Our Trip to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a holy temple located about 15km along the winding road up Doi Suthep mountain which overlooks Chiang Mai. We had to go and visit as it is one of the ‘must see’ places in Chiang mai and on most days we can see it from our apartment.

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The songthaew (red pick up trucks with seats along the sides) near our apartment quoted 800 baht for a return trip to the temple. The girls at the apartment said it shouldn’t cost us more than 40 baht each but since we are ‘farangs’ (foreigners) we knew it would be a bit more – at the most 200.  We just laughed and then were offered 600…laughed a bit more and walked down the street, flagged another songthaew and shared the ride with young Thai students who were also touristing. We got a return trip for 200 with an extra 50 to stop at the King and Queens Winter Palace on the way.

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We spent a couple of hours at the King and Queens Royal Winter Palace (Bhubing Palace). Although we couldn’t go inside the building the grounds were beautiful and the rose garden stunning.

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We took lots of photos, even  got told off by a security guard for standing on the lawn while stretching to take a closer shot of a flower!

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Security was pretty full on and just like at the temples we needed to be covered up…this time Bruce wasn’t to show his knees so hired a pair of very flattering fisher man pants!

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We climbed back in the songthaew and drove further up the mountain passing quite a few energetic or crazy guys on pushbikes riding up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.

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Doi Suthep is considered one of the holiest temples in Chiang Mai which is reached via a 306 (I think) step staircase flanked by mosaiced serpents (naga serpent staircase).  There are lots of young hill tribe children in their traditioanl dress posing for pictures to try and make a few baht.

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I took quite a few pictures and donated some coins. We all have to make a living some way and I noticed the Mums were keeping a close eye on them!

Once at the top and inside the temple grounds you get to a terrace area where you get a view over all of Chiang Mai, weather permitting of course. There are several buildings, pagodas, statues and bells, emerald Buddha statue and in the centre is the most holy area with the 52 foot tall golden Chedi (golden pagoda) glistening in the sun.

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As is the case in all temples, you need to remove your shoes and dress appropriately. Ladies-Shoulders covered and no shorts, mind you the rules seemed more lax than when visiting the Palace which is a bit strange.

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According to legend a Buddha relic was placed on the back of a white elephant which was allowed to roam where ever it wanted. The elephant eventually climbed to the top of Suthep mountain, trumpeted three times, turned around three times knelt down and died! This was a sign and the spot where the temple was build around 1383. Although a major tourist attraction it plays an important part of the life of Thais and is still a working monastery today.

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Besides the huge line up of songthaews at the base of the temple steps, there are the usual souvenir shops with people trying to sell you lotus flowers and knick knacks.

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We were there at about 11 am and it was very busy with lots of tourists taking photos (including us!).  In retrospect it may have been better to go early in the morning for sunrise. Anyway we had a nice time looking around, took lots of photos and passed a pleasant morning back and were back in time for a late lunch.

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Happy travels!

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Author: Pascale Zufferey

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