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Label : Top Attraction

Tags : Buddhist Temple

Timings : 6:00 AM - 6:00 PM

Time Required : 1-2 hrs

Entry Fee : THB 30 per person

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Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai Overview

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, also popular as Doi Suthep, is one of Thailand's most historically significant places, dating back to 700 years. The gold-plated temple with an elaborate chedi sits on the top of Doi Suthep mountain and, thus, has a stunning view of Chaing Mai. You can reach here by hiking, renting a motorbike, or in a songthaew, then climb the 300 steps to the top or take an electric tram available from 6:00 AM - 6:00 PM.

Another reason to visit the Doi Suthep temple in Chiang Mai is its unique and divine architecture. There is also a small museum on the premises. From the beginning of the staircase near the Parking zone, one gets a glimpse of the Thai architectural marvels from the large Naga (Serpent) structures present along the staircase. Generally, two of the six gates leading to the chedis are open.

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Legend of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Although you may come across multiple versions of the history associated with the temple of Doi Suthep, many believe that it was built after the occurrence of an incident, which Thai people still consider as a good omen. As per historical records, a monk named Sumanathera was instructed in his dreams to collect a relic from Pang Cha. When he went there, he discovered a bone, which was claimed to be Lord Buddha’s shoulder bone. This assumption converted into belief when the bone showcased its capabilities to glow, replicate and vanish itself.

With a vision to give the holy relic its correct place in the society, Sumanathera took the bone first to King Dhammaraja of Sukhothai and later to King Nu Naone of Lan Na. When the monk reached Lamphun, the bone broke into two pieces, the shorter piece of which is enshrined at Wat Suan Dok. The remaining longer piece was tied on the back of a white elephant, who carried it to the top of Doi Suthep mountain. Upon reaching the top, it is believed that the white elephant trumpeted thrice prior to dying peacefully.

Considering this to be an omen, King Nu Naone ordered the construction of the temple at the site of the animal’s death. The temple was named as Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple, or Doi Suthep temple. Till date, it is believed that the piece of Lord Buddha’s shoulder bone is present in between the rounded portion of the Chedi above the octagonal section and the ringed section of the temple. You can interpret this from the name as well – Phra signifies Buddha’s image, and That means relic. Combining the two words, you get the meaning of Buddha’s relic.

Doi Suthep
Buddha images at Doi Suthep

Architecture of Doi Suthep

The architecture of the Doi Suthep temple is considered to be one of the best in all of Thailand. Once you have parked your car, you have to climb a whopping 309 steps to reach the main compound of the temple. The climb is intended to accrue Buddhist merit as per the Thai culture. At the beginning of the staircase, you will be greeted by beautifully decorated yet giant serpent structures on either side of the staircase. As you start climbing them, you may observe that the vegetation around the entire path also changes gradually. While the trees at the bottom are more of deciduous type, those at the top are lush green and very much dense in vegetation.

Doi Suthep Temple Coutryard
Courtyard at Doi Suthep

Crowned by a Chedi structure 24 meters tall and plated in gold from top to bottom, the sight of Doi Suthep temple is going to give you a sensation of mental peacefulness and relaxation. If you are visiting on a sunny day, make sure to wear sunglasses during your visit to the place. This is because the temple’s chedi glazes off the sunlight like a beacon.

Those of you who are yet to climb to the top may observe the shimmer Doi SUthep cast across a long distance over Chiang Mai city. Apart from this, the architecture and interiors of the Phra Ubosot or the Ordination Hall for performing the prayers within the temple premises are to be looked out for as well. 

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
The glowing Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

How To Reach Doi Suthep

To reach the Doi Suthep from Chiang Mai city, you need to drive along Route 1004. Being situated amidst dense forests with muddy routes, it is advised to drive to the place in a SUV to avoid getting stuck en route. Upon reaching the parking lot of Doi Suthep, you may either reach to the top by climbing the stairs or buy yourselves a ticket for the cable cars at minimal charges of THB 50 per person.

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