Indra.  We walked around the prang, admiring it from all angles.

All prangs or chedis are encrusted with broken porcelain in a very detailed mosaic pattern, this one is spectacular! Here are a few pictures of the very textural mosaic:

I had read there were stairs up the prang, but they were rarely open to visitors.  We were in luck today though, they're open.  We're going to climb a prang!
               Here I am at the very first level; they're big steps, but very broad and not difficult:

We walked around this first level and found a set of steps leading to the 2nd level.  Rats--they were roped off.  I was pretty disappointed, but we continued on around this level--and found a set of steps that were open--YES!  

Wow!  These were very steep and narrow, and each step was quite high.  There was a hand rail though, so up we went.  Here I am mid-way of that 2nd level:

We walked around this level until we found the 3rd set of stairs.   Hmmmm-do I really want to climb these? They're even steeper and narrower than the 2nd set, but they have a hand rail so I decide I can do it.  Up we go again!  Using the hand rail to pull ourselves up, it's really not too bad--but man, those steps are tall!  Here's the view from the bottom looking up to the 4th level:
  Again, at the 4th level there's a nice walkway around the prang. 

Some nice views from the top:

Here we are at the the fourth level, the crazy climbing Lunds:

At the fourth level, climbers are about half way up the prang.  Here's the final climb to the very top; look closely and you'll see a metal ladder snaking along the side.  

Hmmmm,  am I up to this??  NO THANKS!  It's closed to the public, anyway.  If it had been open, would I have climbed it?  Naaahh--I'm not that crazy!

We enjoyed the beautiful view from the 4th level, and after giving my shaky legs a bit of a rest, back down we go:


After our climb, we bought some cold drinks and gave our legs a much needed rest.  Then we explored the rest of the Wat.  Here are a few pictures of some of the halls and Buddhas:

Many of the statues were decorated with red ribbon for the Chinese New Year festivities:

This is the exterior of one of the many halls on the temple grounds;  hand painted tile work covers the entire building.  It's just beautiful:

We took off our shoes and went inside.  There were many people worshipping and paying their respects to their elders.  Notice the bottoms of the feet; it's forbidden to point your feet towards Buddha, and especially forbidden to show the soles of your feet to Buddha.  We sat quietly in some chairs at the very back of the hall, enjoying the serenity:

It was interesting to watch families offer flowers, light incense and bow.  Most families, for some reason I didn't understand, were taking pictures of the "alter" area and their offerings. 

David asked if I was trying to make a monkey out of him with this picture.  Doesn't he look thrilled?

After thoroughly exploring the temple grounds, we left through the main gate.  We thought the neighborhood around the wat looked very interesting, so decided to explore a bit:

There are many canals (klongs) winding through this area:

And of course the usual street vendor food--this is deep fried whole fish:

  Red is worn for good luck during Chinese New Years celebrations, and this young man is all ready!  He was so friendly, and had a lovely smile and a wave for us.  I hope he has a very lucky year!

 Busy streets:

We came to a main avenue, and it took us quite a while to flag down a taxi.  We did find some rent-a-bikes, but I can't imagine riding a bike on these crazy busy streets!

We finally found an available taxi, and our drive Mr. Wangchai, was very friendly and talkative, wanting to practice his English I think.  It was a much longer trip on the return--the traffic congestion was unbelievable.  It took way over an hour, and the fare was only $6.  But he got a big tip!

As it was past lunch time we asked Mr. Wangchai to drop us off at the MBK mall.  We visited their HUGE food court--it covers two levels of this very large mall.  So many choices!  We had a nice meal at their "International Food Court", passing up the burgers and fries and pizza (well--that is international food for them!) in favor of a couple of great Thai dishes.  Add a nice cold Sing Ha beer for David and an iced Thai coffee for me, and we're fueled and good to go for a few more hours.

We looked around the mall for a bit, but since it was the weekend it was super crowded--too much for us!  We caught the nearby Sky Train back to our hotel and enjoyed our usual "relaxing on the terrace" afternoon cocktail.  I ordered a "Margarita with salt, blended"-- and that started a fun conversation with our cute server, with me tying to explain what "blended" meant!  Finally we connected and she said "oh--you mean smooth!"  So now I know-- order a "Smooth Rita!"  

Up to our room to change for dinner--tonight it's Indian food.  We chose a lovely restaurant right on the corner of our street,  and were escorted to an upstairs dining room where we enjoyed a great view of the crazy Bangkok street scene and some delicious Indian chicken tikka masala and naan.

 A short stroll back to our hotel, and it was early to bed for these two weary travelers.   Another fun and interesting day  exploring the world with my sweetie!
Tomorrow in Bangkok:  Happy New Year!  Monday is officially Chinese New Years day--so we are spending the day in Chinatown.  We're  hoping to catch a dragon parade, enjoy some fireworks, and eat some delicious Chinese food.   Anybody for some dim sum??  Stay tuned!


  1. Another great blog. The pictures are wonderful. Wow, the steps were really high so I can imagine the workout that your legs got going up and coming down. Dan is jealous and I think he is looking at Tailand as a possible future destination for us---he says "we are Lundberrys too". Lol, so if there were a fourth monkey, what would it be? Looking forward to pictures from Chinatown---Happy New Year, hope you are wearing something red.

  2. I am still figuring out how to post on this blog. Hopefully, this will work this time. Oh my gosh, I love your pictures of the Wat Arum. It's repetitive art overload! The pictures are so cool. I definitely would like to have a copy of a couple of your photos - or maybe a postcard of it. It makes my heart sing. Your blog and pictures are just so interesting. I feel like I am there with you, except for the warm weather. It's freezing here in Boise and, yes, we finally got some snow in the mountains. . . . . . now let's see if I can post this comment. Miss you here in Boise. Pat