Bangkok was founded in 1782 when King Rama I moved the capital across the Chao Phraya River from Thonburi to what today is known as the Old City. At that time, Wat Po, home of the gigantic reclining Buddha (151’ long by 53’ high)and the country’s oldest university in Thailand, was already approximately 300 years old. Today temples share the skyline with skyscrapers.
Wat Arun, aka Temple of Dawn, sits across the Chao Praya River from Wat Po. Before the capital was moved from Thonburi across the river, this religious complex served as the royal chapel. Its exterior is decorated with floral and decorative patterns created from ceramic fragments.
These pottery elements were donated to the monastery by local people, at the request of Rama III. The ceramic faces serve a couple of surprisingly practical purposes. They cover the formerly white surfaces, masking the dirt. In addition, they protect the wooden structure from termites.
Taking one of the city’s countless elevators up for a top floor view affords a rich visual history. We enjoyed one breathtaking view from the aptly named Vertigo restaurant atop the Banyan Tree Hotel, towering above Lumphini Park. Whenever we headed “up,” the view commanded us to look “out.” Here’s another view, this one from our daughter’s office on Sukhumvit Road.
Having climbed Wat Arun’s tower by day, we were enticed to return at twilight for one of our last dinners before heading home. The guidebooks were “spot on” in suggesting that the Temple of Dawn is even more lovely, viewed from across the river, at sunset.