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Wat Arun, also called the Temple of the Dawn, is located on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River in Thailand. The temple is a distinctive landmark in Bangkok as well as a functioning Buddhist temple. Wat Arun is used in a great deal of promotional tourist material for the nation of Thailand, and is therefore familiar to many tourists, with the site itself open for visits during set hours.
The word wat means school or place of study in Khmer, spoken in Cambodia and parts of Thailand. Many famous temples include the word wat in their names, including Cambodia's famous Angkor Wat temple. In Buddhist tradition, temples are places of knowledge and learning, with scholars and libraries centered around the wat. The active temple at Wat Arun is located to the rear of the main temple, and it includes beautiful grounds and statuary similar to those found in the main complex. There has been a temple complex at Wat Arun for hundreds of years.
Wat Arun has a distinctive appearance, with a single tall central tower, or prang, surrounded by four smaller towers. The central tower is 262 feet (80 meters) in height, and is heavily decorated with porcelain discarded from ships which had used the material as ballast. Some critics have said that Wat Arun is more arresting from a distance, when the individual elements used to build it blend into an even form, but the grounds of the temple are worthy of a visit. The mosaic of china and tile is also well worth close inspection, as the patterns and ornaments are quite interesting.
Construction on the prangs of Wat Arun began in the early 1800s, with the towers being built from brick covered with stucco. Several steps of stairs lead to the terraces which surround the prangs. It is unclear who introduced the porcelain pieces to Wat Arun, but the prangs of the temple are covered with them, making for a very remarkable appearance. The prangs of Wat Arun are held up by fanciful statues of demons and monkeys, employed for protection as well as architectural value.
Wat Arun has many beautiful statues and sculptures, and even briefly housed the Emerald Buddha. The temple is readily accessible by boats which will drop visitors out on the edge of the grounds so that they can enter and explore the temple at leisure. Wat Arun is also a popular place for sunset photography, as the tower has a stunning appearance when silhouetted against a sunset.