Doi Suthep Temple in Chaing Mai, Thailand

When visiting Chaing Mai, Thailand one of the biggest tourist draws is Doi Suthep.  And for good reason!  It is perched high on a mountain offering amazing views, not to mention the temples themselves, which are stunning.

Beautiful views on the way up
There is a bit of legend as to the history of the Theravada Buddhist temple, but most accounts point to the year of 1383 with the building of the first chedi.  From that point on it has expanded, adding more chedis, pagodas, and buddhas. The most interesting legend is that of the white elephant, which is said to have carried a relic up the mountain, trumpeted 3 times and collapsed in death near the summit.  It was interpreted as a sign, and so the king ordered the original chedi be built on that exact site.

The white elephant
How to get there
Doi Suthep and it's temples can be reached by taxi or song thaew.  Tuk tuks are not allowed to go up the mountain as the terrain is too difficult for them to drive.  Across from the gate, at the north end of the old city, taxis are lined up with the express purpose of taking you up the mountain. Or you can pop outside your hotel and hail one on the street.  As of early 2012, expect to pay somewhere around 500 baht (roughly $15 US) for a taxi there and back.  Upwards of 800 baht for a couple of stops to visit the hill tribe, temple, and palace.

Hilltribe local
We decided on the latter but ran short on time.  We stopped a few times on the way up to take pictures as even the drive offers beautiful views.  We stopped at one of the hilltribe locations, but unless you are into shopping for the same trinkets over and over,  I would skip this all together.  It was very commercial and offered absolutely no authentic hilltribe experience.  The highlight was of course Wat Phrathat.

When you arrive, you have two options to reach the actual pagoda (temple).  You can walk the 307 stairs, which we did, or you can ride the tram up.  The tram costs 60 baht ($2) for a round trip.  If you walk up the cost is 30 baht to enter, but no one was checking tickets.  I actually paid after we were leaving as I didn't see the booth upon arrival -- quite possibly, because I was busy catching my breath after the 307 stairs!

That's a lot of stairs!
Ringing the bells

At the top you will witness statues representing the white elephant, some beautifully ornate chedis, a model of the Emerald  Buddha, bells, shrines, huge jackfruit trees, and stunning vistas.  It is a great spot to watch the sun go down or watch it rise over the city of Chiang Mai.  Plan to spend at least an hour or so inside, then head outside to experience the views.

View of Chaing Mai below
*Do not forget to follow temple etiquette.  Remove shoes before entering the Chedi area, remain quiet as this is a very important area for Buddhists (you will see them circling the main chedi meditating), and wear modest clothing.

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  1. Great Pictures. This temple is one of my favourite attractions in Chiang Mai.