Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
High on Doi Suthep mountain sits Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, a magnificent temple draped in gold also known as Doi Suthep Temple, the most sacred temple in northern Thailand and one of the most important Buddhist temple in Chiang Mai Province. Wat means temple in Thai.
An enormously popular destination, Wat Doi Suthep hosts thousands of tourists and pilgrims each day. Its popularity is well-merited, and the temple grounds are expansive enough that you won’t mind sharing the experience. In fact, the panoramic views from the mountain’s peak across the city and countryside below are so breathtaking that you might not even notice the crowds at all.
Doi Suthep Temple during the Day
Many local Thais pay homage to the Buddha image during Visakha Buchaa Buddhist Holiday.
On Top of Doi Suthep
To reach the top of Wat Doi Suthep Temple you must climb the 306 elegant steps of the Naga staircase. Funicular cable-cars are also available to take you up, and the fare is 20 Baht. Nagas are dragon-like deities in Hindu and Buddhist mythology, and these sacred serpents run along the entire length of the steps, guarding the gates to the entrance. Though daunting at first, the foliage-shrouded steps and their guardians are truly one of the highlights of the visit.
When you reach the top, you will be rewarded with golden pagodas, shrines, bells, statues, holy Buddha relics and a golden chedi, one of the temple’s holiest structures. A legendary white elephant statue sits near the top of the Naga stairs. This is no ordinary elephant – it commemorates the sacred white elephant that carried the relics of the Buddha himself to the top of Doi Suthep mountain, trumpeted three times and then lay down to rest.
There are numerous areas to pay respect to the shrines, kneel in prayer, and receive blessings with offerings and incense. Elder monks offer blessings to those who wish to receive them in one of the two prayer rooms that are open to the public.
The centerpiece of the experience for many visitors is the view from the summit. The view of Chiang Mai over the edge of the mountain shows the countryside spread out into the horizon, Chiang Mai city in perfect miniature, glittering at sunset like stars on earth.
At The Bottom of the Mountain
Across the street from the temple, there are a number of delicious food stalls where you can grab a bite to eat before visiting the monastery. Options like Pad Thai, Tom Yung Kung, and even sweets like ice cream and cookies are available to keep you going.
An abundance of souvenirs are aligned among the stalls offering gifts that can last a lifetime. Handmade jackets, shirts, pants, wooden frogs and mini statues are just a few of the many popular items you can find.
Look out for the immense golden Buddha statue that stands next to the entrance of the temple. It can be reached via a separate path and makes an ideal photo opportunity to preserve the memory of your trip to Doi Suthep Chiang Mai.
Doi Suthep Temple at Night
Taking the Trip
It is possible to make the trip to the temple by scooter from Huay Kaew Road, but the mountain road is windy and steep, so choose this option only if you are an experienced rider. Some cyclists even brave the ride on a bike and push their way uphill around the curves. A tour in a truck or songthaew (a red taxi truck with an open back) is the best option for travellers without their own transportation.
Arrive early to avoid the crowds, or come later in the day to watch the sun set over the mountains. Clear your schedule and be prepared to spend a few hours here. You might even catch the monks chanting, praying or performing their daily rituals. Simply put, at any time of day, Doi Suthep will take your breath away.
Doi Suthep Temple Day Trip
Hmong Hill Tribe Village
Doi Pui Hmong Hill Tribe Village is the perfect place to see authentic tribes living in the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park mountains of Chiang Mai. The villagers wear Hmong clothes and sell Hmong handicrafts. Here you will have a chance to look over their shoulder as they weave, carve and construct.
You can visit Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep and the tribal community at the same time. If you are interested, you can include a stop at the museum located in the village as part of your adventure itinerary.
Make a difference by visiting native villages and leaving with more than a few souvenirs, photos and memories, but with an appreciation for their lives.