Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is the most famous and important temple in Chiang Mai and Thailand every visitor must pay a visit.
Construction on Wat Phra That Doi Suthep began in 1386 under King Kuena and was completed within a few years. The temple complex was periodically expanded and embellished over the following centuries. Construction would have been an arduous task, with workers having to carry supplies through thick jungle: the road leading to the temple was only installed in 1935. The modern paved road was a joint effort of communities throughout the Chiang Mai region.
What to see
The temple is part of Doi Suthep National Park, a richly forested area supporting some 330 species of birds. The park also includes Phuping Palace and Mon Tha Than Falls, the later believed by some to contain evil spirits. Doi Suthep mountain rises about 1000m (3,542 ft) above sea level; there are fine views over the city of Chiang Mai to be had from the temple’s lower terrace. The terrace is surrounded by large bells that are rung by pilgrims to bring good luck. On the northwest corner of the terrace is a statue of the legendary elephant who chose the site of the temple.
Enclosed by a frescoed cloister, the upper terrace is home to a tightly-packed complex of small shrines, bells, golden umbrellas and Buddha statues. Shoes must be removed and shoulders must be covered before entering this sacred area.
In the center of the upper terrace is the great chedi, a 16th-century expansion of the 14th-century original. The dazzling gold-plated temple is modeled on Wat Phra That Haripunjaya in Lamphun, formerly the greatest temple in the Chiang Mai region.
Other structures on the grounds
Within the temple complex are a number of pavilions, pagodas, statues and viharns. The pavilions contain the living quarters for monks. A small museum with ancient relics, photographs and old pieces of temple wares can also be visited.
The Phra Ubosot or ordination hall is the place where the prayers take place. Striking a series of small bells in the complex is believed to bring good luck. Whenever there is wind around the atmosphere is filled with the sounds of temple bells adding to the tranquility and peacefulness of this beautiful place.
Lastly, there is a souvenir shop and a small shops for drinks and snacks. When visiting this sacred place, dress appropriately. Inside the temple grounds, please take off your shoes.
Festivals and Events
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep hosts Northern Thailand’s largest celebrations of Maha Puja, the anniversary of the Buddha’s sermon, and Visakha Puja, the Buddha’s birthday. Both are marked with candlelit processions up the mountain to the temple.
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