The Golden Mount at Wat Saket, a 58 metre high hill crowned by a huge gleaming golden chedi, is one of Bangkok’s most familiar landmarks.
With its panoramic views out over the city and calm, peaceful atmosphere away from the bustle of modern life, the area is well worth a visit during your stay in the capital.
Wat Saket, the temple complex itself, was originally built in the 1600’s in the middle of Thailand’s Attuhaya period (1370 to 1760), with The Golden Mount (Phu Khao Thong), entirely man-made, added during the reign of Rama III in the early 1800’s.
The 300 step staircase, easy enough for everyone to climb, snakes its way around the hill to the top, with various Buddha statues positioned along the way in their own delightful miniature gardens. Mist is cleverly sprayed out from these to give them that early morning forest feel, great for photos, but also nicely refreshing as you ascend.
At the first level, bells are lined up under the bourgainvillea for you to peal as you pass, with a gong at the end also ready to be bashed, before the next step of steep stairs brings you out into a covered hall. A small Buddha is housed reverently at the core, where local worshippers can pay their respects and donation boxes and other deities ring its exterior.
In one corner, another narrow staircase puts you on the very top of The Golden Mount, with the chedi towering above you on the large square rooftop. When Bangkok was a city of canals and wooden houses, Wat Saket used to be its highest point and even now dwarfed as it is by the concrete towers and malls of the modern day, the 360 degree views are still an amazing sight.
The temple area originally used to be far larger and rather eerily hosted the city’s charnel grounds. This helps explains the weird set-piece of vultures pecking at a corpse which you pass as you descend from the top. Apparently back in the day, relatives or friends would bring the bodies here and place a coin in the mouth of the deceased to assist their passage to the next world. This was payment in fact to the charnel house’s caretakers, who would nip in and take the coin before overseeing the ever present vultures devouring the body.
Just as you reach the bottom of the steps, there is one more large gong, which you should thud three times whilst making a wish. You can then take a few moments in one of the shaded arbors, dripping with creepers, monks as company, before you venture back out into the urban sprawl of the metropolis.
Directions and Practicals – Wat Saket (The Golden Mount)
The Golden Mount at Wat Saket is located on Boriphat Rd in the Banglamphu district of Bangkok. If you are staying near Khao San Road, you can walk up from Democracy Monument, east off Ratchadamnoen Rd, turning right at the two canal bridges and ending at Boripat Road. Coming from other directions, say Sukhumvit Road, try the klong river taxis, Phan Fah being the final stop and the one you want.
The temple is open from 07:30am to 17:30, with admission 20bt per person. You can eat just outside the gates of the complex at one of the noodle stands or the small restaurant opposite and there is also a coffee shop half way up.