Photo: Take a moment.

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Wat Saket

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For the better part of two centuries, the Golden Mount at Wat Saket has glistened high above the old quarter. The ancient temple’s shocking history and panoramic vistas make it one of our favourite attractions in Bangkok.

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Established as Wat Sakae during the Ayutthaya period, the temple became Wat Saket (“Hair Washing Temple”) when King Rama I presided over a cleansing ceremony near the end of the 18th century. The site is located just beyond the canal marking the border of the inner royal city, a placement that allowed it to be used as a charnel ground well into the 20th century. The surrounding neighbourhood is still known as Phratu Phi, or “Ghost Gate”, thanks to the many corpses once cremated or fed to vultures here.

Spectacular views. Photo taken in or around Wat Saket, Bangkok, Thailand by David Luekens.

Spectacular views. Photo: David Luekens

Dead bodies would pile up at Wat Saket, especially during one of several cholera outbreaks, the worst of which claimed the lives of one in every 10 residents of Bangkok. The book Buddha in the Jungle by Tiyavanich quotes a Norwegian spectator in 1880: “The birds tore the body most dreadfully, sometimes actually lifting it off the ground, and fighting among themselves as one or another dragged off a piece of flesh. Once, a dog sneaked in and secured a morsel”.

As ghastly as Westerners found all of this, the Siamese believed that deciding before death to nourish animals would gain them a little extra merit towards a fortunate rebirth. Viewing and contemplating the blunt ceremony was also viewed as a potentially transformative practice for monks keen to pierce into Buddhist ideals of impermanence and non-self. While the vultures are now long gone, statues of them are depicted eagerly honing in on ... Travelfish members only (Around 700 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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How to get there
The entrance we usually use is to the west of Khao Phung Thong off Boriphat Rd, a half-km south Phanfah Leelard Pier on the San Saeb canal boat line and where Ratchadamnoen Klang Rd meets Nakhon Sawan Rd. From the canal pier, walk straight out and turn left just past the tuk tuk parking area to take the bridge running south (Boriphat Rd), and the entrance will be a short walk up on the left. From Khao San Road, walk east up Ratchadamnoen Ave., passing Democracy Monument, and turn right on Boriphat Rd just after Mahakan Fort and Phanfah Leelard Bridge. Alternately, you can enter from the east off Worachak Rd.

Wat Saket
Entrances on Boriphat Rd and Worachak Rd
Mo–Su: 08:00–19:00
Admission: 20 baht

Location map for Wat Saket

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