Day 04: Bangkok – Wat Saket, The Golden Mount

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

After our visit to Wat Pho, we continued on, walking towards Grand Palace as our next destination.

During the walk, there were many vendors selling historical (war/religious) artifacts like pendants and statues. We assumed the artifacts were real because there were a number of locals using eye magnifiers to inspect the pieces they wanted to buy. I wish we could’ve been able to ask a vendor to tell us more about what was going on.

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And of course, there was food! We stopped for some rice as well as a Cha Yen (Thai iced tea).

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Unfortunately, as we got to the window to buy tickets at the Grand Palace, there was a sign that Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) would be closed shortly for maintenance.

Since Wat Phra Kaew is one of the major sites to visit in the Grand Palace, we decided to come back tomorrow. In the meantime, we would go ahead and visit Wat Saket (The Golden Mount).

This leads to another tip:

  • Taxi drivers will try to rip you off – don’t let them! If a driver doesn’t agree to use the meter and tries to negotiate a fixed price, get out of there!

Since it was a far walk, we decided to grab a taxi from Grand Palace to Wat Saket. The first taxi we found refused to use the meter and insisted on a 200 baht fixed fare. We laughed and left, and finally found a taxi that would use the meter. Total cost? 45 baht. Although the difference between 45 and 200 baht is only around $5, it was the principle that mattered to us. A couple dollars saved with honest taxi drivers meant there was more money towards something else, like tipping those drivers and trying more local cuisine!

The entrance fee to Wat Saket is 20 baht, very little!

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“Wat Saket, popularly known as the Golden Mount or ‘Phu Khao Thong’, is a low hill crowned with a gleaming gold chedi. Within, the 58-metre chedi houses a Buddha relic and welcomes worshippers all year round.

It is unfortunate, but we weren’t able to get a good shot from the bottom to show you the full view. Here’s a picture from Google to show you what it looks like:

“The temple dates back to the Ayutthaya era, when it was known as Wat Sakae. When Bangkok became the capital, King Rama I renovated the temple and gave it its present name.”

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“Built on an artificial man-made hill, the Golden Mount is the temple’s most well-known landmark and is a sacred pilgrimage site during the weeklong worshipping period in November. To get to the top requires a climb up some 300 steps, which encircle the chedi like a loosely coiled snake.”

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The steps are tiny tiny tiny. I think they’re equivalent to 100 normal sized steps 😉 But the walk up is super easy, even though it’s terribly hot and you will sweat!

“Approaching the top of the hill, you will be welcomed by a wall of bells and panoramas of historic Bangkok.”

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Mike posing silly but I did see other people ringing the bells as they were praying while ascending.

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Shrine at the top

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Panoramic view of Bangkok from the top!

Bangkok Panorama

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We thought we head reached the top, but wait! You can go up a small set of steep steps to the actual top – right up to the golden stupa. We spent some quiet time here observing others and just taking in the city views and refreshing breeze.

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“Before beginning the climb (or if you are us, after the climb), you will find an unusual cemetery built into the base of the Golden Mount. Covered in vines and overgrown trees, it emits a rather spooky out-of-era vibe. Perhaps this is because in the late 18th century, Wat Saket served as the capital’s crematorium and the dumping ground for some 60,000 plague victims.”

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And that marks the end of our visit to Wat Saket!

During the taxi ride back to Tha Tien Pier, we passed by the Democracy Monument. I was able to grab a quick shot from inside the taxi.

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More to come! 🙂

Day 04: Bangkok – Wat Pho, Temple of the Reclining Buddha

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

As it often happens on vacation, our plans to start the day super early were spoiled by the laziness to sleep in. No worries! By late morning we were on the BTS heading to Saphan Taksin station, which connects to the Chao Praya Express Boat (and Tourist Boat) at Sathorn Pier.

We were headed off to our first destination of the day: Wat Pho, also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha.

“Wat Pho is one of the largest and oldest wats (temples) in Bangkok and is home to more than one thousand Buddha images, as well as one of the largest single Buddha images of 43m length: the Reclining Buddha. It is also thought to be the origin of the original Thai massage.”

Tips:

  1. Sathorn Pier is where you want to be if you will be visiting the Grand Palace and other famous temples… very easy to get to there by boat!
  2. If you want, take the tourist boat once (buy tickets at the kiosk), specifically for the narration while traveling down the river if you aren’t familiar with the area or haven’t done any reading.
  3. After that, take the express boat (it flies orange flags, buy tickets on board), not the tourist boat! It’s 15 baht as opposed to 40 baht and stops at more stations along the river!
  4. Unless you want to wear public attire worn by many other sweaty individuals, make sure you’re dressed appropriately for the temples. Covered shoulders and pants below the knees!
  5. Get there early, the later you go, the more people will be all up in your personal space 😉
  6. If anyone tries to stop you BEFORE you’ve reached the entrance, saying that the temple is closed – do not believe them. You are being scammed.

The express boat can fit quite a few people!

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To get to Wat Pho, take the boat to Tha Tien Pier. As you approach Tha Tien Pier, you will see Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) on the other side of the river. We’ll be visiting Wat Arun later!

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From the pier, walk through the market and just follow the crowd! It’s just across the street, you won’t be able to miss it 🙂

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Tickets are 100 baht which includes a small bottle of cold water – redeem it! It will be nice and refreshing 🙂

“The temple has sixteen gates around the complex guarded by Chinese giants carved out of rocks. Only 2 are open for public entrance.”

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Once you enter the complex, if you want to visit the temple, you will be given a bag to put your shoes in and carry with you inside. If you aren’t dressed appropriately, you will be loaned a robe to wear.

Entrance to the temple

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“The image of reclining Buddha is 15 m high and 43 m long with his right arm supporting the head with tight curls on two box-pillows of blue, richly encrusted with glass mosaics.”

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“The 3 m high and 4.5 m long foot of Buddha displays are inlaid with mother-of-pearl. They are divided into 108 arranged panels, displaying the auspicious symbols by which Buddha can be identified like flowers, dancers, white elephants, tigers and altar accessories.”

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“There are 108 bronze bowls in the corridor indicating the 108 auspicious characters of Buddha. People drop coins in these bowls as it is believed to bring good fortune, and to help the monks maintain the wat.”

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Walls are completely covered in intricate, hand painted murals.

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“Outside the temple, the grounds contain 91 chedis (stupas or mounds), four viharas (halls) and a bot (central shrine).”

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“The main temple/chapel is Phra Ubosatha with Phra Buddha Deva Patimakorn, the principal Buddha it is situated a top a three tiered pedestal under which some ashes of King Rama I are kept. The interior of the Hall is covered with fine murals and the inside of the panels for the windows are covered in lacquer work. This is the most impressive building at Wat Pho.”

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