Wat Phra That Doi Khan
Built at the end of the 7th century, and sitting at the top of a forested hill outside of Chiang Mai, the Wat gets few visitors. The Wats name means “golden mountain temple”.
Built in 687, the chedi is the oldest structure and resembles the chedi at the well known Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Large golden colored Naga serpents guard the stairs on both sides. There is a sacred relic of The Buddha enshrined in the chedi. Local legend tells of 2 giants who lived in the area thousands of years ago who were cannibals. When the Buddha visited the area he convinced the giants to give up cannibalism and convert to Buddhism. The Buddha gave them a piece of his hair which is the relic now enshrined in the chedi. In 1966 the chedi collapsed from heavy rain, but money was quickly raised and the chedi was restored.
The courtyard which contains the chedi and viharn is partly enclosed by a gallery lined with green square pillars decorated with golden flower motifs. The gallery contains several seated Buddha images on white pedestals and in various seated positions. Visitors can strike any of the many bells and gongs in the courtyard. The grounds are guarded by large warriors and white lions or Singha. The viharn roof is decorated with Naga bargeboards and has beautifully carved window panels.
A short distance from the chedi and viharn you will find the most noticeable feature of the Wat, that is the 17 meter Buddha image sitting on a white pedestal. There is a Lanna style ubosot which is a very ornate structure with a multi-tiered roof and Naga bargeboard. On both sides of the stares are large golden colored Naga’s that come out of the mouth of Makaras (a mythical water creature). The ubosots facade is particularly beautiful with a golden peacock motif over the entrance with a lively green background.
The Wat is located about 10km southwest of Chiang Mai.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Wat Doi Suthep is one of the most important ad revered temples in Northern Thailand. If you only visit one temple in Chiang Mai, this is the one to see! The Wat is located about 15 kilometers outside of Chiang Mai atop Doi Suthep Mountain. From the arrival area, or car park, there are 309 steps to the top. This stairway is guarded by Naga serpents. As an easier alternative, to the right there is a cable car that can get you to the top.
Once you arrive at the top, you can wonder around and just take in the beauty of the temple. On this terrace you’ll find small shrines, monuments, rock gardens, a jackfruit tree, and the statue of a white elephant. The legend of this white elephant represents the founding of Wat Doi Suthep. It goes back to the 14th century when a monk from Sukhothai came to Chiang Mai. He brought with him a relic believed to be the shoulder bone of The Buddha. The monk took the relic to the ruler of the Lanna Kingdom, King Kueno. Upon arriving he found that the relic had split into 2 pieces, one piece the original size and the other smaller piece. The smaller piece was enshrined in Wat Suan Dok in Chiang Mai. The King decided the larger piece needed a special location. This piece was put on the back of a white elephant which was set free to wonder. The elephant made its way to Doi Suthep mountain and just before reaching the top, the elephant trumpeted 3 times and then died/ This was the sign of where to enshrine the relic. In 1368 the first chedi was built to keep the holy relic. Since then, the temple complex has grown to what you see today.
OK, from the first terrace you can see the magnificent entrance and stairs to the second terrace. Here you will find the covered in gold chedi that now enshrines the relic. As you walk around this terrace you’ll see a tightly packed complex of shrines, bells, golden umbrellas, and Buddha images displaying the many Buddha postures. Walk around, take-in the atmosphere of the Wat, see the copy of the Emerald Buddha and don’t forget the view of Chiang Mai City with it’s airport runways.
Wat Doi Suthep also has a meditation center that welcomes both Thai and foreigners to learn and practice meditation.
Being 15 kilometers from town options for getting Wat Doi Suthep include a private taxi, baht bus, and a guided tour can be a good choice.