Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Temples fill the city of Chiang Mai, especially in the Old City, there are temples every few feet. One of the most sacred temples in northern Thailand is located on the western outskirts of the city. You will find Wat Doi Suthep on the Doi Suthep mountain. You can plan your trip from Chiang Mai in several different ways. This day trip should not be missed due to the beauty of the area and the breathtaking views. You can get to the temple by renting a scooter, motorbike or car, through a guided tour or by chartering a songthaew.
Songthaews are red trucks you will find all over Chiang Mai. This type of transportation is similar to a shared taxi. You can drive to the temple with a motorbike or car by taking Huay Kaew Road (1004). You will pass Maya Mall as you head in the direction of the Chiang Mai Zoo. Despite the straight route, you will encounter some curves. Scooters and motorbikes are not recommended if you do not have some experience. If you are comfortable with this type of transportation and have an international driver's license, this is a beautiful route up the mountain.
To get to the temple, you need to board from Huay Kaew Road. Your cost each way is 40 baht. In most cases, the driver will not leave until there are between eight and ten passengers. If you are with a group, songthaews can be chartered from all over Chiang Mai. The cost each way is is 300 THB for as many individuals the songthaew will hold. If you want the driver to wait until you return, you cost is 500 THB.
If you enjoy hiking, you can reach the temple from Suthep Road. You will need to pass Chiang Mai University to locate the beginning of the hike. Continue until you reach a green area. You will see a sign with the words Nature Hike. Make a right, then follow the narrow road for approximately 100 metres. The only turn will be on your left. This road will take you to the trail head. There are two options after you have reached the temple base. You can climb the 306 steps or pay the fee for the funicular-style cable car. The car is available from 6:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.
The History of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
One of the western Chiang Mai districts is Suthep. The name was derived from the adjoining mountain. In northern Thai, doi means mountain. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is located on the mountainside. Doi Suthep-Pui National Park consists of Doi Pui and the mountain. Construction of this impressive temple started in 1386. The legend says the reason the temple was built was to encompass a piece of bone from the shoulder of Buddha.
In Thailand, this symbol is very important. A scared white elephant carried one of the bones. Once the elephant climbed the mountain, he stopped close to the peak. A trumpet was then sounded three times. The elephant then laid down prior to passing away gently within the jungle. The place where the elephant lay became the site upon which the temple was built.
The Beauty of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep shimmers amongst Doi Suthep. This is one of the most spiritual and significant temples anywhere in Thailand and is the reason so many travelers and Thais come to this holy place to become a part of the magic. The power and grandeur of the Lanna Kingdom are beautifully represented by Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Everyone who visits Chiang Mai should take the time to visit this extraordinary temple. The distance from the temple grounds to the parking lot is more than 300 steps. The longest naga balustrade in the country borders the staircase.
The Thai people believe the naga divides the sky and earth while offering good luck. This is a scared water serpent in Thailand. Once you have climbed the stairs, you will feel as though you have reached the top of the world. If your energy is running low, you can stop at one of the food stalls you will see once you reach the top. If you are not interested in a climb, recently rebuilt cable cars are available to take you to the top for 50 baht.
There is a lot to see once you have arrived. The top of the temple is dominated by the glorious golden Chedi. During the 16th century, ceremonial parasols were added to all four corners by the pilgrims. The view from the long promenade located at the back of the temple is breathtaking. You will see the city below, with the sparkling Ping River bisecting the Chiang Mai. This is an excellent place to take photographs. There are statues around the temple depicting the different Buddhas and gods of the Thai religion.
You will also see statues of the legendary white elephant responsible for the erection of the temple. Look for the Bodhi tree. The spreading limbs are referred to as the Tree of Enlightenment. The tree is located just to the right of the temple entrance. The temple also features a set of temple bells called rakhang. Devote Buddhists believe touching these bells brings good luck.
The Murals Around the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple
Take a walk around the temple to take a good look at all of the impressive murals used to decorate the walls. The majority of temples (wats) have murals detailing the teachings and life of the Buddha. If you have any questions, the lay practitioners and monks will be happy to provide you with the answers. The beauty of Doi Suthep National Park is absolutely stunning. Despite this, the reason most people visit is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. The temple represents one of the holiest Buddhist sites in the country.
The temple is visited most frequently during Visakha Bucha and Makha Bucha. These Buddhist holidays are celebrated on May 11th and February 13th. Many people believe no trip to Thailand is complete without a visit to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a major pilgrimage destination, especially during the Buddhist holidays of Makha Bucha and Visakha Bucha (February 13 and May 11, respectively).
The Elaborate Chedi
An elaborate monument (Chedi) is the crowning grace of the temple. The Chedi reaches 24 metres in height with gold plating from the bottom to the top. The sun reflects off the golden Chedi on clear days like a beacon blazing across the city. The 14th-century myth regarding the founding of the temple is part of the mystery and magic of Thailand. If you are intrigued by the spirituality of the temple, the International Buddhism Center offers meditation courses.
The importance of Doi Suthep in Thai culture is increased by Bhuging Palace. This is where the Royal Family spends their vacations. The palace also provides foreign dignitaries with a guest house when the Royal Family is not in residence. The palace was constructed in 1961, with the King and Queen of Denmark being the first guests. You can also visit the little hill tribe villages. The lives of these people have not changed much over the course of hundreds of years.
The Waterfall Cascades
You will find numerous waterfall cascades throughout Doi Suthep National Park. You can easily reach these pleasurable cascades of shimmering water. As the water plummets down from the cliffs, glistening pools form along the pathways of the water. Huay Kaew falls is the most frequently visited. You can find this waterfall near the park entrance, right off the road. This is a divine place to come to see the beauty above or to enjoy a picnic.
Continue on the road leading to the temple to reach the Monthathan waterfall. The nine tiers of the falls lead to another beautiful area for a picnic. The admission of 300 baht is well worth the cost. Most of the 1,000 metres encompassed by the park are above sea level. The climate of the park is much cooler than that of Chiang Mai. From April to June (the hot season) the average temperature is about 20 to 23 degrees Celsius. From the middle of December until the end of March (the cool season) temperatures are as low as six degrees Celsius.
From July until the middle of November (the rainy season), the view at the top is cloudy. If you plan to visit during the hot season, you will discover lovely temperatures resulting from the waterfalls and many shady trees. This is an excellent retreat from the heat of the city.
The Restaurants and Shops
You will find a nice selection of charming little restaurants and shops in the park. You will discover several options to remain overnight close to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. The rudimentary bungalows and small huts are ideal for an overnight visit. You should be able to see the majority of the highlights within one day.
The Colourful Flora and Fauna
During the dry season, Doi Suthep offers a mixture of deciduous forests at the lower elevations. Once you reach 1000 metres, you will see tropical evergreen forests. The many flowers growing among the trees perfume the air while offering gorgeous colours. This is the home of several different animal species. They are mainly small mammals and birds. The most common primate are the macaques. You may also see different species of small monkeys playing in the treetops.
The game trails in the deepest interiors of the park offer wild boar and dozens of bat varieties during both dawn and dusk. This is one of just four places in the country inhabited by the Crocodile Salamander. If you enjoy bird watching, you can see more than three hundred different species in the park. The best time to have your camera and binoculars ready is at dawn.
The Additional Attractions of Doi Suthep
Doi Suthep has become much more easily accessible than in the past. Until 1935, no road had been built to the top. Khruba Srivichai is the well-respected individual responsible for the construction of the road. He is often referred to as the Engineer Monk. Before he intervened, an extremely difficult five-hour climb was required to get to the temple. He decided to have a road built so the pilgrims could reach the temple much easier. When he asked for workers, enormous crowds appeared from across the north.
Once so much labour became available, Khruba Srivichai issued an order stating the workers from each village were only to build 10 feet of the roadway. Due to the devotion of the workers, the road was completed extremely quickly. Khruba Srivichai is memorialised by the monument placed at the base of the mountain. The road effectively eliminated the long and difficult walk once necessary to reach the temple. The main destination for anyone travelling to Doi Suthep is the temple. There are also many other reasons to spend time at the park.
The Bhubing Palace is located fairly close to the temple. The public is able to visit the Palace during the majority of the year. The exception is from the middle of December until early February because the Royal Family is staying at the palace. During the rest of the year, you can visit the palace, take a nice stroll around the grounds and see the explosion of colour created by the blooming flowers in the garden. You will only need to travel a short distance from the palace to reach the biggest hill tribe village.
In spite of the commercialisation of the village, you will still enjoy the trip. If you have additional time available, visit the more remote and authentic villages. These villages have not yet been commercialised.
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