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Travel Report: Wat Saket, Bangkok.

Wat Saket Temple of the Golden Mount

Wat Saket Bangkok.

Cover photo courtesy of Preecha.MJ

April 2015.

Another day in Bangkok, another expedition to see one of Thailand’s most notable Buddhist temples. Despite visiting around a dozen during my time in the Thai capital, I couldn’t say any of them had come with killer city views. Which is why I was so keen to add Wat Saket to my collection. Originally built in 1487, this small and largely unremarkable temple sat for centuries enjoying little historical consequence.

Inside Wat Saket.

Wat Saket, Bangkok.

But the temple’s fortunes blossomed in the mid 1700s when, according to legend, King Rama I made an unexpected stop here while returning to Bangkok from Chiang Mai. Tired and dishevelled, he simply wanted to pray, rest and wash his hair. Thus the temple earned itself the name, Wat Sakae, which roughly translates as “wash hair”

Wat Saket, Bangkok.

Temple of the Golden Mount Wat Saket

Wat Saket, Bangkok. The Golden Mound Temple.

In honour of his grandfather’s famous visit, King Rama III decided to build a towering chedi within the temple grounds in 1820. However, its construction was ill-conceived and sloppy, leading to a complete collapse. The resulting mound of mud, brick and overgrown weeds eventually led locals to call it phu khao (mountain).

Wat Saket Bangkok in 1869.

Wat Saket, Bangkok. 1869.

Finally, a combination of efforts from kings Rama IV and Rama V saw the long-awaited chedi come to completion. Finished in 1869, the 5.8 metre structure sat proudly atop a new 80 metre hill. At that time the highest point in the city, thousands of people from across Bangkok and beyond flocked to the temple to see its grand new addition. And they called it The Golden Mount.

King Rama V Thailand.

King Rama V: Got the job done.

In order to beautify the path leading up to the chedi, local authorities added surrounding walls in the mid 1940s. Moreover, they lined the approach with a series of bronze bells. Most Thais visiting the complex take the time to stop and ring each one, a Buddhist tradition said to bring good luck.

Giant bells Wat Saket Golden Mount

Wat Saket, Bangkok.

It’s also good form to clang the giant metal gong. You can literally hear it ringing out across the surrounding streets as you approach the complex.

The Golden Mount.

Giant metal gong Wat Saket The Golden Mount

Wat Saket, Bangkok.

A number of grisly statues commemorate the site’s history as a cremation centre for Bangkok’s poor and diseased. Oddly, those who managed the cremations allowed the local vultures to feast on the bodies before processing. This was due to the belief that being eaten by an animal before cremation gave one a better chance of a fortunate rebirth!

Vulture statues Wat Saket Bangkok

The vulture statues.

Photo courtesy of Satdeep Gill.

The vultures played an even bigger part of the operation during the devastating cholera pandemic of 1820. Before long, the cremation centre at Wat Saket found itself overwhelmed with bodies. Unable to cope with the spiralling numbers, the monks could only look on as the vultures stepped in to take care of those carcasses they didn’t get round to burning.

The Golden Mount Bangkok.

The Golden Mount: Wat Saket, Bangkok.

Emerging onto the main balcony, I finally came face to face with The Golden Mount’s famous chedi. Shielding my eyes from the shimmering effects of the afternoon sunshine, I did the short three hundred and sixty degree loop, admiring the various Buddha guardians. Most are ancient statues brought over from India, while one located inside the chedi came from Sri Lanka in the late 1800s.

Buddha statue Temple of the Golden Mount

The Golden Mount: Wat Saket, Bangkok.

The balcony was a hive of activity that afternoon as more and more visitors streamed in all around me. Most Thais came bearing gifts of orange robes for Wat Saket’s resident monks. Neatly folded and wrapped in plastic coverings, each robe tray came topped by a necklace of fresh flowers.

Wat Saket, Bangkok.

Robe offerings Wat Saket Temple of the Golden Mount

The Golden Mount: Wat Saket, Bangkok.

After laying down the robes, visitors add monetary donations at the foot of the chedi. And then leave written messages on what is essentially a giant, open air guestbook. Furthermore, it’s an opportunity for people to seek specific blessings for loved ones.

Written wishes and money offerings The Golden Mount Bangkok

The Golden Mount: Wat Saket, Bangkok.

Last but not least, I hung out for a bit drinking in The Golden Mount’s lovely city views. That’s the Temple of The Emerald Buddha in the background to the left of my head.

Bangkok views from Temple of the Golden Mount

The view from atop The Golden Mount.

Wat Saket and its Golden Mount opens daily from 08:00-17:00. Entry is 50 Baht and while the dress code is usually not as strict as in many other Bangkok temples, you’d nevertheless be better off avoiding shorts, skirts and sleeveless tops.

Wat Saket Golden Mount Temple Bangkok

Wat Saket, Bangkok.

Like this? Check out more of my adventures from Bangkok.

You can also work your way through my many reports from all around Thailand.

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    We enjoyed your descriptive of this Temple, it was one of the many we visited last year. And yes we rang the bells and clanged the gong! 😁

    April 8, 2021 - 11:39 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Even in a city stuffed full of temples, this one stands out thanks to an interesting backstory and those views. Thanks for reading!

      April 8, 2021 - 11:40 am Reply
  • manvmusic

    Such a powerful city, love reading your ventures into an unknown world such as Bangkok. I do enjoy your logo too at the bottom of this – it’s quite an impressive one!

    April 8, 2021 - 11:44 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Cheers! I worked with a freelance logo designer in India to create it.

      April 8, 2021 - 11:53 am Reply
      • manvmusic

        oh wow! Don’t do things by half do you haha

        April 8, 2021 - 12:00 pm
  • Lookoom

    Thanks for this new presentation of Bangkok, I am however struggling to get interested in this city.

    April 8, 2021 - 12:42 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Each to their own, right? Appreciate your readership.

      April 8, 2021 - 12:45 pm Reply
  • Just_Me :)

    I enjoyed my time in Thailand back in 2013. Wat Saket and Wat Arun are my favorite temples.

    April 8, 2021 - 1:28 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Wat Arun is another cool one. If I’d only taken a few more photos, I could’ve done an article on that too. Thanks for reading!

      April 8, 2021 - 1:56 pm Reply
  • scribble on the roadside

    The amount of wats around Bangkok blows my mind everytime. I think you can go to a new one every day of the year and still not see them all. I wish I had gotten to see this while I was in the city. Thanks for the fun venture report to start off my wanderlust this morning!

    April 8, 2021 - 2:30 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Glad to be of service! I saw a whole bunch of temples in Bangkok but, like you, also feel I missed out on some good stuff. There’s always a blogger somewhere who seems to have chalked off a few things I missed too. At other temples I just didn’t grab enough photographic evidence to justify a feature length article. Appreciate the feedback!

      April 8, 2021 - 3:44 pm Reply
  • Memo

    Really enjoy the history as a way to appreciate the temple. I generally avoid stairs but I would have found my way to the top. I’ve always appreciated the relationship between the community and the monks. Would love to witness it firsthand.

    April 8, 2021 - 3:07 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Memo, I also enjoy all the various stories behind the temples. I feel for the most part each structure has its own identity.

      April 8, 2021 - 3:21 pm Reply
  • BunnyMan

    another excellent Bangkok instalment it seems there is much here to keep one busy for at least a week

    April 8, 2021 - 3:53 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Absolutely! Theres a lot to see and do, and varied I feel from beautiful parks, lovely markets and historical temples. Not to mention the more unique spots like the abandoned skyscraper, the snake farm and The Jim Thompson House. Thanks for commenting!

      April 8, 2021 - 3:56 pm Reply
  • Jyothi

    Great post, Leighton! Well described, enjoyed it!

    April 8, 2021 - 4:01 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks as always 🙂

      April 8, 2021 - 4:01 pm Reply
  • Little Miss Traveller

    Recall visiting there too for its views, those bells and being able to bang that huge gong. Also visited Wat Arun but think they were the only three including the one you wrote about previously. Oh to be back somewhere warm!

    April 8, 2021 - 6:43 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Yeah, the weather is one of many things I really miss about Asia. But hey, summer is on the way!

      April 8, 2021 - 8:32 pm Reply
  • Rebecca

    To see a gorgeously-constructed temple, along with gorgeous views from it, is sure to be double the pleasure! I’d be keen on visiting Thailand for its millions of temples, each unique in their identities…I’m sure you were all “templed” out by the end of your trip!

    April 9, 2021 - 3:45 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Yup, and I’m gonna get templed out all over again writing this stuff up. Will try to restrict myself to the best!

      April 9, 2021 - 9:37 am Reply
  • Christie

    Bangkok is quite high on our bucket list, I think one needs to plan carefully a trip to Bangkok if the time is an issue. Thank you for the little tour!

    April 9, 2021 - 4:39 am Reply
    • Leighton

      If one is short on time yes, some tactical planning is definitely needed. I initially had just over a week. But then I also used Bangkok as a stopover on my way back up north and again for a few days when I flew home. So I ended up getting a decent feel for the city. Thanks for reading!

      April 9, 2021 - 9:44 am Reply
  • thetravelvine

    Looks like a great place to visit. Would love to see the Golden Mount.

    April 9, 2021 - 6:31 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading, commenting and the follow! Hope you enjoy exploring Leighton Travels!

      April 9, 2021 - 9:46 am Reply
  • salsaworldtraveler

    This is a temple that should be on everyone’s must see list. Ringing the gong is worth the trip.

    April 9, 2021 - 8:06 am Reply
  • 100 Country Trek

    We loved our second visit there a couple of years ago. Those temples are incredible sites to see. We spent a few days there as stop over on way to to sections of Thailand. Wat Saket was one of our favorites.

    April 9, 2021 - 12:21 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Glad you also liked Bangkok and this temple. Thanks for stopping by!

      April 9, 2021 - 12:22 pm Reply
  • PedroL

    I remember to visit this Golden Mount, it was really impressive there! Thanks for making me remember it 🙂 have a great weekend, PedroL

    April 9, 2021 - 3:32 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Cheers PedroL, have a great weekend too!

      April 9, 2021 - 3:43 pm Reply
  • InsideMySlingBag

    Beautiful captures and a nice post Leighton! Keep them coming.

    April 26, 2021 - 6:42 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks! It’s fun to see you leafing through my Bangkok chapters.

      April 26, 2021 - 6:43 pm Reply

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