Overlooking Chiang Mai from a top of a hill forming the Doi Suthep mountain, around 1,060 meters above sea level, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is the city's most sacred temple and one of the most important temples of Theravada Buddhism in whole Thailand. Often referred simply to as "Doi Suthep Temple", it is located about 7 km west of the city center and accessible via a 15-kilometer winding mountain road since 1935, before it was built the only way to get there was to follow the trails along the mountain. At the end of the road you will be in a large car park filled with plenty of restaurants and stalls selling any kinds of items and food, the temple complex is up the side of the mountain beside the car park. Thanks to a lift you can easy climb up the hill, but a devout Buddhist prefers to walk up the 309 steps of the intricately carved mythical Naga Serpent Staircase. On reaching the top, once inside the temple area, visitors must be appropriately dressed and must remove footwear. The beautiful copper plated chedi cover most of holy area of temple. Within the site are pagodas, statues, bells, a museum, and shrines. The walls around the spiral chedi form a mini enclave and are richly decorated with historical murals that draw from both Buddhism and Hinduism. There is also a model of the Emerald Buddha and a statue of the Hindu God Ganesh. There is a wide walkway around the main temple which leads you to a large viewing terrace with stunning views over Chiang Mai. The Doi Suthep Vipassana Meditation Center at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep hosts several religious outreach programs and meditation courses. Built as a Buddhist monastery in the late 13th century it is still a working monastery today. The exact date of the founding of the temple remains a legend and there are a couple of different versions. According to the most accepted version, it is assumed that the temple was founded in 1383 when the first stupa was built to house a bone found, about fifteen years before, in Ban Pang Cha by a monk named Sumanathera. Many claim it was Gautama Buddha's shoulder bone. The relic displayed magical powers: it glowed, it was able to vanish, it could move and replicate itself. Sumanathera took the relic to King Dhammaraja, who ruled Sukhothai at that time. However, the relic displayed no abnormal characteristics, and the king, doubtful of the relic's authenticity, told Sumanathera to keep it. King Nu Naone of Lan Na heard of the relic and bade the monk to bring it to him. In 1368, Sumanathera took the relic to what is now Lamphun, in northern Thailand. Once there, the relic broke into two pieces. The smaller piece was enshrined at a temple in Suandok. The other piece was placed by the king on the back of a white elephant which was released into the jungle. The elephant is said to have climbed up Doi Suthep, then stopped and trumpeted three times it dropped dead. This was interpreted as an omen. King Nu Naone immediately ordered the construction of a stupa at the site.
Admission fee & Opening hours: The temple is open daily from 06:30 to 18:00. Admission for Thai nationals and foreigners costs 30 THB per person.
Getting there: Temple is located about 16 km from city center along the Doi Suthep Road, Highway 1004. There are several ways to reach the temple from Chiang Mai. If you plan to go on your own, you can rent a motorbike, get a ride in a shared song-thaew, roughly 50 THB per person, or hire privately a red song-thaew for around 800-1,000 THB for the two-three hours, make sure you bargain for the best price. Please note that the trip takes about 30 minutes from city center. The drivers wait in the car park while you go sightseeing. Don't worry they will spot you when you finally come back down from the temple.Read More
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