Wat Saket and the Golden Mount

Important temple, great views

Photo of , , Bangkok

What we say: 4 stars

Sitting atop an artificial hill surrounded by heritage buildings near Democracy Monument, the Golden Mount of Wat Saket is one of Bangkok's signature landmarks.

A temple has occupied the site since at least the 1600s, and in the early days it doubled as a crematorium and burial ground for plague victims. The temple gained prominence when military general and later king Rama I frequented it in the 18th century to rejuvenate between his many battles. Saket means literally to "shower hair", a name that highlights how one of Thailand's most influential historical figures viewed this temple as a place of physical and spiritual cleansing.

King Rama III sanctioned the building of a high chedi built at the top of a steep human-made hill, but the chedi collapsed not long afterwards. The hill remained bare until King Rama IV raised the current golden chedi, which -- at least according to some accounts -- is 100 metres high at its pinnacle. Rama V added what's thought to be a relic of the Buddha beneath the base of the chedi, which is kept in a gold pillar that can be walked right up to through any of four small tunnels.

To reach the top, it's a pleasant, if tiring hike up 320 stairs that spiral around the hill and take you past numerous prayer bells, gongs, waterfalls, trees and a coffee shop. Visitors then emerge into a shrine room with numerous Buddha statues and the tunnels leading to the Buddha relics. A steep and narrow stairwell then brings you to the top platform, where the faithful make offerings to a famous statue of Phra Phrom (the Hindu god Brahma). The chedi is still the tallest structure in the immediate area and spectacular views of the city can be enjoyed from the top.

Although the Golden Mount is the main draw, Wat Saket is a prominent and active temple that's headed by the current Sangharaja (Supreme Patriarch) of Thailand's Buddhist community. The adjacent wiharn was constructed in the early 20th century of marble and houses a large gold-plated seated Buddha. Monks and laypeople congregate here on most days around 16:00 for chanting services that are open the public. On holidays like New Years Eve, Songkran, Vesakha Puja and Loy Krathong, thousands flock to Wat Saket for candlelight processions that go all the way up and down the Golden Mount. Admission is free.

How to get there: Wat Saket has two entrances: the western one is on Baribatra Road, closer to Democracy Monument and Khao San Road, and takes you straight to the Golden Mount. The eastern entrance is on Boriphat Road and takes you first past the main wiharn and other temple buildings. It's a five-minute walk from Tha Phan Fah where you can catch the canal boats that run down San Saep canal. Because the Golden Mount is easily seen from the surrounding area, it's quite easy to find it on foot, although any tuk tuk or taxi will be happy to take you here.

More details
Boriphat Rd
Opening Hours: Daily 07:30-17:30
Last updated: 4th December, 2012

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