A few hours out of Bangkok and along a Satnav route that seemed to take us away from our destination (we seemed to loop back around), we beheld the stunning sight of the Golden Buddha in Khok Samrong nestled in the Wong Phrachan Mountain. We parked the car at the foot of the mountain and got ready for the ascent. It was not the Buddha we planned to see, albeit impressive, but the temple (Khao Wong Phrachan Temple) at the top of the mountain. I knew the task at hand and felt slightly confident, almost overconfident, to scale the 3790 steps. However, I was absent in knowing what it was really going to feel like. It was hot but the day was fading. How fit did I think I was?
The summit has a spiritual meaning and the challenging task of ascending the steps was lessened when thinking about its divine context. It was to be like a pilgrimage. There is Buddha’s footprint at the temple at the top of the mountain. Believing I was a fit person, I first went under what seemed Chinese-influenced arch and made a hop and skip over the first steps and gently got into my stride as I was able to cover two steps with my long legs. However, it did appear to be steeper than I thought. I also started to notice water/drink pit stops with seating appropriately staggered as I walked up the steps. It was hot I will not lie but being Thailand it could have been hotter. I was not sweating the first part of the climb, and there was some shade from the trees and foliage. I actually passed a few people. Maybe, I did not realise they were pacing themselves. As I got up further the person I was with told me they believed they had ‘long COVID’. If ever I needed a sign to say this was going to be a longer climb than I thought it was coming from someone who had done this climb before and they were giving in.
You can just about see the Temple at the top in this photograph.
Anyway, I had not come all this way to stop, and it felt like a spiritual journey. The view of the Golden Buddha gave me a chance to see the sights and maybe give me inspiration. There was no way of seeing the top of the summit at this stage. Whether that was good or bad I did not know. The trees and vegetation were stopping that. It was now what was becoming an arduous but worthy task of making it to the top. I actually went past a lady who I would guess was 65-70 years old. If she could make it, who was I to start complaining? However, around 2000 steps I started to feel it the most if I had not felt it already. The spring in my step had certainly gone. The pit stops were becoming obvious to me and I plainly knew why each one was there. The problem was in my excitement I had left the person I was with and they had the money. I could not buy any drink. As I ascended more, I became a person to look at as much as I looked at others. The sweat was showing on my shirt, and I must have looked shattered. The conversations between climbers were about feeling tired and how are you feeling. I was a foreigner so maybe I stuck out more and people wanted to speak to me. I was certainly not alone in having the realisation that this was going to be a slog. Despite this, to make it to the top and the temple showed a person’s perseverance and how much they wanted to make it.
The sweat was starting to show on my shirt. I was doing one step by one step. There was no more jumping up two steps at a time. My back was now arched down, not lifting my legs as high and I was looking for the next pit stop. I summoned all my energy into making it to the next chance to sit down. I was met by other fellow climbers. There seemed to be a communal spirit to make it. I was hoping that it would soon say 3000 steps but I was in luck there was a sign that said 3200. I was nearly there. It was apparent that others were slowly making their way as I ventured on to the top and was on my own for a bit. I was soon turning the corner to see the temple at the top of the mountain. My personal pilgrimage to the summit was complete. I clocked in at about 90 minutes. 90 minutes of what was hard work I must say. I had to give myself another five minutes to compose myself and I needed some water. Anyway, It was all worth it.
Looking down to where I had started and the amazing scenery was something to behold. Thailand is a beautiful country. The sun was starting to set so the camera was out. The Golden Buddha looked resplendent in its position looking over the verdant land far and wide. There was a feeling of contentment that I had done this climb. It was a test. I expect it has more meaning to the Thai people when they arrive in all its spiritual meanings. However, I went over to the Buddha footprint and performed the 3 Wais. I believe it is called the Benchangkhapradit krap, not Wai. Nevertheless, an older Thai lady followed me, and I watched her perform it extremely appropriately with some chants to follow. It was funny when she then answered a call on her mobile phone next to the footprint and chatted away. Above all, this is a definite for anyone who travels to this area of Thailand. Get ready for a challenge but when you are at the top it is something else, spiritually and visually!
By the way the person I was with did make it. They also had some money to buy a drink. However, I met them as I walked down but agreed to go back up to the top.