It is one of Bangkok’s oldest temples and dates to the Ayutthaya era which lasted until 1767.
Originally called Wat Sakae, King Rama I had the temple restored during his reign which lasted between 1782 and1809. He had it renamed as Wat Saket Ratcha Wora Maha Wihan, or Wat Saket as it is popularly known as.
The hill itself is man-made. For many years, it used to be the highest point in Bangkok. Today, it is more famous for its 80-meter-high structure Golden Mount and the gold-plated stupa that sits on top of it. It also hosts a nine-day temple fair each November, during Loy Krathong. It’s a great opportunity to see and be part of these festivities that brings together worshippers and families looking to have a day out together. Coloured lanterns, food vendors, games and rides ensure that everyone is entertained.
As you walk around within the compound that houses the Golden Mount, you will come across a cemetery. The overgrown trees give it a surreal feel, depending on the time of the day and which side the sun is shining down. It’s because it used to be the main crematorium in the 18th century. It was also here that victims of the plague that hit the city were cremated en masse. In fact, it used to be known as the ‘Ghost Gate’.
The Wat Saket temple itself is located at the base of the hill is located at the base of the hill. Within its ordination hall is where the Buddhist scriptures are kept. It also serves as living quarters for the monks.
However, for most visitors, the main attraction is the stupa on top. To get to the stupa, you need to climb 318 steps. However, let that not deter you. It is a well laid out path and the climb is relatively easy. And should you feel the need to take a break, then do so. There are several resting spots and viewpoints along the way up. In fact, approaching the top, you will come across large prayer bells and a gong. For good luck, ring the bells and strike the gong.
Once you reach the summit, look around and you get to see beautiful views of Bangkok, and of course get up-close with the stupa.
Wat Saket is open daily between 8am and 5pm. While entry to the temple is free, there is fee of THB 50, per person, to walk up to the stupa. As with most places in Asia, please dress respectfully.
If you are in the city center of Bangkok, then the best way to get here would be to hop into a metered taxi. They are perfectly safe and go by the meter. However, should you wish to be a bit more adventurous, and would like to combine it with a tour of Wat Phra Chetuphon, or the temple of the Reclining Buddha, then that is fine too.
In effect, you will need to finish with your tour of Wat Phra Chetuphon and anything else within the vicinity. Once done, then bargain with any of the tuk-tuk drivers parked outside the pagoda to take you to Wak Saket. Just make sure the rate includes him waiting for you for at least half an hour and bringing you back. Depending on how nice the driver is, you can also ask him to stop for a photo opportunity in front of the palace.
You can read more on how to get from the city center (I’ve taken Nana as my starting point) to Wat Phra Chetuphon here.