Located at the top of Doi Suthep ( Mount Suthep ), this sacred temple is a must see if you are in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
There is a legendary story;
A dream had prompted a buddhist monk to go look for a relic with magical powers. It was believed to a part of Buddha’s shoulder bone. The glowing and vanishing relic broke into two pieces. One of them was placed in a temple in Suandok. The King Keu Naone was uncertain of where to place the other half. So he put it on a white elephant’s back. The elephant carried it up to the Doi Suthep. The temple was constructed at the site where the elephant died right after reaching the mountain top.
The construction of the wat began in 1386. Because of this story, it is also known as an Elephant Temple by the locals. The mountain Doi Suthep was once called Doi Aoy Chang ( Sugar Elephant Mountain ).
After climbing 309 stairs and entering the terrace, there are a lot of small shrines, buddha statues and snake figures. The colorful murals along the walls of pagoda are breathtaking to look at. From the lower terrace, 360 degree view of Chiang Mai can be observed ( Doi Suthep is about 1000 meters / 3542 ft above sea level ). The Most magnificent of all is the gold- plated temple Chedi, which is located in the center of the upper terrace. It is said that the other half of the magical relic is enshrined there. Chedi was modeled after Wat Phra That Haripunjaya in Lamphun, formerly the greatest temple in Chiang Mai and further expanded in the 16th century. Both aspects of Buddhism and Hinduism are observed here in the presence of the Emerald Buddha and Hindu God Ganesh.
And of course, there is the White Elephant Monument dedicated to the legendary elephant that carried the relic all the way up to Doi Suthep. It is located at the frontal right corner after going up the stairs and entering the terrace.
Here are some helpful tips for visiting Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
It’s about 30-40 min drive from Chaiag Mai city center. You might see some brave souls walking or biking up there. About 200 tbt taxi ride.
Dress modestly. No short-sleeved shirts and short skirts / shorts. Cover up and be respectful.