We rode the riverboat for some distance up the Chao Phraya River, watching the spires of Wat Arun reaching to the sky in the distance. We understand why it is the most recognizable building in Bangkok. A Wat has existed at this location since the 1600’s, but the prangs (Khmer-style spires) next to Wat Arun that we were seeing weren’t built until the early 1800’s.
What at some distance looked like a carved stone spire turned out to look like a magical piece of grand mosaic by Gaudi when viewed close-up. The photo of the glazed ceramics embedded in the prang gives you an idea of the detail. We follow that photo with one taken at longer-range to show the same area in context.
We read that Chinese ceramics were brought to Thailand as ballast in the trading ships, and then used in the prangs. Seashells were added as decoration as well. Was it planned to use these all along to decorate the spires or did the builders merely use “found objects?”
We studied the variety of ceramics that came in the form of plates, bowls, cups, and broken pieces of different sizes, designs, and colors.
Visitors can climb to different walkways around the central prang. We’re warning you these are very steep steps! So busy were we studying the decoration that it wasn’t until much later that we stepped back and took in the building design and decoration as a whole.
We detoured off for a cold drink and a rest in a little garden in the gardens next to the wat.
We had visited the prangs first and saved our visit to the Buddhist temple, Wat Arun, for the end. We slipped off our sandals and entered. To our surprise, front and center was a digital clock placed at the foot of the Buddha, ticking off the seconds in neon green.
Well, everything about Wat Arun HAD been a surprise!