Despite having a name that translates as Temple of Dawn, the beautiful Buddhist temple Wat Arun may be the best spot in Bangkok to take in the golden hues of dusk as they reflect off the Chao Phraya River.
After entering a square courtyard containing five Khmer-style prangs (the tallest of which tops out at nearly 300 feet), ambitious visitors can ascend a series of steep steps to the top of the lower level for grand views of the river and beyond. The less energetic can simply lounge in the small park bordering the river at the temple’s base. The latter is often the site of seasonal and religious festivals, though a complete and accurate schedule for these doesn’t seem to exist in English, so you’ll have to take your chances or inquire at the temple itself.
Constructed in the early 19th century, the temple is decorated with seashells and porcelain, and features a large Buddha near the central prang that was allegedly cast by King Rama II himself. The surrounding grounds include four smaller prangs, a series of statues in the guise of ancient Chinese soldiers and animals, and six riverside, Chinese-style pavilions made of green granite that serve as elaborate boat launches. One particularly interesting time to visit is at the end of the annual three-month lent period during which the King participates in a procession by boat to present the resident monks with new robes.
The temple grounds are open 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., and there is a nominal fee for admission charged to foreign visitors.