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Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Chiangmai - Wat Phrathat, Doi Suthep Temple

Wat Phrathat, Doi Suthep
Located 15 km from Chiangmai City
How To Get There – by tour group, cycling, motorbike, red song thaew
Opening Hours: 5.30 am – 7.30 pm
Dress Code:  Conservative with long pants and covered shoulders.  Take of shoes once entering the temple grounds.
Located at 1073 meters elevation of the slopes of Doi Suthep mountain, 18 km from Chiangmai city.
The road is slightly winding but condition is good. Cycling takes about 60-90 minutes from the Zoo. 
From the car park at the temple base visitors can climb 306 steps of the Naga lined stairs for free to reach the pagodas or there is a tram. Entry to the temple on the tram costs 30 THB for foreigners [or 50 THB if you would like a two-way tram ticket included].

The original founding of the temple remains a legend and there are a few varied versions. The temple is said to have been built in 1383 when the first chedi was built during the Lanna Thai period. Over time, the temple has expanded and been made to look more extravagant with many more holy shrines added. A road to the temple was first built in 1935.

According to legend, a monk named Sumanathera from Sukhothai had a dream. In this vision he was told to go to Pang Cha and look for a relic. Sumanathera ventured to Pang Cha and is said to have found a bone which many claim was Buddha's shoulder bone. The relic displayed magical powers as it glowed and able to vanish. It could move itself and replicate itself. Sumanathera took the relic to King Dharmmaraja who ruled the Sukhothai.
The eager Dharmmaraja made offerings and hosted a ceremony when Sumanathera arrived. However, the relic displayed no abnormal characteristics and the king, doubtful of the relic's authenticity told Sumanathera to keep it.
However, King Nu Naone of the Lanna Kingdom heard of the relic and offered the monk to take it to him instead. In 1368 with Dharmmaraja's permission, Sumanathera took the relic to what is now Lamphun, in northern Thailand. The relic apparently split in two, one piece was the same size, the other was smaller than the original. The smaller piece of the relic was enshrined at a temple in Wat Suan Dok. The other piece was placed by the King on the back of a white elephant which was released in the jungle.
The elephant is said to have climbed up Doi Suthep, at the time called Doi Aoy Chang (Sugar Elephant Mountain), trumpeted three times before dying at the site. It was interpreted as a sign and King Nu Naone ordered the construction of a temple at the site.
The original copper plated chedi is the most holy area of the temple grounds. It is 79 feet high and 39 feet across at its base, covered with engraved gold plate. Within the site are pagodas, statues, bells and shrines. Aspects of the Wat draw from both Buddhism and Hinduism. There is a model of the Emerald Buddha and a statue of the Hindu God Ganesh. From the temple, impressive views of Chiang Mai can be seen and it remains a popular destination for tourists throughout the year.
In the vicinity there are several other attractions you may want to consider visiting. The Bhuping Royal Palace Gardens are 4 km further along the road from Wat Prathat, with a reasonably easy walk along the meter-wide road shoulder. Or you can get a shared songthaew from Wat Prathat for 30 THB, but you may have to wait until it fills up.
Further along the road is a hill tribe village, and although tourist-oriented, is really worth the trip. There are many shops for local handicrafts, etc. These are the people from the far north of the country, many originally from Myanmar. There are two areas in the village that require entrance fee: 10 baht to enter a flower garden [where women can take pictures using traditional clothes] and a hill tribe opium museum [the museum is in a very poor condition] and 10 baht to enter the hill tribe man-made waterfall.
It could be rainy weather in November during the Loy Krathong festival.  We have to get to the temple by the funicular instead of climbing the 306-309 steps.
Click here to see more in Bhubing Palace, Doi Suthep

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