The Sacred Temple of the Mountain

As mentioned in my previous post on temples in Chiang Mai, probably the most famous site in the whole province is the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple. This temple is also regarded as one of the most sacred temples in northern Thailand. This much visited site is located near the top of Doi Suthep (Mount Suthep) and in fact, most people refer the temple simply as Doi Suthep. The temple is about 15 kilometers from the city of  Chiang Mai or can be reached within 25 minutes on rented motorcycles or red songthaews. Please also be reminded that visitors are expected to wear appropriate attire, which means no shorts, skirts or tank tops are allowed in the temple.

This road leading to the temple was first built in 1935
Adventurous enough to climb the 300+ steps to the temple grounds?
These girls are wearing traditional Lanna dress

Once we reach the temple’s main gate, a large staircase with bordering long nagas (water serpent) is awaiting to lead visitors to the temple grounds above. But for those who don’t feel like climbing the 300+ step, there is a cable car nearby which can take visitors up the mountain for an extra charge.  Once reaching the temple ground, there are a lot of food stalls which sells food and drink especially for the brave souls who have opted to climb the stairs to the top. Around the temple complex, there will be a number of point of interests, like the murals which decorate the temple walls, numerous statues, a Bodhi tree, a series of temple bells and various shrines around the main chedi.

The golden chedi shines in the afternoon sunlight
The city of Chiang Mai can be seen from here
Workers were cleaning one of the temple’s shrines

Interestingly there is also a statue of white elephant. Legend has it that a piece of relic bone believed to be Gautama Buddha’s was mounted on a white elephant by the King of Lanna. The elephant wandered to this mountain and on this exact spot, it trumpeted three times, walked in circles three times and died. The king considered this as an omen and ordered for the construction of this temple here. The main structure of this temple is the large golden chedi at the center of the temple ground. The chedi glistens in sparkling gold as the afternoon sunlight shines on the mountain with many visitors and worshippers walk around it in awe and respect.

Intricate details of ornaments decorate each structure in the complex
This is the back of the temple but it doesn’t mean it won’t be decorated

Doi Suthep is undoubtedly the must visit attraction for visitors to Chiang Mai. This temple has become a symbol for the greatness of Lanna Kingdom and the temple is now highly respected by the people of Chiang Mai. One other thing, if we walk to the far side of the temple, we will get to see the city of Chiang Mai from up here. As a Thai saying goes “If you haven’t tasted Khao Soi or seen the view from Doi Suthep, you haven’t been to Chiang Mai”, so I guess I have been to Chiang Mai after all. But my trip didn’t stop here and in my following posts, I will write more on a few other places to visit in this city.


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