During the boat ride, we stopped at Wat Arun Pagoda, named for Aruna, the Indian God of Dawn. With its prominent prang (towers), the temple shows a strong Khmer influence.
The colorful broken ceramics that cover the prang are an ingenious form of 19th century recycling. In those days, Chinese trading ships carried broken porcelain as ballast, which when offloaded, was used to decorate the prang.
The central prang has three symbolic levels. The base stands for Traiphum, all realms of existence in the Buddhist universe; the middle section represents the Tavatimsa, where all desires are gratified; and the top denotes Devaphum, six heavens within seven reals of happiness. The steep and narrow stairs up the central prang represents the difficulties humans face when trying to attain a higher level of enlightenment. They lead up to a narrow terrace that offers a sweeping view.
Tucked away in small coves on the second level of the central prang are kinnari, mythical creatures that are half-bird, half-woman.
Representing the four great seas, these smaller prang are also decorated with colorful ceramics. Each prang, supported by demons and monkeys, has a niche with a statute of Phra Pai, God of Wind, on a white horse. Between each of the four corner prang is an elaborately decorated mondop (altar). Each holds a Buddha statute at key stages of their life—birth (north), meditation (east), preaching first sermon (south), and entering Nirvana (west).
Photos belong to Phil Bianco.