Golden Mount

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January 30th 2014
Published: January 30th 2014
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Hello again blogging buddies, I am sitting by the pool catching some afternoon rays and catching up on some walk abouts from last week. First off though on the security front, the situation is for the most part unchanged.The PM has said the Feb 2 election will proceed and the demonstrations continue in an attempt to change that course. The leader of the protest said the demonstrators would be on the move today in the hope of bringing traffic chaos to the city. I just came back from a trip out of town so have no true picture of what, if anything is happening. It is not unusually busy in front of my condo, so who knows.

The other day I decided to take a walk to find the Golden Mount. At one time finding the Golden Mount in Bangkok would have been easy, scan the horizon for the highest point and you would have found it. Before glass and steel towers The Golden Mount (Phu Khao Thong) was the only structure to make and significant impression on the horizon.

The mount was commissioned by Rama III, (King Phranangklao 1824-1851) who ordered that the earth being excavated to build the expanding canal system be piled up to build a 100m high, 500m wide stupa. As the hill grew the weight became too much for the soft ground underneath. The project was abandoned until his successor built a small guilded stupa on its crest and added trees to stop erosion. Rama V added to the structure and interred a Buddha relic from India. The walls were added during WWII.

Anyway that is the history of the place, but I was still not there. My map and Nicole's compass have served me well, though the map is coming apart at the folds. I have offered directions a number of times to fellow travellers and have not been lost yet. My route this day was from the pier and took me east crossing canals and some very busy streets. The mount is not far from the Democracy monument, one of the main demonstration sites, so the traffic was bad everywhere, and I was also trying to stay clear. I found myself walking along Bamrung Meuang, known for its religious shops. Store after store overflowing out onto the sidewalk. Altars, buddhas, candles and holders, monks robes, even baskets of food to be offered to the monks at the temples. One basket had a great selection of biscuits, sweets and tins of mackerel!

I was helped along the route a couple of times by good souls wanting to practice their english. Eventually there it was rising up from the city scape and offering what should be a great view of the city. 100 bhat got me in and the stairs are gentle and sometimes shaded, small statues and water falls provide restful stops along the climb.There was an annoying voice coming out of speakers along the way, no idea what it was saying but it did not sound like Buddhist scriptures to me anyway. Buddhist temples have some great sounds coming from them, the annoying voice notwithstanding, with wonderful bells and wind chimes tinkling around you. This temple had bells as well as a wonderful gong I had to try. Very satisfying so I set up the camera on timer and had a second gongggggg!

The view got better and better as I circled the structure finally reaching the summit and the temple.The buildings at the top were a curios mix of audio visual presentations, souvenir shop and snack bar and an actual shrine.Smaller steps led me higher to the golden stupa at the top.

Quite the view up there, the city laid out at my feet, the sounds of traffic and occasionally another gongggg signaling another ascent. I stayed up top a while enjoying the sunshine and breeze and the very pleasant view. I found myself identifying landmarks from my wanderings and was quite proud of my assimilation to this city. Coming down, as always easier and the shade at the bottom was now welcome as the day heated up. I decided to walk towards Democracy monument carefully, as that was the direction I wanted to go to get to Khao San rd. To my surprise and relief it was very quiet, no demonstrators, no speeches. A few tents around but quite abandoned it seemed to me.I assumed they were rallying somewhere else so I made my way by and settled into a nice little cafe by the monument. With beer in hand I introduced myself to the other white guy in the place and sat down to chat. He was a Dutchman on a holiday with a tour. Seems the family were shopping and he was sipping. We had a pleasant chat and watched the school busses parked in front of us picking up the young students from school nearby. Another example of Bangkok definately not shut down!

After my rehydration stop it was a long hot walk back to the ferry but all in all another good day in BKK.

Oh one last note by way of update on the security situation here today, the lead story on the Bangkok Post website is about Justin Bieber being charged with assault in Canada!!! WTF!

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