A must see, on any visit to Chiang Mai, is the wondrous and holy temple of Wat Phra That which is located near the top of Doi Suthep (Mount Suthep). The temple is simply referred to as Doi Suthep by most people. Every tuk-tuk and songthaew driver in Chiang Mai will offer to take you on the 15 klm trip up the winding mountain road to Doi Suthep.

Built as a Buddhist monastery in 1383 it is still a working monastery today. Funds raised by donations and the lift fee go to support the monks living there and for maintenance of the various temple buildings. The architecture, statues, murals and shrines seen here are nothing short of breathtaking.

On arrival at Doi Suthep you will be in a large car park, the temple complex is up the side of the mountain beside the car park. Starting with a walk up the 300 steps of the intricately carved mythical Naga Serpent Staircase you begin to marvel at the splendour of your surroundings. For those that do not fancy the 300 step climb up to the complex, you can go up the lift for 30THB ($1) and walk down the staircase when you have finished.

On reaching the top you are greeted with the sight of the golden spire which decorates the centre of the mountain top temple. The walls around the spire form a mini enclave and are richly decorated with historical murals and shrines. Here you find a beautiful copy of the Emerald Buddha statue on display. The real Emerald Buddha statue is now in Bangkok.

Outside this central enclave area you will find the shrine to the White Elephant and the story of how the temple on Doi Suthep was founded. There is a wide walkway around the main temple which leads you to a large viewing terrace with terrific views down over Chiang Mai, weather permitting. Just past the viewing terrace is one of the worlds largest gongs, which makes an earthly rich sound when struck. Give it a try, it is allowed.

On leaving Doi Suthep temple area descend the Naga Serpent staircase back down to the car park area. At the bottom of the staircase you will find several souvenir shops and a throng of vendors selling local handicrafts.

(Tip, if you are approached by one of the vendors when you first arrive at the car park and you say that you will look at their goods when you come back down, be prepared. They never forget a face and will be waiting for you.)

From experience a trip from the centre of Chiang Mai to Doi Suthep takes around 25 minutes. If you  allow one hour for the round trip and another hour there for sightseeing you should be able to hire a red songthaew for around 400 THB for the two hours (make sure you bargain for the best price). Most drivers will point out highlights along the way and stop half way up the mountain at a viewing platform which overlooks the city. The drivers all wait in the car park while you go sightseeing. Don't worry they will spot you when you finally come back down from Doi Suthep.

After you finish at Doi Suthep, and you still have some time on your hands, get your driver to drop you off at one of the many Markets around Chiang Mai, for a cold drink, something to eat and a bit of retail therapy.
Doi Suthep golden spire

Doi Suthep golden spire

Emerald Buddha

Emerald Buddha

Doi Suthep architure

Doi Suthep architure

Doi Suthep small temple

Doi Suthep small temple

gongs and bells

gongs and bells

naga staircase

naga staircase

Doi Suthep - Chiang Mai

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