Wat Phra That at Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Even my sleep deprived eyes could see that I was in the middle of grand splendor at the Wat Phra That Temple Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I can’t fall asleep on planes and I can’t feel fresh without sleep, hence the first day of a trip is usually tough for me. I visited the temple on the very first day, walking like a zombie and yet I came back completely awed.

Wat Phra That at Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai is a spectacular Buddhist Temple. Doi means a mountain so Wat Phra That is the temple on Suthep Mountain. But the temple is popularly known as Doi Suthep after the name of the mountain, I suspect because it is easier to pronounce?

The Legend: The construction of the temple started in 1383 or thereabout. The temple is considered to be holy as it treasures a relic of the Buddha. There is a legend associated with the temple. It is said that the King of the Lanna Kingdom kept the relic on a white elephant, so that it would lead the way. The elephant climbed Doi Suthep, sat down there and then died. It was considered a sign to construct the temple there.

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The Nagas and the Steps to the Wat Phra That Temple, Chiang Mai

The Climb: The nagas mark the way up to the temple. There are about 300 steps to climb to reach the main temple. However, if due to any reason you do not feel like climbing the steps, there is a cable car available to go to the top for a fee of 30 Baht. As we had landed the same day in Thailand and were feeling quite sleep deprived, we took the cable car to go up but we came down by the steps.

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The Ashes within the Temple Premise

The Periphery: The temple has two parts the main pagoda and the periphery. Our guide Aroon explained a holy practice at the periphery of the temple. The pictures of the people you see are vaults where their loved ones have stored their ashes. People from all religion can use the temple to honor their loved ones in this way. After a while it is possible to remove the ashes and move it to another temple or to set it free in a river. To enter the main temple it is compulsory to remove the shoes. The periphery provides a sweeping panorama of the city but unfortunately for us, the weather was hazy.

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A Tourist with the Locals at the Temple, Chiang Mai

The Dress Code: The temples in Thailand have a dress code. You are supposed to cover your knee and shoulders. So a t-shirt with sleeves and trousers would work well. Technically capris that cover the knee are fine, but I prefer to wear a jeans or a full length trousers.

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The Beautiful Temple

Time: Even though the temple complex is not huge, it is so full of beauty that I would recommend more than an hour to explore it in any detail. You would stop at almost every step to peer about something or the other. If you like to click pictures I would say double that time.

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Lord Buddha at Wat Phra That, Chiang Mai

The Inner Temple: Peace reigns within the inner complex. There is no restriction on photography in the area. People offer flowers, light candles and lamps and generally pay their respect. The place is popular both with the locals and the tourists.

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The Colors at the Temple

The Small Wonders: I found the small things at the temple so very beautiful. I do not understand the meaning of the symbols clearly, say for this red vessel. But it is a thing of beauty and joy to see the colors in all quarters.

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The Nagas at the Temple

The Vivid Nagas: I was also mesmerized by the details of the idols. As an Indian I am no stranger to the nagas but the next time I end up in Thailand (I hope I will go back) I am going to explore their significance in Buddhism as well.

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One of the Main Halls at the Temple

The Main Halls: I could see two large halls within the inner circle of the temple. This was the only place where they had put a notice saying ‘please sit down while taking pictures’. Such places usually make me feel at rest. But on that day I was too tired and restless to sit quietly and contemplate for a while.

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Lighting the Lamps

Lighting the Lamps: There is something about burning lamps that draws me like a magnet, be it any place of worship. You can take in all these visual delights if you walk slowly around the inner circle.

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Evening Prayers at Wat Phra That, Chiang Mai

Evening Prayers: We were lucky to sit through (should I say photograph?) the evening prayers. Once again there is no restriction on photography. There are only two expectations, that you would also sit down and that you would keep quiet.

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Writing our Names on the Holy Cloth

Writing our Names: There is a cloth in the temple where you can write your name or wishes and it is eventually wrapped around the structures in the temple. Most of us were content to write our names, maybe add the name of a dear one too. But one of our team members, Gaurav, would write a story! May God grant him whatever he was seeking!

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The Evening Light

The Warm Evening Light: If you are particular about photography I would say go in the evening as the fading sun turns the temple into gold! I accidentally discovered that the sun rays were falling on my face! I mean who would not click a selfie in such a scenario?

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Shops at Wat Phra That Doi Suhtep, Chiang Mai

Food and Souvenirs: We walked down the steps straight to food and souvenir shops! Walking all around is bound to make you hungry. I so love Thai street food. Munching on rice cakes we walked off from the area! It was a perfect end to a lovely visit to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai.

PS. My trip to Thailand was sponsored by TAT New Delhi

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24 thoughts on “Wat Phra That at Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai, Thailand”

  1. beautiful pictures and yes you do look sleep deprived, but that’s an awesome picture Mridula… with the light…
    Btw – I had a harrowing time at the Vatican, I was wearing skimpy shorts but a sleeve wali tee, and had to go looking for a long scarf to wrap around my waist and make it look like a wrap around skirt… :p learnt my lesson!!! 🙂

  2. I know the sleep-deprived bit. It’s pretty much the same with me. First day of a trip is usually spent in a daze. That said, loved the pictures, and of course, your description of the place.

  3. Thailand never manages to surprise. So many colors and so vibrant. The climb and naga stairs looks so magical.
    Totally enjoyed your post !!

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