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.