Saturday, 11 August 2012

Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep

The Thai people say "If you haven't visited the temple of Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, then you haven't truly visited the city of Chiang Mai". This temple, which is one of the most important & sacred in all of Thailand sits in the lush green mountains of  Doi Suthep. The temple overlooks the ancient city and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in this region.

Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep
The gold plated chedi at Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep

Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep dates back to 1383 when a monk from Sukhothai asked the Thai King to take a relic to the mountain. The relic was mounted onto the back of a white elephant, which was allowed to roam freely in order to find a site on which to build the temple. As the elephant roamed up Doi Suthep it stopped and died and it is this spot where the elephant died, the temple was built.

sala tree
Sala Tree
Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep is located 15km from Chiang Mai, travelling along the Huay Kaew Road to the long winding road that leads to the temple. Red taxis (Songthews) are the best form of transport as they regularly travel up to the temple as tuk tuks are not permitted to travel to this destination.

Once you arrive at the foot of the temple you have two choices. You can either take the 306 step naga (snake) style stairs if you are feeling energetic. Alternatively a cable car / tram can be used costing 30B one way or 50B return for foreigners, it is free for Thai nationals.

white elephant
The White Elephant
Once into the temple grounds there are some great views of Chiang Mai, best viewed on a clear day. Other features are shrines, bells, Buddha statues, murals, paintings & pagodas. To enter the main temple area a dress code must adhered to, e.g. no shoes and no shorts / short skirts, however clothing is provided to meet the dress code requirements if you come unprepared.

Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep
The inner area of the temple
The main feature of the inner temple area is the large gold plated chedi where the ancient relic originally carried by the white elephant is enshrined.

A visit to Chiang Mai is not complete without a visit to this temple.