Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and the white elephant

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is located on Doi Suthep mountain with a beautiful view over Chiang Mai. It is one of the most sacred temples in northern Thailand.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

The first chedi is said to have been built in 1383. It is the most holy area in the temple grounds.

Chedi at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Chedi at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is 15 km from Chiang Mai. I consulted Google Maps for a place to get breakfast on the way out of the city and found a convenient group of restaurants, cafes and shops near scenic Huay Keaw Waterfall, just past the Chiang Mai Zoo.

Huay Keaw Waterfall
Huay Keaw Waterfall

You can just see the stream and trees from the car park.

Huay Keaw Waterfall
Huay Keaw Waterfall

I went for a picture of the river, and decided to follow it just a bit further upstream.

Huay Keaw Waterfall
Huay Keaw Waterfall

It isn’t too far to the waterfall. I saw trails that lead deeper into the Huay Keaw Waterfall area, which looks to be well worth exploring further.

Huay Keaw Waterfall
Huay Keaw Waterfall

From Huay Keaw Waterfall we started up the winding road into Doi Suthep. The parking area near the temple actually has a large number of restaurants and shops.

Art for sale near Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Art for sale near Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

You can choose to walk the 309 steps to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Climbing the stairs is a way to achieve Buddhist merit. We chose to pay a small fee to take the tram.

Stairs to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep - from Wikimedia Commons
Stairs to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep – from Wikimedia Commons

The outer temple grounds feature shrines and gardens and the walls of the inner temple grounds.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

There are several viewing platforms looking over Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai from Doi Suthep
Chiang Mai from Doi Suthep

The structure below provides much needed shade for the highest platform.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

The structure itself is decorated with lots of intricate detail.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

According to legend, a bone fragment said to be the shoulder bone of the Buddha was placed on the back of a white elephant, and the elephant was released into the jungle. The elephant climbed up Doi Suthep, stopped, trumpeted three times, then dropped dead. The king promptly ordered the construction of a temple at the site.

White elephant shrine
White elephant shrine

Considering the nature of this origin legend, there are very few white elephants at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. The elephant below, although the color of the material from which it is constructed, is the elephant of legend.

White elephant of legend
White elephant of legend

To enter the inner temple grounds you must remove shoes and hat, and wear appropriate clothing. There was no one watching to insure that visitors complied. Inner temple grounds are not all sheltered from the sun, so this is one of those times when you have a problem if you were relying on a hat, rather than sunscreen, to protect your head.

Entrance to inner temple grounds
Entrance to inner temple grounds

Various shrines and effigies are situated around the large gold chedi, which presumably contains the legendary shoulder bone of the Buddha. We joined many other visitors in walking around it in a clockwise direction 3 times.

Chedi and inner temple grounds
Chedi and inner temple grounds

There are several attractive green glass Buddhas, and many gold ones.

Green glass Buddha
Green glass Buddha

The Phaya Naga decorating many of the roofs are done in stained glass, very similar to those at the Dragon Temple in Chiang Mai’s Old City.

Phaya Naga
Phaya Naga

Visitors to  Wat Phra That Doi Suthep included many monks.

Monks
Monks

Some cuter than others.

Little monks
Little monks

The temple is located in Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. This is surely a beautiful place, with at least a couple of waterfalls and many nature trails. Unfortunately we had neither time nor energy to explore further.

Please enjoy the full gallery of 41 pictures below.

Chiang Mai: Old City Temple Tour continued

Chiang Mai’s 15 foot high defensive wall protected the Old City for centuries. It was torn down for its bricks when the Japanese occupied Thailand during World War II. In the late 70s the city rebuilt the corners of the wall, and 5 of the gates, using old photographs.

Chang Phuak Gate - Old City
Chang Phuak Gate

We experienced the wall with a quick look at Chang Phuak Gate, and by just driving around the wall and moat in order to leave and enter the 1-square mile Old City. Some parts of the wall, such as the Fort of Hua-Lin, look to be worth exploring more closely, so I’ll make a point of doing that next time.

Fort of Hua-lin, from Wikimedia Commons
Fort of Hua-lin, from Wikimedia Commons

Wat Kun Kha Ma, the Horse Temple, is just a few blocks from Chang Phuak Gate.

Wat Kun Kha Ma, the Horse Temple
Wat Kun Kha Ma, the Horse Temple

The story of this temple, as I recall, is simple; once stables, it was made a temple to memorialize a beloved departed horse.

Wat Kun Kha Ma, the Horse Temple
Wat Kun Kha Ma, the Horse Temple

This is a small temple complex, attractive but with few remarkable features other than the horse focus.

Wat Kun Kha Ma, the Horse Temple
Wat Kun Kha Ma, the Horse Temple

Wat Kun Kha Ma does have a Buddha with an animated LED halo, with a sort of spider web above it.

Wat Kun Kha Ma, the Horse Temple
Wat Kun Kha Ma, the Horse Temple

Wat Rajamontean, the Dragon Temple, is a short distance further along Sri Poom Road.

Wat Rajamontean, the Dragon Temple
Wat Rajamontean, the Dragon Temple

Dragons are unusual at Thai temples, but they’re not what first catches the eye when approaching Wat Rajamontean from the street.

Wat Rajamontean, the Dragon Temple
Wat Rajamontean, the Dragon Temple

Most or all of the dragons flank the steps up from the street.

Wat Rajamontean, the Dragon Temple
Wat Rajamontean, the Dragon Temple

The Phaya Naga that decorate the roof are done in stained glass.

Wat Rajamontean, the Dragon Temple
Wat Rajamontean, the Dragon Temple

Most temples seem to be surrounded by other buildings, but I saw no way to access anything outside of Wat Rajamontean, other than by returning to the street.

Wat Rajamontean, the Dragon Temple
Wat Rajamontean, the Dragon Temple

There are temple spaces on two levels, each with its own white Buddha.

Wat Rajamontean, the Dragon Temple
Wat Rajamontean, the Dragon Temple

We went for the dragons, but we stayed for a beautifully detailed temple.

Wat Rajamontean, the Dragon Temple
Wat Rajamontean, the Dragon Temple

To reach Wat Lok Moli we crossed one of the pedestrian bridges over the moat, leaving the Old City. Wat Lok Moli is just north of it.

Moat bridge
Moat bridge

The view from across the street promised good things.

Wat Lok Moli
Wat Lok Moli

Red and green yaksha guard the gate.

Wat Lok Moli Yaksha
Wat Lok Moli Yaksha

Wat Lok Moli was built some time before its first known mention in a 1367 charter.

Wat Lok Moli Yaksha
Wat Lok Moli Yaksha

inside the gate are a pair of white elephants and trees with gold and silver leaves.

Wat Lok Moli
Wat Lok Moli

The phutthawat (temple complex) is crowded with statues of many faced and/or many-armed entities that reveal their Hindu connections.  Phra Phrom, below, is the Thai representation of the Hindu god Brahma.

Phra Phrom
Phra Phrom

Below is Phra Mae Kuan Im, the East Asian “Goddess of Mercy“. In Thailand she is often depicted with a mere 2 arms.

Wat Lok Moli
Wat Lok Moli

The wihan and chedi were built in 1527 by King Ket.

Wat Lok Moli
Wat Lok Moli

The wihan appears to be built from teak, but the outside eschews the usual gold trim.

Wat Lok Moli
Wat Lok Moli

The inside is more reminiscent of other Chiang Mai Old City temples.

Wat Lok Moli
Wat Lok Moli

The exposed brick of the chedi looks its age, but it’s in pretty great shape.

Wat Lok Moli
Wat Lok Moli

Across from the chedi is a display that appears to feature replicas of chedis of other temples.

Wat Lok Moli
Wat Lok Moli

I was drawn across the street to an attractive Phra Phikanet, or Ganesha.

Phra Phikanet, or Ganesha
Phra Phikanet, or Ganesha

How could I resist the general surrounded by an army of roosters? My little Tukata’s explanation: the general loved roosters. I guess so!

Rooster loving general
Rooster loving general

That was enough temples for one day, so we took a tuk tuk (my first) back to the hotel.

Please enjoy the full gallery of 51 pictures below.