The Golden Mount and Wat Saket in Bangkok, Thailand is one of the most beautiful sacred sites in the city. Sitting on top of a small hill, the temple is crowned with an impressive 58-meter golden stupa (the monument at the top which points at the sky) which contains a relic from the Buddha. With 360 degree views of Bangkok encompassing both the old city along with the modern skyscrapers, the Golden Mount is one of the most impressive places to watch Bangkok’s famous sunsets.
334 steps lead you to the top of The Golden Mount. Originally built before Bangkok was the capital city, the original structure collapsed and eventually became covered in weeds, creating an artificial hill. When the capital was moved from Ayutthayato Bangkok, King Rama I began renovations of the grounds. The temple was continuously added to by his grandson Rama III and more by his son Rama IV. In the 20th century the sides of the hill were covered in concrete to prevent erosion.
As you head up the steps there are many rows of hanging bells and several large gongs. There are also speakers along the way where monks are continuously chanting, creating a very strong and calming energy as you head up the steps.
It’s amazing to see the contrast between the traditionally built temples and the modern skyline of Bangkok, Thailand.
The most popular time to visit the Golden Mount is during Loy Krathong, one of Thailand’s biggest holidays occurring every November during the full moon. People release “krathong” offerings — little boats made from banana leaves, flowers, candles, and incense — on the canals and lakes all over the country. The festival originated as a way to honor the river goddess, but it also has Buddhist meaning. “The candle venerates the Buddha with light, while the krathong’s floating symbolizes letting go of all one’s hatred, anger, and defilements.” (Wikipedia) Some people put their fingernail clippings or hair in the boats to “get rid of the bad parts” of themselves.
The Golden Mount and Wat Saket entrance fee is only 20 Baht and it is open from 9am to 7pm. If you are staying near Khao San Road you can walk to the temple, or if staying in another part of the city we recommend the canal boat. You can check out our article about navigating Bangkok’s many transportation options for more information. You can see the temple’s stupa from all over the old city, so don’t worry about getting lost!
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I first stumbled upon Factory Coffee one day when walking down Phayathai Road in Bangkok. Since I’m always a sucker for hipster-looking coffee joints, I had to check it out. It’s super pricey by Thailand coffee shop standards, but you get what you pay for: super-gourmet coffee cocktails created with perfectly-roasted artisanal beans and high-quality ingredients.
Factory Coffee is now my go-to “treat yo’self” coffee shop and I’m slowly working my way through their menu of fancy pants barista creations. Since I don’t drink alcohol anymore and save a lot of money that way, I figure I deserve it! I love how at Factory Coffee they actually come to you and shake, pour, and garnish certain drinks tableside!
You can’t go wrong here with a straight-up espresso for a quick, tasty buzz, a powerful cold brew to get you through an afternoon of work, or a coconut-ice-cream affogato as a decadent dessert and “pick me up” all in one.
It’s no wonder Factory Coffee wins the Thailand Barista Championship year after year!
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The Floating Market in Damnoen Saduak is one of the most famous floating markets remaining in Thailand. Vendors on boats float down canals selling everything from coconut ice cream to elaborate noodle dishes. The town where the market happens is an easy day trip from Bangkok, but we would recommend arriving the night before and going to the market in the early morning before the hordes of tour buses arrive. Here is a short video from our trip.
Figuring out how to get around Bangkok, Thailand can be overwhelming at first. Navigating the big city can seem impossible, until you figure out the different transportation systems. The options are many and all have their time and place and ideal use. Taking advantage of the right method can save you time, money, and headaches.
HOW TO GET AROUND BANGKOK
1 – Taxi
Metered taxis can be the cheapest way to get around the city. They are best when the roads are less busy (before 7 am), midday (10am-2pm) and after 8pm. Taxi’s should always be running the meter. If the driver offers you a price upfront then move on to the next driver because he’s trying to rack up the price. They usually will only do this during rush hour when the meter price isn’t worth it for them to drive you. At these times it’s best to take another mode of transport anyhow because it could take you hours to drive a few miles. Sometimes the taxis around the very touristy areas will also refuse to use the meter. If you just walk a couple blocks out of the super touristy area you should be able to find a taxi not trying to scam you.
Uber is another decent option. They are usually a little more expensive than the meter taxis but you get a set price in advance. You need a Thai phone number to do this, as the drivers usually like to call you in advance. Set yourself up in front of a 7 Eleven to make it easy for the driver to understand. Just say “Farang 7 Eleven” and they can usually find you. Your hostel can usually help you talk to the driver as well. You can use the code zackm5528ue to get 50 Baht off of your first ride.
Grab is an app like Uber, but more popular in Asia. Most of the metered taxis also run this app. It is usually a little cheaper than Uber and a good option during busier traffic times when the drivers don’t want to run the meter. Same as Uber, they will usually call you so be prepared to communicate with someone who has rudimentary English skills. Most taxi drivers at least know basic English though, so don’t fear.
2 – Tuk Tuk
Tuk Tuks are little motorized rickshaws that are on every street corner in Bangkok. Slightly more expensive than the metered taxis, tuk tuks are SUPER FUN to zoom around town. The price starts at about 100 Baht for a 10 min ride and you always have to negotiate to get a decent deal. Ask your hostel before you start for a fair price. They hold three people comfortableyand up to six if you want to get super cozy with your friends after a night out. They are best to use at night for bar hopping when it’s cooler and you care less about the lack of A/C. Keep in mind that you will get wind in your hair and the dust from the street may irritate your eyes a little, but it’s totally worth it for the experience. Everyone who comes to Thailand has to take a tuk tuk at least once.
There is also a really cool app called Tuk Tuk Hop. It’s like Uber for tuk tuks, and takes you around the historic temple area of the city. You pay a set price and get unlimited rides for the day. It’s really nice because you don’t have to negotiate or search for vehicles. Check out our article HERE for more information about this app.
3 – Moto-taxi
Mototaxis are the scariest way to travel in Bangkok. The drivers are crazy and you might spend the whole time praying that you live to see the next day. However, during rush hour this is sometime the ONLY WAY to get places because the mototaxis will cut between the traffic. Look for the guys with orange vests and the price usually starts at 50 Baht and foreigners usually have to negotiate.
4 – BTS, MRT, ART (Skytrain, Metro, Airport Rail)
The train system is by far the easiest and safest way to get around. It goes to most of the most popular Bangkok neighborhoods and get your their fast. You can pay as you go or purchase a re-loadable card for 100 Baht. The hard part about the trains is that there are three different systems and each has it’s own top-up card. Also when transferring between lines you usually have to leave one station and navigate around a corner to the other. Use the trains during rush hour or on weekends when the roads are clogged up.
5 – River Boats and Canal Boats
River Boats – The best way to get to the temples from central Bangkok. Just take the BTS to Saphan Taksin station and walk down to the Chao Phraya River. There are several options of boats that can take you across to Wat Arun for around 50 Baht as well as a free boat at night to the Asiatique Market.
Canal Boats – These boats cruise through the small canals in central Bangkok. This is the best way to get from the BTS to the Golden Mount and Khao San Road. The boat is a 9 Bahtt flat free and cuts your travel time in half over the bus, even more at rush hour. Buuuuuut, the downside is that these boats stop running at 7pm.
6 – Bus
Public buses run all over Bangkok and are the cheapest form of transport. They are pretty much useless during rush hour, so keep that in mind. They also are not air conditioned but have open windows. Just wait at the bus stop, get on and sit down. Someone will come around to collect your money. The best way to figure out which buses go where is with Google Maps– it’s usually accurate enough.
7 – Songthaew
These are pickup trucks with bench seats installed in the truck bed. Less common in Bangkok, they are very popular in Chiang Mai and other cities throughout Thailand. They usually have a set route and a cheap price. Just flag them down, hop in, and pay at the end.
8 – Bicycle
Bicycling in Bangkok can be downright scary when traffic is crazy. However, cycling around the temples at night can be an amazing experience. Check out the Bangkok Night Bike Tour put on by Grasshopper Adventures. Also, biking is the best way to get around Bang Krachao, the “green lungs” of Bangkok. Take a whole day to explore this neighborhood and escape from the grind of city life without going too far from the urban center.
9 – Walking
Walking is always our favorite way to get around. You see more and interact more with the local people. Some nice places to walk in Bangkok include Lumphini Park, Chatuchak Market, and Khao San Road. Use the maps.me app listed below for nice downloadable maps to show you how to get around Bangkok by foot. There is also a free walking tour by Take A Walk BKK once a week. Check their Facebook page for more info. Note that if you walk more than two blocks by choice, Thai people will laugh at you in a lighthearted way. The concept of walking by choice for exercise or sightseeing is pretty foreign here. Thai people jump on moto-taxis to go two blocks!
Other Useful Advice
Maps.me – The most useful app for world travelers. Just download the country map of wherever you are going then you are all set once you arrive. It navigates you around without using data. The app picks up location data from pinging WiFi signals, giving you constant location updates in towns and cities. It’s very handy to make sure the taxi driver is taking you in the right direction, or just for general exploring of a new city. This is the app we use the most while traveling, don’t skip it.
Sim Card – Get yourself a Thai number. You can pick one up at any 7 Eleven for 49 Baht then just top it up 100 Baht at a time to keep yourself connected in case of emergency. If you phone is locked you can get it jailbroken at many phone repair stores for a cheap price, or just buy an old used phone to use as a travel phone.
The Loy Krathong festival occurs in Thailand every year during November’s full moon. It was also a perfect time to take my first trip to one of the Bangkok’s most impressive temples! The Golden Mount, or Wat Saket, is Bangkok’s highest temple and sits at the top of 344 winding steps! Check out the video below which takes you all the way to the top! It was a spiritual experience to be on top at sunset watching the faithful make their offerings and say their prayers.
Below the temple at the Phranfa Bridge, I got to participate in the Loy Krathong festival. People release “krathong” offerings — little boats made from banana leaves, flowers, candles, and incense — on the canals and lakes all over the country. The festival originated as a way to honor the river goddess, but it also has Buddhist meaning. “The candle venerates the Buddha with light, while the krathong’s floating symbolizes letting go of all one’s hatred, anger, and defilements.” (Wikipedia) Some people put their fingernail clippings or hair in the boats to “get rid of the bad parts” of themselves.
Thai people are incredibly welcoming to foreigners even when it comes to their holy ceremonies and everyone at the canal urged me to join in on the tradition. Not one to miss out, I bought my krathong, stuffed a little broken piece of a dreadlock in it, and prayed to release my anger and my doubt, two things I had been struggling with recently. I watched the krathong float away and felt peace. What an amazing evening!
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