The Golden Mount Wat Saket temple complex is very different to the other temples in Bangkok. To visit this Buddhist Temple is good exercise as you have to walk up a long winding spiral staircase around the outside of the mound to get to the viewing platform and temple on the top. You pass large prayer bells on the way up which the children love to bang.
You are cooled on a hot day as most of the path is in shade and there is a running stream that cascades down small man made waterfalls. It is very tranquil. Halfway up the path is a small cafe where you can sit in amongst the tropical plants and enjoy a cool drink. Amidst the scattered foliage lies a graveyard, holding shrines commemorated to departed people. The Golden Mountain is a steep man made artificial hill inside the Wat Saket temple compound. It is not a natural outcrop. King Rama III (1787 - 1851) approved the decision to build a Chedi of huge specifications.
The older Buddhist temples have buildings constructed in a bell shaped cremation ash storage structures called Chedi. They are built in the shape of the mythical Buddhist mountain called Meru that is supposed to exist somewhere beyond the physical plane of reality in the realm of perfection and transcendence. The Buddhist equivalent to heaven. The whole Golden Mount is an attempt to mimic the Mythical mountain Meru. The interior of the building is quite austere with large windows. A stairway in the center of each side leads up to the shrine that holds the sacred Buddha relics.
The first attempt collapsed during the construction process because the soft soil beneath would not support it. The resulting mud-and-brick hillock was left alone for about half a century, taking the shape of a natural hill and becoming overgrown with weeds. King Rama IV built a small Chedi on top of the hill. King Rama V installed a Buddha relic from India. In the 1940s the surrounding concrete walls were built to prevent the hill from eroding
It is open daily from 8am to 9pm. There are 318 steps so if you have problems climbing hills do not attempt to visit this temple. The Golden Mount hill is 328 feet (100m) tall and 1,640 feet (500m) in diameter.
Bangkok Phra Mahakan Fort and the old city wall.
Mahakan Fortress is not a large castle. It is not a major tourist sight more a passing historic place of interest. When the defensive circular canals were constructed to defend the royal Grand Palace the King also ordered a series of forts to be built. Mahakan Fort was one of these forts. They were not designed to withstand a siege. They were more of a gun platform that would send explosive shells into attacking troops and gun boats coming up the river and canals.
The Mahakan Fort is located near to the fascinating Wat Ratchanaddaram temple, the Golden Mount and Wat Rajnadda Temple. Mahakan Fort can be found at the crossing of Phra Sumen road with Ratchadamnoen Klang road. It is one of the two remaining forts. The other is the Phra Sumen Fortress on the banks of the main river. When the defensive system was built there were initially 14 forts and 16 gates to the old city of Bangkok and the royal Grand Palace.
Mahakan Fort is unusually octagonal in design. It is only 16 feet tall (4.9m) It has three floors with a staircase leading to the first two.. On the top floor there is an octagonal tower with a roof to keep the tropical rain out and the solders dry. If you look behind the Mahakan Fort you will see part of the original old city wall. It runs for about 600 feet along the Maha Chai Road. The old city wall used to run all along the semi circular canal called Klong Rop Frung and then along the right hand river bank of the main Bangkok river Chao Praya. As can be seen from this last remaining section the walls were thick and strong; nearly 9 feet (2.7m) thick and nearly 12 feet (3.6m) tall.
If you look closely there are a few small cannons sticking out of the crenulations. As you can see from the photo at night they turn on lights on certain evenings. Unlike stronger stone built European fortresses the Mahakan Fort guarding the Phan Fa Lilat bridge is constructed of bricks covered with a cement based render.
For more than 13 years the community of 55 simple wooden houses that surrounded the fort have been in dispute with the Bangkok municipal government who wanted to evict them to create a 'tourist' park, the modern term for urban renewal. Some of the homes were demolished, resulting in the park you see today. But behind the fort others remain, The dispute is still going on.