Sorry for the lack of posts recently. We’ve been on quite a run over the past week or so (thanks to Louie for the punny title). We’ve left Bangkok and headed into the countryside along the Burma/Myanmar border, but more on that later. Before we left Bangkok, we headed over to west side of the city to checkout the stone pillars soaring into the sky. We hiked over from our hostel near Kan San Road (about 6 miles round trip), wandering through the Thonburi district’s canal lined neighborhoods. We tried to check out the National Barge Museum, but sadly it’s closed for renovations through the end of the year. We did get to peek through the gate to steal a glimpse of the incredible golden ships (sorry, too dark for photos).
Wat Arun Ratchawararam, or Wat Arun, is a Buddhist temple honoring and greeting the dawn. The grounds consists of the iconic 250 foot tall prang, or spire, surrounded by smaller prangs one such of the cardinal and ordinal points, a beautiful temple surrounded by a peaceful courtyard, and the surrounding gardens.
The main prang has a four very steep staircases (only 64 steps!) leading up to incredible views of the city. While it was difficult battling the hordes of tourists, the sweeping panoramas were well worth the climb.
The prangs are made of white stucco intricately decorated with inlaid ceramic. While the walls were originally white, Bangkok’s smog has taken its toll. You can see the black pollution stains in some of these detail shots. There was a repair team working on two scaffolded pranks scrubbing the stucco back to white. Many of the flowers are made of donated dishes that have been broken and formed into petals. Each prang is topped with a delicate wind chime.
In the shadow of the towers is a small market with stalls selling woven handbags, refreshments, and trinkets. The best, perhaps, was the stand renting out traditional clothing and accessories for ladies (and a dude or two) to play dress up for photos below the monument.
Through the gardens scattered with stone statues and past the replica Emerald Buddha, we managed to lose most of the tour groups in the courtyard surrounding the temple. On the exterior, the entrance was guarded by two comically fearsome guards. The interior was lined with rows of golden Buddhas.
The temple itself was built with incredible with pediments and column capitals intricately decorated with gold and gems. The interior was plastered with detailed murals depicting historic Bangkok. While we were admiring the murals, a saffron robed monk came in and settled down on a long platform for a prayer session.
When we were done exploring the grounds, we decided make the 20 minute walk back to the public commuter ferry, which drops off a block from our hostel (only 15 Baht or $.50 each). The alternative was to pay six times as much to join the crowds on the tourist ferry shuttling between Wat Arun and the Grand Palace/Wat Pho sites across the river.
More photos below.