A visit to Chiang Mai in Thailand is not complete if you have not been to the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple.
Buddhas in the temple
Most people just call it Doi Suthep which is the name of the mountain where it's built upon. You can find the temple outside Chiang Mai in the north of Vietnam and there are different ways of getting there. Either get on one of the many types of taxies and buses which will gladly take you there or rent something yourself. Last option is walking up the mountain. We decided to rent a scooter since we wanted to see more of the Chiang Mai surroundings than just Doi Suthep.
View of Chiang Mai half way up the mountain
History of the temple
Now the history on itself is quite the story already. It tells us that a monk had a dream which gave him a vision that told him to go look for a relic. He then found a piece of bone from the shoulder of Buddha. The monk took the bone to Lanna Kingdom where it broke in two. One of the pieces was bound on the back of a white elephant which was set loose to roam the area. The elephant climbed the Doi Suthep mountain and trumpeted a total of three times before it died there. Not knowing what to do with the corpse a temple was built to honor the elephant, the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. This legend is called The Legend of the White Elephant and is very famous in Thailand.
It's around half an hour to an hour drive from the city center, depending on the traffic. On top of the mountain, you will arrive at some kind of parking lot. To get to the actual temple, you have two choices. Walk up the stairs or take a cable car. We took the stairs since that option was for free...
You hear a lot about this temple being overrated. Although we had terrible weather, I still enjoyed a visit to the Doi Suthep. It rained now and then like crazy and we had practically no view of the city because of all the clouds, the temple itself was still beautiful. The stairs that lead to the temple are amazing. With two dragons on each side and many details in the artwork.
Great stairs right?
All the way inside you will find a golden stupa and on the sides, there are many Buddha statues. Outside and around this inner compartment, there are some mini shrine like temples. In our occasion, they were great because we had to shelter from the rain now and then. You will also a great viewpoint (supposedly) here which gives you a good vista of Chiang Mai. We wouldn't know since there were only clouds, so I guess you just have to go there yourself =) Cannot show you what I didn't see right!
Inside the temp, too bad of the weather
As in all holy places in Thailand be sure to be clothed properly. Especially around the golden stupa. No tank-tops or short above the knee and take your shoes and hat off when entering. Woman need to cover-up shoulders and knees. So don't forget to bring something with you if it's a hot day.
Impressions of the temple with the stupa on the right
More of Chiang Mai
Since we had the scooter anyway, we looked up some more things we would like to see in the surroundings of Chiang Mai.
Huay Tung Tao Lake
This big lake is situated around half an hour drive from the old city. Locals tend to come here during the weekends, so it can get really crowded. But if you go during the week it will quiet most of the times. You can take your food with you and picnic around the lake or rent a boat to go on it.
Huay Tung Tao Lake
There is a four-kilometer loop around the lake which you can walk, bike or drive. After this trip, you can go eat at one of the many restaurants. This lake is a great place to escape the city madness and relax for a day.
Huay Keaw Waterfall
At the foot of the Doi Suthep mountain near the Chiang Mai Zoo, you will find the Huay Keaw Waterfall. The entrance is free and from the parking lot, it's just a small walk to the waterfall. This waterfall is at its best during the rainy season when streams from the mountain are rushing down. The area around it is part of a National Park and pretty natural with a lot of trees, rocks and small animals. Same as with the lake, this place gets really crowded during weekends and holidays.
On both sides of the waterfall, there is a path going up. Watch out because the rocks are pretty slippery.
Although we did not have such great weather, we had a lot of fun visiting all these different places in Chiang Mai. The temple and the waterfall are beautiful to watch and the lake is a really relaxed place to spend the rest of the day.
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