Chasing Buddha footprints at Khitchakut Mountain Chanthaburi

Chasing Buddha footprints at Khitchakut Mountain Chanthaburi

Chasing Buddha footprints at Khitchakut Mountain ChanthaburiThe religious pilgrimage to Khitchakut Mountain in Chanthaburi is something that needs to be fulfilled if you have even a small positive feeling towards the Buddhist religion. Stories tell that at the summit of Khitchakut Mountain, located in Chanthaburi province near the Thai-Cambodia border, there is a footprint of Lord Buddha.

It is said that visiting the footprint is nothing short of standing before the Lord Buddha and those that make the trek up the mountain are granted one wish. These simple spiritual beliefs are what draws the millions of people to make the climb during the one month the mountain is open each year.

My journey began as a last minute decision to make the pilgrimage to Khitchakut Mountain, starting with the drive from Ban Pong Ratchaburi at 8.30pm. We arrived at Chanthaburi around 2am, some 5 or so hours later, to find the roads choked with bumper to bumper traffic.

Chasing Buddha footprints at Khitchakut Mountain Chanthaburi7Arriving in the wee hours of the morning we were not expecting the sheer amount of people that would be there. One positive to take away was the fact that had we arrived during the night and daylight hours it would have been 10 times worse.

Through some shoddy directions from the police on the roads, we were able to make our way to one of the carparks, which were full of tour mini-vans, buses and cars flooding people out onto the roads.

Once you buy your ticket (50thb per person), you have a number on it, which reflects which taxi pickup (ute) you will be driven in up the first 3rd of the mountain. Now they do this as a sort of organised chaos, as the road up the mountain is tight, steep, slippery and dangerous.

Chasing Buddha footprints at Khitchakut Mountain ChanthaburiLooking at our ticket number, and doing some quick maths resulted in me estimating that it would be at least 6 hours before it was our turn. With my body running on adrenaline and Redbull, we decided we would really commit to the pilgrimage and attempt to walk the first 3rd of the way ourselves.

Doning hiking boots and a few bottles of water, we made our way up the first section of road and through the first check point maned by military guards. Once through, we were able to get off the road and start hiking the small goat track the was along side the road sometimes in pitch darkness. To say the hike up the first 3rd of the mountain was easy is an understatement. We covered approximately 5 km in just under two hours. The track is extremely steep in sections, wet, slippery and considerably dangerous.

Chasing Buddha footprints at Khitchakut Mountain Chanthaburi7Even though it was the in darkness and 3am, sweat was dripping and climbing up some of the sections it felt like our legs were going to explode.

There was definitely a sense of comradely as we ascended on foot, with people helping one another negotiate the track in the dark and assisting in some of the sections where you were required to climb, almost crawling up the track.

Chasing Buddha footprints at Khitchakut Mountain Chanthaburi7Once we arrived at the 2nd checkpoint, which is where you change over from one pickup to another from the base, you are required to buy another ticket for 50thb each if you want to be driven up the next section.

After the massive hike, and with a belly full of cold watermelon and water, we decided that the the walk up section 2 was not in our ability considering we knew that there was no option for section 3 but to walk. We purchased out tickets and as luck would have it only had to wait 20 minutes until our number was called.

Now to say that the ride in the pickup was easier is an understatement, the guys that drive the 4×4 vehicles up the mountain haul arse, and as your packet into the back like sardines, it is one of the most fearful experiences I have had, and there was still the fear of being driven back down at the end.

Once we arrived at the 3rd checkpoint, this is where there becomes no option other than walking. For most people who decide to be driven from the bottom, this is where their trek starts, but for us, being over committed to the trek, this is where the second part of our walk was to begin.

Your first foot steps up from here are onto concrete steps, and for the rest of the climb, you are presented with step after step of elevation changes.

There was a constant flow of people, stopping at various rocks to throw flowers, place money or reflect. The smell of incense and the fragrant flowers (marigolds and carnations) sprinkled about the path and rocks made portions of the climb colorful and spiritual.

There were sections of the climb that had large steel bells hanging one after another. The people making the walk who were wishing for good fortune, would take a coin and tap it against each bell as they walked. Some hundreds of bells were needed to be tapped on to fulfill this dedication.

Chasing Buddha footprints at Khitchakut Mountain Chanthaburi7Throughout the climb there are many shrines allowing people to perform other Buddhist rituals, shops selling trinkets and tokens, and many monks blessing those who wish to present themselves.

As we got closer to the summit, the sun was finally starting to raise through the cloud cover we were standing in.

The main area with the Buddha footprint was packed with people. Being perched on to of the rocky plateau among the masses praying, chanting and trying to get a glimpse of the Buddha footprint to make an offering is nothing short of surreal.

Touching the holy rock and placing pieces of gold leaf, or coins on the sharp, jagged boulder gave those a feeling of reward after a long climb.

Shoes were strewn around on the ground as people would shed them and jostle to make their way towards the base of the rock to pay homage.

Chasing Buddha footprints at Khitchakut Mountain Chanthaburi7People were seen laying on the ground, taking a small area away from the masses to grab a few minutes of shut eye and gain a bit of energy from some rest.

At this point, the whole air of the place changes, there is chanting, incense smoke, low lying clouds, hordes of people, all wanting to make their special presence known to Lord Buddha. There was not panic, everyone had reserved patience despite their individual struggle to make it to the top.

Witnessing the faithful pilgrims of all ages making the trek to the summit was nothing short of inspirational.

Unfortunately for us the mountain was covered in with fog and we were unable to witness the sunrise, but being there while it rose was still a awesome feeling.

After realizing the sun wasn’t going to peak out from the cloud cover, we gathered what limited energy we had left and made our back down the mountain steps to the vehicle checkpoint to buy our tickets to be drive down the two sections towards the base.

During the walk down, we received an armband presented to us by a monk, and were sprayed with holy water and blessed for our journey.

Chasing Buddha footprints at Khitchakut Mountain Chanthaburi7If you have not been to Khitchakut Mountain, do not miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

We guarantee you will walk away with a ever changed outlook on life.

If you’re looking for an off the beaten path experience, where you will be one of only a handful of farang’s, and you’re in Thailand between January and April, then this is a must!

Happy trekking and a safe ascent.