Tag Archives: temple

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.

Phu Pha Lek National Park & Wat Tham Phuang

Phu Pha Lek National Park extends over more than 100,000 acres, from Sakon Nakhon province to Udon Thani to Kalasin. It contains the Phu Phan mountain range, with its highest peak, Phu Ang So.

Phu Pha Lek National Park
Phu Pha Lek National Park

The park is covered with deciduous and evergreen forests, along with various types of bamboo and herbs. Wild hogs, barking deer, mouse deer, monkeys, and many species of birds call the park home.

Lookout tower
Lookout tower

We had lunch near the lookout tower above, and took in the view below.

Phu Pha Lek National Park
Phu Pha Lek National Park

Phu Pha Lek confirmed my suspicion that everything in Thailandwaterfalls, mountains, and even national parks – must also be a temple.

Wat Tham Phuang is a series of temples in the park, many of which tell a story from the life of the Buddha. We started at the temple dedicated to the end of his life, but I’ll take you first to the last temple that we saw, and give you the story of the Buddha in chronological order, as told to me by the temples of Wat Tham Phuang, and by my little Tukata.

Phaya Naga at the big temple
Phaya Naga at the big temple

I’ve given names to the temples that make up Wat Tham Phuang, but it isn’t likely that anyone else calls them by these names.

The big temple doesn’t actually tell a story. It has a more standard temple theme.

The big temple
The big temple

It provides space for large congregations.

The big temple
The big temple

The rock of the mountain is incorporated into the building.

The big temple
The big temple

Below is one of the main entrances.

The big temple
The big temple

The resident monks seem to live near the big temple.

Monks of Phu Pha Lek
Monks of Phu Pha Lek

Below is a shrine to a venerable monk.

Shrine to a venerable monk
Shrine to a venerable monk

I would guess that this monk founded one of the original temples here in the park.

Shrine to a venerable monk
Shrine to a venerable monk

Near this shrine we were lucky enough to get a glimpse of a monkey, some kind of macaque I think, in the trees.

A shy monkey
A shy monkey

The small temple below is dedicated to the birth of the Buddha.

Temple to the birth of the Buddha
Temple to the birth of the Buddha

It is said that Siddhartha Gautama, who would become a spiritual teacher, and later come to be known as the Buddha, didn’t cry when he was born. He stood, and took seven steps. Then he raised one hand into the air and proclaimed himself the Buddha. Then he slept, and when he woke he behaved as a normal baby, and proceeded to develop as a regular human being.

The Buddha and his mom
The Buddha and his mom

There’s a rest area with a roof and water for drinking and a great view.

Phu Pha Lek National Park
Phu Pha Lek National Park

Among the trees near the rest area is the small temple shown below. We didn’t go in for a closer look, so I don’t know if the figure inside is the Buddha, or whether this temple has a story to tell.

A small forest temple
A small forest temple

The temple below has a real Aztec look to it. I saw other Thai temples that make me think of the Aztecs, but they’re all ruins.

Temple of the Bodhi Tree
Temple of the Bodhi Tree

This temple is focused on the time that the Buddha spent meditating under the Bodhi Tree in order to reach enlightenment.

The Buddha meditating under the Bodhi Tree
The Buddha meditating under the Bodhi Tree

The Bodhi Tree was a large and very old sacred fig tree located in Bodh Gaya. In religious iconography, the Bodhi Tree is recognizable by its heart-shaped leaves, which you can see in the picture above.

Temple of the Bodhi Tree
Temple of the Bodhi Tree

Each of the four towers has a small temple inside of it.

Temple of the Bodhi Tree
Temple of the Bodhi Tree

Nearby is a small temple with stairs flanked by Phaya Naga.

Small temple
Small temple

A small shrine to Phra Mae Thorani sits above a pool next to the temple above. She is Thailand’s earth mother, and one of the supernatural beings that came to defend and protect the Buddha as he sat under the Bodhi Tree, so that his meditations would not be interrupted.

Phra Mae Thorani
Phra Mae Thorani

Below is another small temple that we didn’t enter. Through the window we can see the Buddha with an elephant kneeling before him. He is often depicted teaching an elephant and a monkey.

Temple with elephant
Temple with elephant

I don’t know the meaning of the scene below either. This, and the elephant and monkey, are things I’ll try to learn more about.

Creatures with dharmachakra (Wheel of the Dharma)
Creatures with dharmachakra (Wheel of the Dharma)

The temple next to the scene above tells of the time that three hundred monks arrived to be taught by the Buddha.

The Buddha teaching the 300 monks
The Buddha teaching the 300 monks

Notice the deer in the scene above.

Monks being taught by the Buddha
Monks being taught by the Buddha
Temple ceiling
Temple ceiling

When all of his work was complete, the Buddha lay down and passed from this life.

Reclining Buddha
Reclining Buddha

We didn’t take advantage of the hiking trails or camping, and didn’t see any of the waterfalls, or even much of the forests. That’ll be something to do next time.

Temple of the reclining Buddha
Temple of the reclining Buddha

Please enjoy the full gallery of 36 pictures below.