Wat Saket (Temple of the Golden Mount)
A well-known landmark, the towering gold chedi of Wat Saket was once the highest point in Bangkok. It is notable for its spectacular views and its hosting of the annual Loy Kratong festival.
Wat Saket itself (the temple complex at the bottom of the hill) dates back to the Ayutthaya era, when it was called Wat Sakae. The wat was restored under Rama I (1782-1809).
Wat Saket was used for cremation ceremonies, which were not permitted inside the walled city. During a plague in the reign of King Rama II (1809-24), 30,000 bodies were brought here.
The Golden Mount is an artificial hill constructed under King Rama III (1824-51). When the king tried to build a chedi here before the hill existed, it collapsed because of the soft soil beneath. He therefore made a strong pile of mud and bricks to support it.
It was Rama IV (1804-68) who crowned the new hill with the intended chedi. He also shored up the hill with 1,000 teak logs because it was already sinking into the swampy ground.
Rama V (1853-1910) added the chedi that stands today, enshrining within it a relic of the Buddha, said to be from India or Nepal, given to him by the British. The concrete walls were added during World War II to prevent the hill from eroding and the structure collapsing.
Wat Saket is not generally considered a notable temple in its own right, and most visitors come for the Golden Mount. However, it is interesting for its long history and its use as a cremation and burial site for so many people.
To the reach the top of the Golden Mount, you must ascend an exhausting 318 steps. On a clear day, the view from the top includes old Rattanakosin Island and the rooftops of Bangkok.
Just north of Wat Saket is where you can catch canal boats back to the town center, Siam or further up Sukhumvit.