Wat Saket is one of my favourite temples in Bangkok. Its on the top of a man made hill, known as the Golden Mount. The hill took a fair bit of effort, and several attempts, to build. The first attempt, in the early 19th Nineteenth Century collapsed. The land in this part of Bangkok is low lying and consequently water logged and soft. Another attempt was made at the end of the century and with the addition of some concrete support stayed in place.
The temple itself is not what people come here for. It’s small without much of note inside, although the Chedi (which is an Indian style spire) is pretty cool. It’s covered in thousands of old mosiac tiles. The Chedi is a recongisable landmark clearly visible from ground level. The panoramic view is what makes the temple great. For a long time it was the highest point in Bangkok, and is still the best vantage point in ‘Old Bangkok’.
Like all the best temples, its a bit of a trek to get there. This a good or bad thing depending on your perspective and your frame of mind. Before you even consider climbing the mount you need to get there. It’s not on the skytrain or metro system, although it is on the Canal Taxi network (Khlong Saen Saep) which we have written about previously. The temple is located inconveniently between the modern Siam Square area and the Khao San area. If you are relatively fit you can walk from the Khao San Road, otherwise it requires a taxi journey to get there, or a local bus trip.
Once you get there the trek doesn’t stop. You have 318 steps to climb to ascend the 80 or so metres to the temple on the top. Probably best to avoid the midday heat if you aren’t properly acclimatized. Once you get there you need to pay 10 Thai Baht to go through the temple to get to the observation deck.
This is a working temple. 300 or so monks live in the temple grounds at the base of the temple. On your way up pause for a little while to take in the small details in the jungle style gardens at the entrance. There are lots of small shrines. Apparently lots of people have been buried here over the years. Some of the graves are meant to be plague victims. We can’t verify this, but we reckon there must be families of the dead still living in the area as people regularly bring offerings and flowers.
The temple is open 8am to 5pm. Except for early November when there is a festival to mark Loi Krathong, which is broadly speaking the Thai version of Christmas, involving a candlelight procession up the stairs at night. It is a great thing to see if you get the chance. There is a small fair and fantastic atmosphere for a week.
If you only have a short time in Bangkok and want to see Wat Saket as well as a number of other important cultural and historical places we recommend doing the Isango ‘Buddhist Temples and Klongs Tour’. You are picked up at 8am from your hotel and returned to your hotel at 5 pm. All fees are included as well as lunch and an English speaking guide. The tour takes you to the Grand Palace, the emerald Buddha, Wat Pho, Wat Arun and Wat Saket. It also includes a canal tour. It is a full day out and great value for $100 per person. For more details or to book now click on the button below.