Doi Suthep – Wat Prathat

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by lcampbell on January 9, 2002

We went for an evening visit to an amazing Buddhist temple (wat). It is named for the huge gold-covered pagoda (prathat) that is located there, and is located on a 1057 meter mountain called Doi Suthep. On the drive from our guesthouse to the wat, our local guide joined us and told us a bit of history of the old city of Chiang Mai which was the capital of the Lannathai region that existed before Thailand was a country. We saw the old wall around the city as well as the moat, which is now enhanced with fountains and others decorations. After we got through the city, we saw a memorial to a monk at the base of the mountain. Our guide said that it was this monk, along with the first king of Lannathai, that made the road to the top possible. The road was built by hand mostly by volunteers recruited by the monk and took and amazingly short time to build all things considered.

To get into the temple from the parking area, there is a series of 300 steps to go up. The sides of the stairs are bodies of serpents intricately adorned with colored glass. At the top, the first thing you see is the giant gold-covered pagoda. The story of the pagoda is that it is built over a "relic" of the Buddha. Nobody knows what the relic is… it could be a lock of hair, or pretty much anything. The relic is said to have been brought up the mountain on the back of a white elephant. The elephant reached a spot near the top, turned around three times and then laid down. This was a sign that this was where the temple should be built.

There is a panoramic view of Chiang Mai from the Wat. The Wat is extremely clean and well kept – it is considered to be one of the most special places in Thailand and is therefore one of the few temples lucky enough to receive aid from the government for upkeep. Most temples are kept entirely by donations and by hard work by the monks.

A few of us from our group received a blessing from a monk (after which a small donation is expected) so that we could have a safe backpacking trip for the next 4 days. We were each given a string bracelet that we are supposed to wear until it falls off (mine has been on over a month). Monks are not allowed to touch women, so our tour guide tied our strings on for us. At sunset, the monks started their chanting and we stayed to observe for a while. There were very few people left at the Wat, so we enjoyed the peace before heading back down the mountain.

Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep (Doi Suthep Temple)

Chiang Mai, Thailand, 50300

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