Monday, June 20, 2011

The Golden Mount

It was one of those days where the clouds were out in force but the sun was still strong enough to break through. The car drivers and tuk-tuk riders were in their usual rush but I was taking full advantage of my chance to see the sites. I’d made a list of the places to see near the office, the Giant Swing, just a block away, the Golden Mount, about a klick down the road and several other wats and monuments, I didn’t want to put too much on my plate as I knew I’d come across a few gems along the way that wouldn’t be on Google. 
As I headed out of the office, I began to wonder if I’d chosen the right day for sight seeing, the clouds were heavy and I was prepared for a soaking as the clouds rolled in. As I made my way up the road I walked past a small temple with a canopy of flags streaming from the central spire to the buildings around the walls, I figured it for a perfect place to start being a tourist so I whipped out the camera and started taking photos.

When I finally made it to the Golden Mount, or Phu Khao Thong, the feel of the place was so serene. In spite of the reconstruction of one of the smaller temple houses and the bustle of the road outside, the place felt calm. The bottom of the mountain is covered in vegetation and through it you can see several small shrines dotted around the base.
Construction of the Golden Mount started under the rule of Rama III in 1831 but wasn’t completed until 1877, under the rule of Rama V. Climbing the spiral steps that run along the edge there are several levels, the first level I got to was lined with prayer bells for people to ring as they walk along, saying a silent prayer with each toll. There are 2 more levels, each with prayer bells, before reaching what I can only describe as the penthouse, other travel sites say that there is a 10 Baht entry fee but I entered without being asked.
In the center of the building is a golden shrine, located directly under the golden chedi, or spire on the roof. People come to pray and rub gold leaf on the shrine, I saw a couple walking around the shrine with their palms together in prayer. Climbing the narrow stairs to the top I came to the roof where perhaps the first things I saw was the huge towering golden chedi, at each corner of the platform there were more, smaller prayer bells, hanging in a pine tree-like formation. Visitors were kneeling down in prayer before the chedi and before making my way back down I knelt down to think a few thoughts in the serenity of the place.
The walk down was really relaxing, there was no rush and I found myself almost wishing there were more than the 300-odd steps. Before reaching the bottom there was another shrine but this one was in memory of those who had passed. Inlaid into the stonewall of the mount were marble slabs commemorating loved ones, each with its own offering of juice, sweets or a few Baht. What a beautiful place for them to rest.

-- By Tarka Rose (PR intern at Siam Hotels & Resorts)

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