Wat Doi Suthep, also known as ‘Wat Phra That Doi Suthep’ is one of Northern Thailand’s most sacred and architecturally stunning temples. It sits on the Doi Suthep mountain in the western part of the Chiang Mai Province at 3,500 feet above sea level. The temple boasts of an impressive history and is considered one of the region’s most pious sites.
Wat Doi Suthep was built by King Keu Naone in 1386 to enshrine a magical piece of bone that is said to have fallen from the shoulder of the Holy Buddha. Legend has it, that the relic was mounted on a white elephant that wandered about in the nearby jungle and began climbing the Doi Suthep mountain. While attempting this feat, the elephant trumpeted three times before dropping dead at a spot. The place where he lay was believed to be auspicious and is now the site of the sacred temple. In the past few years, the holy structure has been re-designed and restored at various stages.
What’s So Awesome About It
Apart from its interesting history, Wat Doi Suthep is highly revered for its architectural beauty and recreational significance. The main temple can be reached via a 306-step staircase that is flanked by a beautiful seven-headed serpent. The end of the fleet is marked by a terrace space that is lined with flowering trees, expansive gardens and other monuments, including a statue of the legendary white elephant.
The temple’s inner courtyard consists of a gleaming golden chedi with large murals on all sides. It is the holiest site on the temple grounds and is often flocked by visitors. The chedi further boasts of a beautiful five-tiered umbrella on the top that marks the city’s independence from Burma and its union with Thailand. Aesthetically, the structure is highly inspired by Sukhothai art, elements of which can be seen in the intricate depictions on its walls.
What’s The Catch
The hike to Wat Doi Suthep can be challenging for those with physical ailments. The climb to the temple can prove to be especially difficult during monsoons when the terrain around the mountain gets slippery. Additionally, those seeking absolute solace can also find the crowds at the complex a deterrent.
How To Reach There
Wat Doi Suthep is located at 15 km from Chiang Mai and can be easily reached by road. Drive down the Huai Kaew- Chiang Mai University – Chiang Mai Zoo route until you reach the parking area at Wat Doi Suthep. Alternatively, hire a red songthaew from Huai Kaew for 40 Bhat per person or a private taxi costing 500 baht for a round-trip. Once at Doi Suthep, you can either climb the 306 steps or rent a cable car for 50 baht.
- Camera and Tripods are not allowed inside the temple complex and it is advisable to visit the place without any expensive gadgets in tow. Since the way up the temple is an uphill climb, wearing comfortable shoes is recommended. If interested in shopping, purchase Buddhist charms and bracelets from monks who will bless the item for you upon request.
- Keep your shoulders and knees covered before entering the temple and remove your footwear outside the main area. In case you aren’t appropriately covered, you can buy body wraps from the shops inside the complex.
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