Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn)

We arrived on foot at the banks of the Chao Phraya River early in the morning, and on the west bank, opposite the small dock where we were standing, the tall imposing prang of Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn) stood proud and mightily against the blue skies. We had to cross the river in small passenger boats to get there. We paid the 3.00 Baht fare to an elderly woman working at the seemingly inconspicuous ticket booth. We arrived on the other side a few minutes later, and the temple was just beginning to open; we watched as the guards lined up and prepared to listen to their commander's instructions for the day.

Ariadne and I were the first two visitors of the day, and we paid the 50 Baht entrance fee right away to take advantage of having the entire Wat Arun complex to ourselves. I quickly noticed the two massive statues that guard the Wat Arun. Those two standing side by side with hands clasping a porcelain sword reminded me of two foes readying for a sword battle anytime. I've seen them in all those Thailand tourism posters before. It was a wonderful feeling to be face to face with a well-known national icon. Fortunately for me, no swords were drawn between the three of us.

Wat Arun is one of Bangkok's most well-known landmarks. It consists of a Khmer-style mast surrounded by four smaller prangs. It was named after the Indian God of Dawn, Aruna, and has since been dubbed the "temple of the dawn" because the first light of dawn creates a magnificent effect on the temple's surface, potruding with magical-like color changes that glitter beyond the ordinary.

Chinese porcelain pervades much of the temple's exterior, with patches of mosaic designs and carvings that set it apart from the other temples I've seen. I climbed the steep steps to get a better view of the surrounding scenery. I could see the Grand Palace and the calm waters of the Chao Phraya River from afar. The sun was already way up in the sky, and the way it does it, directing its light perfectly towards the clear blue skies, makes the scene around me lock up a very vivid image.

I walked around the temple, marveling at the intricate designs. The intricate patterns depict elephants, warriors in various poses, and a wonderful contrast of colors between sections. I stayed for a few minutes on the balcony of the center prang and again, taking a brief moment to appreciate the little breaks I had in life that allowed me to end up in places like this.

After being relocated from the Grand Palace grounds across the river to its current location, Wat Arun was almost abandoned and left in ruins. In the early 1800s, King Rama II ordered its restoration, paving the way for the construction of the highest prang and its four surrounding towers. In any case, life is all about restoration; the more you see and experience, the more determined you are to rebuild whatever broken down machinations within yourself. In my case, I find it while traveling, so I realized that, like Wat Arun, anything can still be salvaged. For good and better.

We stayed there for a little over an hour. I tried hard to focus on each detail for as long as I could in order to leave a lasting impression on my memory vault. Each patch of porcelain pattern, sculptured statue, and wall carving was created with the passion and dedication of people from a long time ago. It was like a book with hidden words and stories waiting to be discovered. I couldn't read it correctly, but I admire their determination to build structures that enrich and extend the reach of their faith.

We may have missed the sunrise by an hour, but I'm glad we crossed the Chao Phraya river to see Wat Arun. As I walked down the steep and small steps, I thought to myself, "If only the top of the corporate world is this beautiful, then..." It's wishful thinking that will never come true, but until then, further incursions to many places, historic landmarks, houses of different faiths, and all, I will continue to explore, learn, and see for myself the many footprints and hand-prints of past generations and civilizations.

The stillness of the water as we boarded the small ferry boat back to the other side of the Chao Phraya River mirrored what I was feeling at the time. Still and alive, smooth and quiet, peaceful and just right. This comes after a historic flooding caused the river's waters to overflow. In the midst of chaos, I was sitting on a small ferry, content and wanting nothing more than to continue these kinds of journeys.