Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a must-see destination in Chiang Mai. Known as one of the most sacred temples in Thailand, this temple has unique architecture which is admired by most touristss visiting there.
The mountain’s temple is one of the most historically and spiritually significant places in Thailand and, as such, large numbers of Thais and foreigners alike come to experience the special magic of this holy place.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is an impressive embodiment of the Lanna (northern Thai) culture and is a symbol deeply cherished by the people of Chiang Mai. The temple’s origins date back almost seven hundred years, to 1382 and the legend surrounding the founding of the temple is one of those mysteries of Asia that draw so many visitors to this enchanted land.
All legends and mysticism aside, the temple is a great example of the grandeur and power of the Lanna Kingdom and a visit to the spot is an absolute must for any visitor to Chiang Mai. Over three hundred steps lead from the parking area to the temple grounds, a staircase bordered by the longest naga (water serpent) balustrade in Thailand.
What to see
Nagas are sacred water serpents which bring good luck as well as bridging the earth and sky. After three hundred-odd steps, you may well feel like you’ve climbed to the vault of heaven, but don’t despair – there are a few food stalls set up at the top to replenish your energy. If the climb sounds like no fun, then simply ride to the top in one of the newly rebuilt cable cars (admission: 50 baht).
Once you’ve reached the top there’s plenty to see at the temple. Of course, the golden Chedi dominates the area with its gilded, 24 meter (79 foot) tall bulk. Ceremonial parasols were added at the four corners of the Chedi in the 16th century and pilgrims make merit by sticking gold leaf to the parasol shafts. At the rear of the temple a long promenade provides a spectacular view; the city spreads out below, bisected by the ribbon of the Ping River. Make sure to take your camera to capture this unforgettable vista. Scattered around the temple are various statues depicting everything from the legendary white elephant upon whose grave the temple was erected to the assorted gods and Buddhas of the Thai religion.
You will find a particularly interesting rendering of the Buddha beneath the spreading limbs of a Bodhi tree, known as the Tree of Enlightenment, on your right hand side, just as you enter the temple grounds. Another highlight of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is the set of rakhang (temple bells) which are touched by devout Buddhists to bring good luck.