The Golden Mount, also known as Wat Saket, is often overlooked on the Bangkok tourist circuit, which is a pity, as the hilltop temple complex is a great vantage point for taking in the sunset and surrounding area. Plenty of fresh, cool breezes make for a pleasant reward for climbing the 300 steps to the top.
The hill that the temple was built upon is the result of a too large chedi that was placed at the old Wat Saket temple here. The chedi collapsed. Over time, it became overgrown and part of the natural environment.
In the late 19th century, the hill was fortified and a smaller chedi built. Today, the site is now a protected temple that gives panoramic views across the city.
Statue atop the Golden Mount — Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis
The climb up the Golden Mount is easy, as the steps wind around gently, and the temple complex is always bustling with activity, with monks coming and going between prayers and other duties.
As you make your way to the top, pause to enjoy the long walls of bells that mark the route up, and admire the giant gongs that visitors can sound, which give large, reverberating, meditative booms.
Looking up at the Golden Mount — Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis
In addition to the golden chedi, there are also several large golden Buddhas found throughout the grounds, and there's even an interesting and rather macabre recreation of vultures waiting to eat decomposing bodies. Evidently, during the early 1800s, a cholera epidemic ravaged Bangkok, with over 30,000 people dying from the disease.
During this time, they did not cremate dead bodies inside the old city, and thus the temple area around Wat Saket was where they piled up the corpses, which attracted a large vulture population waiting for their next meal.
While tourists enjoy climbing up the Golden Mount for the views, which stretch out across the Chao Phraya River – with Wat Arun, the "Temple of Dawn," visible in the distance, along with nearby landmarks like Democracy Monument and Wat Ratchanatda – this is also a local holy spot, with Thais coming up to make merit.
Giant gong at the Golden Mount — Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis
You'll often see people carrying offerings and walking clockwise around the temple with joss sticks and incense, hands folded in prayer.
Wat Saket even hosts a temple fair every November during the Loy Kratong holiday festival. Thousands of people ascend the Golden Mount with candles and pay homage to a Buddha relic enshrined in the temple, as well as make merit for the holiday.
It's tremendously atmospheric, but the narrow paths up to the top aren't made for the numbers, and lines to get up the stairs can wind out into the nearby streets.
The easiest way to get to the Golden Mount is to take a public boat on the Saen Sab Canal, which departs from the central Pratunam Pier just up from Big C and across from the Central World Department Store.