It was said that a trip to Chiang Mai is not complete without visiting Wat Phratat Doi Suthep which is considered the most popular and most sacred temple in the area as it is believed to house a relic of Buddha.
According to the legend back in 14th century, a dream led a monk to find a relic which he did and found a bone. The bone was believed to be Buddha’s shoulder and displayed magical characteristics. The monk took the bone to the ruler of Sukothai and the king called for ceremony but the bone did not show anything peculiar so the king advised the monk to keep it. That time, the ruler of Lanna Kingdom, King Nu Naone, heard about it and requested the monk to bring it to him. The relic has split itself into two, one piece was enshrined in a temple in Suandok and the other piece was tied at the back of a white elephant which they let loose. The elephant climb Doi Suthep, trumpeted three times, turned around three times, knelt down and died. King Nu Naone believed that this was a sign from the God and ordered the construction at the site of the first chedi.
Below is the statue of the white elephant that can be found in the temple compound.
The temple is located approximately 15 kilometers away from the city and was built on top of the mountain , more than 1000 meters above sea level. Visitors need to climb the 306 steps serpent staircase to reach the top or through a cable car at THB 20/-, I did not see where the cable car was so I took the steps, stopping when I get tired. Upon reaching the top of the staircase, foreigners are required to pay THB 30/- as an entrance fee.
I entered the temple compound and saw different shrines everywhere housing images in Buddhism, unfortunately, I don’t know them.
I decided to go around the complex before entering the main temple which is a bunch of steps elevated from the ground I was standing. I could hear bells ringing, I thought it was some kind of a signal that something is about to happen. I followed the sound from where it was coming from, and I saw a line of bells which the visitors are ringing with the belief that it would bring good luck.
I found a terrace that gives a view of Chiang Mai City below, but due to the hazy weather that day, nothing can be seen from the view deck.
Around this area are smaller buildings that seems to be like museums but I did not enter anymore due to limited time.
As I explored the place, my attention was captivated by the craftsmanship of this particular door.
I decided to proceed to the upper terrace where shoes must be removed and decent clothing is required upon entering. As I was wearing a sleeveless top, I put on my jacket to cover my arms.
The sacred courtyard is right at the heart of the temple complex at the peak of the mountain. At the core is the towering gold plated chedi that houses the sacred relic. At each corner stand golden umbrellas as if guarding the chedi.
Around the chedi are different statues and a replica of the emerald Buddha in Wat Phra Keo in Bangkok is also displayed in the courtyard.
Incense sticks, candles, flowers are offered to the statues and devotees were kneeling down to seek blessings from the monk.
I left the place and was really impressed with the architecture, design and craftsmanship of each detail. I highly recommend that if you happen to be in Chiang Mai, you should not miss to visit this temple.
HOW TO GET THERE
Go to Chang Puak Gate and outside the city walls are songthaews taking passengers to Doi Suthep.