Temples Near Khao San Road

If you are staying on Khaosan Road, there are lots are temples in the immediate area you can visit, either within walking distance, or a short taxi or bus ride away. Here are a number of articles written about the temples in the Khao San Road vicinity.

Wat Saket – the Golden Mount


Wat Saket near Khao an Road, Bangkok, Thailand
Wat Saket near Khao San Road, Bangkok, Thailand
Wat Saket near Khao San Road,Bangkok, Thailand
Wat Saket near Khao San Road, Bangkok, Thailand
Wat Saket near Khao San Road, Bangkok, Thailand
Wat Saket near Khao San Road, Bangkok, Thailand

I love everything about living in Bangkok: the hustle and bustle, the strange sights, even the strong smells. However, there are times when city life becomes overwhelming and I need to find somewhere to retreat for a while to soothe my senses. Whenever I feel this way, my thoughts turn first to Wat Saket, known as the Golden Mount; a large temple with a towering gilded chedi atop a hill situated just a ten-minute walk from Khao San Road.

It is nearly dusk and I find myself climbing the 318 steps that wrap themselves around the smooth white sides of Wat Saket. I find the staircase rather steep and I have to pause occasionally to get my breath back, trying to look as though I am simply enjoying the view. The Golden Mount was once the highest point in Bangkok. After being used to the flatness of Bangkok, the 80-meter climb can be rather challenging and I am glad to be tackling it during the cooler part of the day.

At three points, the stairs are broken by a short platform, and I pause on one of these to ring the large prayer bells. Striking the bells produces a deep, majestic tone, which resonates and carries out into the distance.

At the top of the stairs, I pause to take off my shoes and catch my breath, then enter the circular structure of the temple. Before climbing to the very top, I make my way into the center, where four niches mark the points of the compass and each hold a statue of Lord Buddha.

The center of the Golden Mount is lit by candles and smells strongly of wax and incense. The combined effect of the soft lighting and the heady scent makes me feel reverent and I pause to pay respect to each statue before continuing. This part of the temple contains some of the Buddha relics that were discovered in 1897 under the ruins of Pipraawaa near the frontier of Nepal.

Once I have slowly circled the centre of the temple I put my coin in the collection box and climb the short wooden ladder to the top. As I pass through a doorway, I am outside once more, the cool, fresh wind serving as my reward for having made the climb. The view from the top is spectacular – I can see right across Bangkok to the imposing structure of Biyoke Tower. Nearby the Chao Phraya river sparkles, spanned by the magnificent structure of the Rama IV Bridge.

At the base of Wat Saket, I can see the center of the temple compound, where a giant golden Buddha statue is housed in a bot – an open house-like structure – that has been extensively restored. The Buddha statue is situated in the samaadhi (contemplation) attitude with a disciple seated either side.

Situated in an enclosure at the front of the bot is a cutting of the sacred Bodhi tree, which was brought from Anuraadhapura in Northern Sri Lanka in 1818. This cutting is believed to be a grafting of the original Bodhi tree from Gaya in India where Lord Buddha achieved enlightenment. It is an honour to study and meditate at Wat Saket and the grounds contain accommodation for over 300 monks.

Wat Saket has a rich and interesting history. The temple’s full name is Wat Saket Ratcha Wora Maha Wihan, and it was commissioned in the late 18th century by King Rama I, making it one of the oldest temples in Bangkok.

The golden chedi was commissioned in 1800 by King Rama III. He wanted to build a replica of the large golden pagoda in the former capital of Ayudhaya, but the ground was too soft and the temple collapsed. The structure was left until the reign of King Rama ordered the restructuring of the temple and 1,000 teak logs to shore the temple and prevent it from sinking once more. During World War II, the Golden Mount was graced with concrete walls to prevent it from collapsing and extensive maintenance is carried out to keep the structure looking
pristine. The sun is starting to set as I descend from the Golden Mount. Before I leave, I pause and sit for awhile in the wooden gazebo placed halfway down the mount.Wat Saket is located near Democracy Monument on the Boriphat and Lan Luand Road Intersection.

The wat is open daily 8 am- 5 pm and although entrance is free admission to the chedi costs 10B, have a coin ready.The best time to visit is early morning or near closing, when the time to the top is cooler. During late October to Mid November Wat Saket comes alive the celebrate Bangkok’s temple fair. The festival lasts for nine days and features theatrical performances, circus shows, foods and souvenir stalls.

Getting There:

You can easily walk to the Golden Mount from Khao San Road. Simply walk to the Gulliver’s end and follow the road round to the right. You will now be on Ratchadamnoen Klang, a busy main road, with Democracy Monument in the center. Walk straight down the road and as you pass McDonald’s on your right you will see the Golden Mount up ahead.

About the author:

Kirsty Turner (Kay) is a freelance writer currently living in Bangkok. She has kindly agreed to write for KhaoSanRoad.com and share her love of all things Thai and, especially, all things Khao San Road!

Wat Arun

Wat Arun
Wat Arun
Wat Arun
Wat Arun
Wat Arun

For me, the Temple of Dawn always triggers images of adventure, heroism and, unfortunately, Indiana Jones. Even now, as I sail down Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River to visit the magnificent temple, the Indiana Jones theme tune is stuck in my head on repeat, an annoying side effect.

As the ferry rounds a bend in the river I am treated to my first glimpse of the Temple of Dawn, which is officially named Wat Arun after Aruna, the Indian god of the dawn.

Viewed from the river, Wat Arun is a stirring sight. Situated on the far side of the river it towers above the other buildings around it and looks very different to other Thai temples. Whilst the surrounding wats are short with shining gold roofs, Wat Arun looks greenish-grey from a distance and has an enormous bell-shaped tower, known as a prang, which stretches heavenwards.

I carefully step off the ferry at the Tha Tien pier and take another, much smaller boat across the flowing river to where Wat Arun waits. It costs just 4 baht to cross the river and the journey takes a couple of minutes.

I step gingerly from the bobbing boat onto a gently creaking and swaying metal pier and walk through a corridor into a large open garden.

I wander through the garden to the Ordination Hall, which contains the golden Niramir Buddha image said to have been designed by King Rama II. The way into the Ordination Hall is guarded be two gigantic demons, called yaksha in Thai. These demons stand either side of the entranceway and look very intimidating with their toothy scowls and huge swords. The white demon is named Sahassa Deja, while the green one is known as Thotsakan, who also appears in the Ramayana as Ravana.

I tentatively pass by the two demons and find myself in a courtyard of sorts, watched over on all sides by shining Buddha images. I wander through a doorway and into another, much larger courtyard, where many people are eating simple meals together at large tables.

I make my way through the courtyards around a small prang and through the garden to the main part of Wat Arun; the enormous 80 meter high central prang. I am surprised to see that this towering totem is covered with colourful pieces of porcelain, shaped into flowers and other geometrical shapes. In the past, this pottery was used as ballast by trading ships coming from China. The ballast was dumped when the boats filled up with goods in Thailand, so the porcelain is both a unique form of temple art and an ancient form of recycling.

The central prang is surrounded by four smaller prangs, marking the four main compass points. Around the base of these prangs are stone figures of ancient Chinese soldiers and animals as well as ornate bonsai plants.

One of the things that makes Wat Arun so interesting is the many styles it incorporates in its design. As well as the blending of Thai and Khmer styles in the central prang, there are also elements of Chinese, Japanese and Indian influences.

There are steep stone steps leading up each of the four sides of the central prang, which is divided into sections with platforms leading around each section. It is possible to climb up the first section, and those who make the effort will be treated with an interesting view across the river and surrounding area.

The temple dates back to the 16th century, when it was known as Wat Makok – the Olive temple. A highly revered temple, it had the honour of playing host to the mighty Emerald Buddha for a short time.

King Rama II started work on the central prang in the early 1800s. he also changed the temple’s name, which carries the full title of Wat Arunratchawararam Ratchaworamahavihara, a bit of a mouthful, to say the least!

The central prang was built to symbolise Mount Meru, where the gods reside in Hindu mythology. The four smaller prangs represent the four winds and are devoted to the wind god Phra Phai, who can be seen riding his horse atop each of the four towers.

Walking back down the stone steps is quite tricky as they are very steep and several are broken. Around the temple are several souvenir stalls, and I browse for a bargain before taking the ferry back across the river.

Within walking distance are the Grand Palace with Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Po, home to the Reclining Buddha and visiting these magnificent places of worship can make a good inclusion to a day of temple hopping.

The best time to see Wat Arun is at sunset, when the sky behind the temple comes alive with colour. The riverside restaurants just opposite make a good viewing spot. As the sky darkens, Wat Arun is illuminated by spotlights and the scene is very romantic, making this a great place from a date.

Information:

Wat Arun is open daily from 8:30 – 5:30.admission is just 50 baht for foreigners.

About the author:

Kirsty Turner (Kay) is a freelance writer currently living in Bangkok. She has kindly agreed to write for KhaoSanRoad.com and share her love of all things Thai and, especially, all things Khao San Road!