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WAT PHRATHAT DOI SUTHEP
The most famous temple of Chiang Mai and surroundings is the Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. Also called the temple on the mountain. The temple is located 15 km outside the city on Mount Suthep in the Doi Pui National Park. The Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep is built at an altitude of 1 kilometer and therefore offers spectacular view over the valley where Chiang Mai is located. It’s therefore more than worth the climb of 309 steps. If, despite the nice reward of the view, you think that is a bit too much, then just take the elevator to the top. In bad weather the view can be disappointing and therefore we advise you to check the weather forecast before you go, to avoid disappointment. The temple complex itself will remain worth a visit anyway, weather permitting!
Like many temples in Thailand, the Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep originates from the Lana era. It is not entirely certain but it is said that this temple dates from 1383 when the first stupa at this place was built. In the course of the years the temple has been expanded with several buildings and the stairs upstairs were only constructed in 1935.
Visit the temple during the early morning or towards the end of the day, it is then often quieter and less hot.
The legend of the Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep
Legend has it that there was a monk named Sumanathera from Sukhothai with a dream in which God told him to go to Pang Cha to look for a relic. Sumanathera found a bone and as they say it was the shoulder bone of Buddha with magical powers. The bone glowed, could multiply and was able to disappear.
The relic was brought to King Sukhothai Dharmaraja. Once there, the relic did nothing, nada, niente… The king Dharmaraja didn’t believe it was the shoulder bone of Buddha and told Sumanathera that he could keep it. Also king Nu Naone from Lanna asked if he could have a look at the relic but didn’t see anything special in it. In 1368 Sumanathera left for Lamphun in Northern Thailand.
On the way the bone broke in two and part of it was placed in a temple in Suandok among the other relics that were placed there. The other part was placed on the back of a white elephant who then climbed Mount Doi Suthep through the jungle. There the white elephant trumpeted three times and then fell dead. This was seen as an important sign by King Nu Naone who then ordered the construction of the temple Wat Phrathat on Mount Doi Suthep.
The temple complex consists of a copper-clad Chedi (also called stoepa or pagoda) in which a temple is located, this is also the most important place of the complex. In addition, the temple complex consists of several other smaller Chedi’s, many statues with Buddhist or Hindu background and a small museum. You will also find a copy of the Emerald Buddha from Bangkok and a statue of the Hindu god Ganesha. Besides all this beauty you will get a beautiful view over Chiang Mai as a bonus.
How do you get to Doi Suthep, the temple on the mountain?
Option 1) You can visit the Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep temple with a red Songthaew. The Songthaew has a fixed route on the main roads around the city walls. If you see a Songthaew with Doi Suthep on the front you raise your hand. But often they honk at you to indicate that you can join them. With 8 to 10 people you pay about 50 baht. When the Songthaew is completely empty and you don’t want to wait for other people, you pay 300 baht for the whole Songthaew for one way. The Songthaew will drop you off in front of the entrance of the temple complex. Where a climb of 309 steps (or just the elevator) awaits you.
Option 2) Another option is to take the scooter, if you have some scooter experience then this is definitely worth it because you are a lot freer and can stop at various viewpoints. The route is sometimes quite steep and winding but the roads are asphalted everywhere.
Option 3) Take a private well air conditioned taxi. This will cost you between 1.000 and 1.500 baht and is all for yourself.
From Doi Suthep back to Chiang Mai Old Town
On the way back to Chiang Mai Old Town the Songthaew’s are already waiting at the exit at the bottom of the stairs. So you don’t have to make an appointment with a driver beforehand about the way back. This way you decide how long you want to stay at the Doi Suthep. You pay between 50 and 100 baht per person per one-way trip. Then we will wait until the Songthaew is full. The price depends on where you get off at Chiang Mai. On the map of the driver you indicate where you want to get off. Depending on that, you will pay between 50 and 100 baht per person. The Songthaew functions as a kind of bus, you can only get off at fixed points
Information Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep
Open: Daily from 06:00 – 18:00
Entrance: 30 baht / elevator costst 20 baht extra
Address: Road Tambon Su Thep in Chiang Mai