The massive Doi Suthep temple complex in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Located high above in the hills, this temple is extremely auspicious to the locals and tourists alike. Though a decently long drive (around 45 min) from the city, it allows for beautiful vistas and if one is lucky, amazing misty conditions making for a very romantic drive .. (we were the lucky ones that day)
OutVentures took a Fortuner 2.8 right unto the summit of the national park and braved few very narrow dirt roads to complete a 3 hour circuit leading back to the temple. A funicular takes one up to the temple from the base point where foreigners pay for the entry and Thais don’t.. but both have to shell out around THB 20 for the lift to the top.
Outside the temple there are many curio shops and also few for those curiously inclined … fried insects as snacks !!
Try the raw mango with garlic salt and have a hillside coffee while at it, before driving back to the city.
The temple is often referred to as “Doi Suthep” although this is actually the name of the mountain where it’s located. It is a sacred site to many Thai people. The temple is 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) from the city of Chiang Mai. From the temple, impressive views of downtown Chiang Mai can be seen.
The original founding of the temple remains a legend and there are a few varied versions. The temple is said to have been founded in 1383 when the first stupa was built. 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.
White elephant legend
According to legend, a monk named Sumanathera from the Sukhothai Kingdom 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 found a bone. Many claim it was Gautama Buddha‘s shoulder bone. The relic displayed magical powers: it glowed, it was able to vanish, it could move and replicate itself. Sumanathera took the relic to King Dhammaraja, who ruled Sukhothai. The eager Dhammaraja 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.
King Nu Naone of Lan Na heard of the relic and bade the monk to bring it to him. In 1368, with Dharmmaraja’s permission, Sumanathera took the relic to what is now Lamphun, in northern Thailand. Once there, the relic broke into two pieces. The smaller piece was enshrined at a temple in Suandok. The other piece was placed by the king on the back of a white elephant which was released into the jungle. The elephant is said to have climbed up Doi Suthep, at that time called Doi Aoy Chang (Sugar Elephant Mountain), stopped, trumpeted three times, then dropped dead. This was interpreted as an omen. King Nu Naone immediately ordered the construction of a temple at the site.