Escape of the Week: Chiang Mai’s Wat Doi Suthep

Written by on March 21, 2012 in Asia, Blog, Destinations, Thailand - 21 Comments

It’s hard to look up at the slick stairs of Wat Doi Suthep, it’s raining so hard. I blink back the water and squint my eyes up, up, up, trying not to get distracted by the gorgeously tiled dragon at the base of the stairs.

It’s a long way to the top.

“Ready?” I ask, turning to Marie and Adele, two of my former volunteers from Elephant Nature Park who have agreed to take this mini adventure from Chiang Mai this dreary afternoon in the heart of Thailand’s rainy season.

They nod their heads, and then we are off. Pounding the slippery stairs, ponchos pulled over our heads, cameras secured safely underneath, as we run up the red tiled stairs to the holy ground above.

Looking back down the 300 stairs we climbed.

About 300 or so stairs later (yes, we counted), the three of us arrive to the top of the hill and the grounds of Doi Suthep.

The temple, built in the late 1300s, is situated high above Chiang Mai. Legend has it, the spot was chosen by a white elephant who trumpeted three times before dying at the site. Even against the gray sky, the golds and reds pop brightly, their warm hues helping to add a little sunshine despite the lack of the real thing.

We remove our shoes and begin the exploration of the temple. For about 30 minutes we navigate the inside of the temple, eyeing the ornate paintings and golden statues.

We even find ourselves being mesmerized by the tiling of the temple … a hypnotizing pattern of flowers.

Then, we enter into some of the rooms of prayer, where orange-robed monks sit and bless visitors, tying little strings around their wrists similar to what I received earlier when I was blessed by a shaman. Silently stepping into the room, we sit, mermaid style, staring at shrines in front of us … including two tusks surrounding a statue.

Marie notices it first and immediately exits the room and heads back onto the tiled main area. Then, Adele and I follow suit.

“Once I saw that …” she begins, her voice trailing off. We know what she’s talking about. For a country which reveres the elephant, to see the tusks placed into the gold statue … and after a the week we had experienced, the heartbreak … none of us wanted to see those reminders.

On that note, we opt to walk the grounds. On our walk, we admire the colorful shrines scattered throughout …

… along with the pops of flowers and gardens that, even on this rainy day, add a serene beauty to the atmosphere.

… and of course, the bells.

Then, it’s time to head back to the city, to eat street food, make impromptu clothing purchases and sip on the local suds.

Getting there: From Chiang Mai, hire a songthaew (red cab). Expect to pay about 30 baht per person to get up the mountain. Our driver was great (as he should have been since we were totally ripped off) and stopped us at a lookout point near the top of the mountain.

On a clear day, I am pretty sure that view is spectacular of the city below. Once there, you can either climb the stairs or pay to take a tram to the top. Depending on how you get to the top, it will cost you at least 30 baht.

Reminder: Be respectful of the Thai culture. Clothing should be modest. Shoes must come off at the temple, so bring a pair of socks if walking barefoot isn’t your thing.


About the Author

Diana Edelman is an avid traveler who recently spent four years living as an expat. Most notably, Diana spent nearly three years in Chiang Mai, Thailand where she worked with Save Elephant Foundation to raise awareness about the realities of elephant tourism. Currently based in Las Vegas, Diana works in many industries as a publicist, social media expert, content creator and journalist. The founder of Vegans, Baby, you can normally find her hanging out at vegan restaurants around town, exploring the beauty of the desert southwest or camped out at a coffee shop banging on a keyboard. The co-founder of the Responsible Travel & Tourism Collective, Diana has spoken at conferences about travel blogging and responsible tourism.

21 Comments on " Escape of the Week: Chiang Mai’s Wat Doi Suthep "

  1. Francy R March 22, 2012 at 7:23 am · Reply

    Have you really visited such a stunning place? I’m enving you, to be honest!! 🙂 I’d loved to got o Thailand as I’m very fascinated and struched b its culture but haven’t had the opportunity yet! Hope to make it soo…in the meanwhile I enjoy looking at your picks!

    • Diana March 22, 2012 at 3:30 pm · Reply

      I have and love it! Thailand is wonderful!

  2. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures March 22, 2012 at 8:54 am · Reply

    Oh my what a gorgeous place!!!

    • Diana March 22, 2012 at 3:30 pm · Reply

      I love it there!

  3. Nora - The Professional Hobo March 23, 2012 at 12:18 pm · Reply

    I was there a few years ago, and found it equally enthralling! There’s also a nearby artisan’s village with a waterfall that’s fun for swimming in. Your pictures bring back so many memories!

    • Diana March 27, 2012 at 5:10 pm · Reply

      Oooo! When I go back, you’re going to have to give me some tips!!

  4. Candice March 23, 2012 at 2:50 pm · Reply

    AHH so colourful!

    • Diana March 27, 2012 at 5:10 pm · Reply

      Imagine in the sunlight …

  5. Laura March 23, 2012 at 6:06 pm · Reply

    For a rainy day, you’ve managed to take wonderful pictures. Wow!

    • Diana March 27, 2012 at 5:09 pm · Reply

      Thank you! I love taking photos in the rain, so long as there is contrast!

  6. Abby March 24, 2012 at 11:04 am · Reply

    I love the lush surroundings!!

    • Diana March 27, 2012 at 5:08 pm · Reply

      It was the height of rainy season … definitely lush!

  7. Sherry March 25, 2012 at 4:57 am · Reply

    I love how intricate the buildings are. I have not yet been to Thailand, but I’m getting really motivated with every post I see. For some reason, I really like the floor photo – great job!

    • Diana March 27, 2012 at 5:08 pm · Reply

      Thank you! The floor was dizzying and beautiful. Thailand really is a country that should be on anyone’s travel list. It is beautiful, the people are warm and friendly and the food is mmmmmm.

  8. Bobbi Lee Hitchon March 25, 2012 at 6:20 pm · Reply

    I can’t wait to visit Chiang Mai!

    • Diana March 27, 2012 at 5:06 pm · Reply

      And I can’t wait to go back. Thinking we should have a meet up!

  9. Ali March 26, 2012 at 4:37 am · Reply

    Gorgeous photos! I love all the colors!

    • Diana March 27, 2012 at 5:06 pm · Reply

      Thank you! It was such a beautiful place to visit!

  10. Ryan April 11, 2012 at 11:29 pm · Reply

    Doi Suthep is incredible! One day I borrowed a bicycle from a Chiang Mai couchsurfer and decided to ride it up to Doi Suthep not knowing how far or how steep the climb would be. Once I was half way there was no turning back. I made it all the way up! Haha… It was quite the adventure to say the least.

    • Diana April 12, 2012 at 2:43 pm · Reply

      Oh my god!!! IMPRESSIVE!!! Our cab had issues getting up to the top. I can’t imagine pedal power. Pretty sure you’re my new idol.

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