A Visit to the Golden Mount, Bangkok
Rising over the old quarter of Bangkok, the Golden Mount gleams as one of the city’s most visible landmarks. A fantastic and cheap excursion, the Golden Mount offers up a glimpse of culture, spirituality and inspiring city views. It’s an easy climb to the top, where you can take in a 360-panorama of old Bangkok’s temples and the downtown skyscape.
A History of the Golden Mount
The Golden Mount (Phukhao Thong in Thai) is the towering centrepiece of the temple Wat Saket. A centuries-old temple, it has existed in one form or another since Thailand’s Ayutthaya era, when Ayutthaya (whose ruins you can now visit) was the capital of the Kingdom.
Prior to a battle to quash a rebellion in Thonburi (located on the opposite side of the river and now a part of Bangkok), the popular and powerful general Phraya Chakri undertook rituals at the temple. After ascending to the throne as King Rama I, he moved Thailand’s capital to Bangkok and elevated the temple by renovating it and bestowing its current name, Wat Saket.
Later, King Rama III set about building a huge chedi (bell-shaped Buddhist pagoda). The structure collapsed however and eventually eroded and begin growing vegetation, transforming into a hill. King Rama IV built a golden chedi on top of the hill. During later reigns, the current marble temple was built and concrete walls were built to encase the hill for stability.
Visiting the Golden Mount
The Golden Mount is easily reached by taxi or the Saen Saeb Canal boat from the newer parts of Bangkok. If coming by canal, the stop is called “Phan Faa” (hard “p” like “peanut”). Be warned if you’ve never taken a canal boat before: the Saen Saeb Canal is far from sparkling clean, though it can be fun and atmospheric. The canal boats can also save you a lot of time sitting in Bangkok traffic.
If you’re staying in the backpacker area of Khao San Road and Banglamphu or in the old quarter of Bangkok, Wat Saket’s Golden Mount is within walking distance.
The temple donation requested to climb to the top is a very affordable 20 baht. Surprisingly, the walk to the top is fairly easy though like many spots in Thailand it can be hot… so it’s a good idea to bring water. The climb will take approximately 10 minutes. Mid-way up, you’ll pass a row of bells and a gong, and these can be fun for kids (and kids at heart) to ring.
At the top of the hill, enter the temple building and within you’ll find a small staircase taking you up to the golden chedi and viewing platform. From there, enjoy spectacular unimpeded views of the city in every direction.
In November around the Loy Krathong holiday, Wat Saket hosts a bustling temple fair. Fun but crowded! (At least it tends to be particularly crowded on the night of Loy Krathong itself.)
While visiting the Golden Mount, you may also want to visit the beautiful Loha Prasat, or Metal Castle, right next door at Wat Ratchanadda.
The Golden Mount is open every day from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Entry donation is 20 baht.