Thursday, January 17: This morning, we take a long-tailed speedboat down the Chao Phraya River and canals (khlongs) of Bangkok.
We pass Wat Kanlayanamit, a relatively newer temple built in the reign of King Rama III (1824 – 1851).
The river cruise would have been more picturesque if it wasn’t such a dreary day. Our boat heads off the Chao Phraya River and down the Khlong Phasi Charoen, a 30 km long canal in the western part of central Thailand. Construction of the canal began in 1866 and was completed in 1872 (Wikipedia: Khlong Phasi Charoen).
We drift past stilted wooden homes, mobile shops, ‘floating kitchens,’ colonial mansions and colorful culture along the riverfront.
Eventually, we stop at Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn. There are over 31,200 Buddhist temples spread around Thailand. In Thai these are called wat. One of these, Wat Arun, is named after Aruna, the Indian God of Dawn. Standing tall on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya River, Wat Arun has an 82-meter high prang (Khmer-style tower), beautifully decorated with tiny pieces of colored glass and Chinese porcelain placed delicately into intricate patterns (Bangkok.com: Wat Arun). Chinese ships calling at the port of Bangkok discarded tons of old porcelain as ballast. The tower’s construction was started during the first half of the 19th century by Rama II and later completed by Rama III (Lonely Planet: Wat Arun).
This Wat or Buddhist temple is an architectural representation of Mount Meru, the center of the world in Buddhist cosmology. In the mythology of Tibetan Buddhism, Mount Meru is a place that simultaneously represents the center of the universe and the single-pointedness of mind sought Buddhist practitioners. Thousands of miles in height, Meru is located somewhere beyond the physical plane of reality, in a realm of perfection and transcendence. The four-corner prang of Wat Arun, which house images of the guardian gods of the four directions, reinforces this mystical symbolism (Wat Arun: The Temple of Dawn).
Our next stop is the Grand Palace and other temples of Bangkok.