Travel Destinations

Monday, June 3, 2013

Bangkok’s Wat Saket (The Golden Mount) and Jim Thompson House

View of Bangkok
View of Bangkok from Wat Saket (Golden Mount)
On our last day in Bangkok we visited some of the places we had not yet seen that are located outside of, but not too far from, the historic center.  These include Wat Saket (The Golden Mount), the Jim Thompson House, Suan Pakkad Palace, and Ban Kamthieng.

There are hundreds of temples in Bangkok, but Wat Saket, also known as The Golden Mount, should be at the top of your list.  The temple grounds consist of a low hill topped with a large golden chedi, with other temple buildings at the base of the hill.  An easy stairway circles up the hill to the chedi.  Not only is the temple beautiful itself, but it also provides a fantastic view of Bangkok from the top of the hill. 

We had planned our trip to Thailand to correspond with the festival of Loy Krathong (which I highly recommend, as it also coincides with one of the best times of year to visit Thailand).  This meant we were lucky enough to visit Wat Saket during the annual temple fair.  Every year, during the week of Loy Krathong, the golden chedi is draped in bright red cloth.  The monks at the top of the hill were chanting, which was broadcast over a speaker system through the entire temple area.  In the temple at the base of the hill, there was a large number of monks worshiping.  It was interesting to see the group of monks, all in their traditional bright orange robes, reverently kneeling in the temple, but with their cell phones at their sides.  

Wat Saket (Golden Mount)
Wat Saket (Golden Mount)
The Loy Krathong annual temple fair surrounds the base of the hill and has games, rides, and food vendors.  It was fun walking around and looking at all the stands and sampling different foods such as spiral potato chips, deep fried jackfruit, chicharrones, popsicles, and some sort of crispy thin spirally pastry rolled into a tube. The people at the rolled pastry stand were so happy that it was the first time I had ever tried their treat, and they took a picture of me in front of their stand.  If only I could read and type Thai, I might be able to find their Facebook page.  Can anyone help me out?  There were also fried and seasoned bugs, which I sadly did not try.  

Wat Saket (Golden Mount) Annual Fair
Wat Saket's Loy Krathong annual temple fair (yep, those are bugs)
We also visited the Jim Thompson House, a beautiful example of Thai architecture.  The house can only be viewed on a guided tour, but the tours are very frequent.  The home was owned by Jim Thompson, an American who was stationed in Thailand while he was in the military.  He fell in love with the country and returned to live there permanently.  He devoted himself to reviving the neglected Thai industry of hand weaving silk and was very influential in growing the industry and making Thai silk recognized worldwide.  He also adhered to Thai customs when building his home, which he moved into in 1959.  There are silk making demonstrations and a large gift shop selling silk items. 

Jim Thompson House
Jim Thompson House
I love visiting house museums, and was pleasantly surprised to find the Jim Thompson House was not the only one in Bangkok.  We also visited Suan Pakkad Palace Museum, which used to be the private residence of Prince and Princess Chombhot of Nagor Svarga.  The Prince was the son of Rama V, The Great Beloved King.  The group of four houses which creates the palace was a family heirloom dating from the 19th century and was transported from its former location.  There are four other buildings that were later added which are more traditional Thai structures.  Suan Pakkad Palace may be the first instance of a Thai family opening their home to the public while still living in the residence.

Suan Pakkad Palace
Suan Pakkad Palace Museum
We also visited Ban Kamthieng, another collection of traditional teak wood Thai houses.  The residence, approximately 200 years old, was once located in Chiang Mai, in Northern Thailand, but then was moved to its current location.  The home belonged to a rural family, so is very different from the Jim Thompson House and Suan Pakkad Palace.

Ban Kamthieng
Bam Kamthieng, an oasis in the concrete jungle of Bangkok
Ban Kamthieng was within walking distance of our highly recommended hotel, Seven.  We then took the skytrain to Suan Pakkad Palace and another skytrain to the MBK Center for lunch, which is conveniently across the street from the Jim Thompson House.  We planned on taking the Khlong Saen Saeb Express Boat down the canal behind the house to Wat Saket (The Golden Mount), but were told it wasn’t running, so we instead took a taxi.  Taxis come directly to the Jim Thompson House, so the people that worked there were able to tell the driver where we wanted to go.  To get back to our hotel from Wat Saket, we decided to take a tuk tuk, as we hadn’t done that yet.  When visiting Bangkok, it is imperative to ride a tuk tuk at least once.  They are inexpensive and a lot of fun.

Tuk Tuk
Riding in a tuk tuk is an essential experience while in Bangkok
I planned our trip to Thailand using Frommer’s Thailand and Lonely Planet Discover Thailand.

I used Lonely Planet Discover Thailand to plan our Thailand trip.

Travel the World: Things to do in Bangkok Thailand including Wat Saket (Golden Mount), Jim Thompson House, Suan Pakkad Palace Museum, and Bam Kamthieng.

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Katherine Belarmino and Romeo Belarmino are the authors of Travel the World, a travel blog for the everyday working stiff. They work full-time in non-travel related jobs, but take every opportunity they can to travel the world during their limited vacation time.