Formerly known as Wat Jaeng, the 79m-high (260-ft.), Khmer-inspired tower was renamed the "Temple of Dawn," by King Thaksin, Bangkok's founder. He was keen to signal the rise of a new kingdom after Ayutthaya was decimated, and so borrowed the name -- which means dawn -- from the Hindu God, Aruna. Fittingly, it's at its most wondrous as the sun rises and sets.
The original tower was only 15m (49 ft.) high but was expanded during the rule of Rama III (1824-51) to its current height. The exterior is decorated with flower and decorative motifs made of ceramic shards donated to the monastery by local people, at the request of the King. At the base of the complex are Chinese stone statues, once used as ballast in trading ships, which were gifts from Chinese merchants.
You can climb the central prang, but be warned: The steps are treacherously narrow and steep -- and even more precarious coming down -- so cling to the rail at the side. If you go up, notice the Hindu gods atop the three-headed elephants. The view of the river, Wat Po, and Grand Palace is well worth the climb. Be sure to walk to the back of the tower to the monks' living quarters, a tranquil world far from the bustle of Bangkok's busy streets.