Doi Suthep Temple – A Spiritual Journey Above Chiang Mai
Once you embark on the Monk’s Trail, you will experience nature at its finest and become entranced by cultural intrigue surrounding this temple.
Legend has it that in 14th-century Thailand, when an old relic multiplied, King Phra Maha Chulal decided to place it on an elephant and allow it to choose where best to place the temple. When Doi Suthep mountain came into view, trumpeting elephant knelt down before eventually dying of old age.
Climbing the Staircase
Doi Suthep Mountain in Northern Thailand is revered by pilgrims, and its temple atop is one of the key pilgrimage spots. Additionally, Doi Suthep boasts many golden pagodas, shrines and statues making for an impressive destination.
Get ready for an adventure. Hike up Wat Phra That Doi Suthep’s steep, rugged steps or take a funicular-style cable car ride, which costs only 20 Baht for locals and 50 Baht for foreigners; wear pants if possible or ask the temple authorities for one as the ride might get bumpy! For maximum pleasure and safety when visiting this Buddhist temple in Chiang Mai, have some spare pants ready as the authorities might lend out one from time to time if shorts won’t do.
Climbing these stairs builds Buddhist merit. At the bottom, a small pavilion serves as a meeting place where visitors light candles and offer lotus buds to the chedi, before softly ringing bells to announce to “heaven” that they have come to pay their respects.
The temple itself is an impressive collection of pagodas, viharns and Buddha statues that was constructed during King Kuena (r.1367-88)’s rule and expanded throughout history. I was particularly taken with its vibrant roof colors with golden roof gildings featuring protrusions for Naga snakes on many of them.
At the entrance to the main shrine is a monument commemorating the white elephant that transported Buddha’s holy relics. Another interesting landmark is a cell-like structure housing a statue of Hermit Suthep whose name gives rise to this mountain; paying your respects will bring luck.
Once at the temple, explore its exteriors to uncover more shrines and smaller temple buildings. Additionally, its terrace provides breathtaking views, and is an excellent spot from which to watch the sun set over the mountains below.
Doi Suthep is an easy day trip from Chiang Mai, with most tours lasting half a day and including round-trip transportation. Many visits also include Phuping Palace, Hmong hilltribe village visits and reaching the peak of Doi Pui National Park for breathtaking panoramic views.
Inside the Temple
Doi Suthep temple complex is an eye-catching collection of pavilions, pagodas and statues that combine into an intriguing whole. At its centre lies a breathtaking golden-painted chedi (pagoda), which stands surrounded by cool closters and is watched over by an elephant as an emblematic protector for its sacred relic. Open all day and offering something to see and do at every hour – you could easily spend two or three hours here before finding refreshments nearby or eating something from one of the restaurants offering refreshments or snacks
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep’s legendary origins can be traced to a dream in which a monk discovered a sacred relic by chance during meditation. According to legend, he found a glowing bone with magical properties which was presented to an Indianized region king who was immediately impressed. After testing again failed to confirm its mystical properties however, the monk took ownership and placed it within Doi Suthep as his shrine.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep stands as an inspiration for similar shrines throughout Northern Thailand and beyond, serving both Buddhists and tourists alike. Situated on the western outskirts of Chiang Mai and easily reachable, visitors can drive or take a songthaew truck directly to this holy site and temple complex located nearby – no entrance fees apply – while visiting only costs around 20 Baht per person to enter its park or visit its temples.
Once you ascend the steps leading up to the chedi, you will be met by stunning views of surrounding mountains and forests – ideal for photographing as well as experiencing its tranquillity. A stroll around the temple reveals a junior bell tower, Shrine of Thao Mahaprom (Brahma) Statue Shrine and Bodhi Tree said to originate in India where Buddha spent time self-teaching himself.
Doi Suthep also offers many other activities, including hiking trails to beautiful waterfalls like Huay Kaew and Mae Sa, hilltribe villages, and wildlife such as birds, butterflies, mammals and even rare crocodile salamanders.
The Hmong Village
Doi Suthep’s serenity belies an intriguing Hmong village waiting to be explored. These members of Northern Thailand’s “hilltribe” community have set up an inviting shop where visitors can learn more about their daily lives as well as purchase handmade goods made by them. Although perhaps somewhat commercialized, visiting this unique community is still fun and educational while supporting its economy.
For those curious to know the history of their temple, a small museum with ancient photographs and old pieces of temple ware is located within its complex. Additionally, this exhibit provides information about its formation and any legend surrounding it; while its main draw is undoubtedly its golden chedi holding Buddha relics surrounded by ornate carvings.
Temple of Heaven in Bangkok is renowned spiritual destination, both among Buddhists and curious travelers searching for cultural and religious experiences. To reach it, one must first ascend an eye-catching staircase lined with multi-colored glass Naga serpents – this place of reverence serves as part of an everyday Buddhist practice and climbing up those stairs is often performed to earn Buddhist merit.
Once at the top, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and forests. Additionally, this temple complex hosts numerous pagodas, statues, and viharns; these serve as living quarters for monks that reside here.
Doi Suthep Temple can become quite crowded during Christmas and New Year vacation periods, making November or February ideal times to visit it and avoid crowds. For an organized experience, join one of the half-day tours that visit Doi Suthep and other attractions nearby – these tours typically last half a day and include round trip transportation from Chiang Mai; hotel booking services or travel agencies offer this service; alternatively you can hire your own vehicle and plan your own itinerary directly.
Doi Suthep, located in northern Thailand, is one of the most significant mountains and hosts some of its most revered temples as well as picturesque waterfalls and hiking trails – providing many with an escape from city life.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is the primary temple on Doi Suthep and exists because of an important Buddhist relic – one of its revered shoulder bone relics from Buddha himself, first discovered at Sukhothai ancient capital and brought by monks later to Chiang Mai where it rests within the Chedi’s rounded top.
The Cenedi is surrounded by pavilions and pagodas serving as monk living quarters. It’s an enchanting site, so plan to spend at least an hour exploring it during cooler mornings or evenings of the year, particularly as you explore its inner courtyards where there are statues of Buddha in various poses, clothing choices, or attire that reflect its diversity of worship. The sculpting here is truly unrivaled throughout Asia reflecting this faith’s diversity.
On a clear day, the long promenade that circles Doi Suthep Temple makes an excellent backdrop for photography and is the ideal place for enjoying beautiful panoramic views of both city and countryside. Additionally, its walkway features many seated Buddhas carved out of boulders that make great photo opps; finally, behind this promenade there’s an expansive viewing terrace offering great panoramic vistas; this spot can even serve as the site for early morning prayer sessions for spiritual seekers!
Hmong village may be slightly commercialized than desired, but that doesn’t make it unworthy of visiting. Here, you will learn about Hmong culture while supporting local economies and admiring beautiful scenery. Don’t forget to listen for monks chanting from near the foot of stairs leading up to their temple; their voices may make an interesting and noise-free accompaniment!