Visiting the Temple Wat Arun on New Year´s Day

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Wat Arun is one of the most beautiful Buddhist temples in Bangkok. And to visit it on New Year´s Day is a special experience on top of the temple as such. Thousands of Buddhist believers follow the tradition of “Merit Making at Nine Temples” in Bangkok. In other words, every Buddhist should visit nine defined temples in Bangkok on this one day with the objective to uphold Buddhist principles and thereby to find spiritual happiness. If you consider how many people are gathering at Wat Arun and bear in mind the distances between all these temples, you should get up pretty early to make it all.

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Wat Arun, the temple of dawn, is one of the most famous Buddhist landmarks not only in Bangkok but all over Thailand. It dates back to the seventh century although the prang, its spires, were constructed at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

It is interesting to know that there are different sources claiming different heights of the central prang. They range from 66 to 86 meters. Most commonly claimed are 66 or 85 meters. I guess it should not be a real problem in our high technology world to determine the true measurements today. The bigger challenge would rather be to spread this information around the world against all these long lasting other myths about the height. But whatever the correct number would be, it is definitely high!

The spires are all decorated nicely with with lots of figures and sculptures. They all are made of Chinese porcelain and shells. In total over one million such pieces have been put together on the main prang.

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You can climb up the main prang on four narrow and very steep stairways on each side of the spire. There are two levels you can reach. The stairs to the first one are quite good to climb up. However if you continue further up, you should think twice. Those stairs are really extremely steep and the steps measure not more than 20 cm. Getting up is one thing. Getting down is the other thing and can be a challenge. You will first look into the abyss. This view alone will give you a bad feeling. But when you watch the counter traffic of crowds of tourists, old and young, climbing towards you and if you, as a reasonable and responsible human being, then see this old Japanese lady, breathing heavily and her face turning red, clutching both her hands to the rope stretched alongside the stairway, then you will start to develop some frightening ideas about “what, if”. What, if this old Japanese lady gets a problem with her blood pressure and finally faints, then falling down and consequently pulling all people below her down the stairs? Really, really frightening!

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But I do not want to discourage anyone. On a normal day, when the temple is not so crowded as it was today, everyone should be able to manage the climbing. And you will be rewarded with a wonderful distant panorama view over the river, the Royal Palace and Bangkok.

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Apart from the prangs you should also pay a visit to the several so called viharns, which means monastery or cloister buildings.

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The atmosphere on the temple compound on New Year´s day is very spiritual in spite of the crowds or maybe just because of them. You will find several places where the Buddhist believers make their donations, give alms and pray for good luck and whatever else they wish and need.

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Wat Arun is located right on the west banks of the river Chao Phraya and can easily be reached by the river ferryboats. You get off at the station no. 8 Tha Rachini. Here you take another ferry taking you across to the opposite riverbanks. The entrance fee for foreigners is 50 THB.

Click the slide show above the post to see more images.

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