Today we went to see a golden temple on top of a hill outside Chiang Mai.
Outside of the palace in Bangkok, this is probably the second most famous and well-visited cultural attraction in Thailand.
As with most temples anywhere in the world, there are stairs.
Lots of stairs.
After taking a taxi to the place where the taxis and buses drop off the hordes of tourists (and worshippers), we began climbing the stairs.
There are 309 steps to reach the entrance, and a few more once you’re inside.
But it’s worth a visit.
It’s been there (in some form) since 1368, though it’s been added to over the years.
According to legend, a monk had a dream where god told him to go look for a relic of Buddha. The monk found a bone, which many claim was Buddha’s shoulder bone. The bone is said to have displayed magical powers; it glowed, it was able to vanish, it could move itself, and replicate itself.
He took the bone to a ruler of the time who couldn’t get the bone to do anything special, but a different ruler heard about the relic and asked the monk to bring it to him instead. This was in 1368 (of western time). 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 Suandok.
The other piece was placed by the King on the back of a white elephant. The elephant 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), and 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.
And so there is a temple at Doi Suthep.
We’re fairly sure the elephant part of the story is true. The rest of it we’ll leave up to your discretion and opinion.
The gold covered temple is quite impressive, and while some of the spaces outside the temple seem less than reverent, within the grounds of the temple itself people are quiet and respectful, and prayerful.
I like it when people take time to quiet their minds and just reflect.
I think it’s a healthy activity for all of us to engage in on a fairly regular basis, and it’s nice when people of different languages, cultures, and backgrounds can all appreciate the quietness of a place.
Also at Doi Suthep it’s possible to have an open chat with a Buddhist Monk (chats are held in English – no cost), but we got there too late and missed the opportunity for the conversation (which ends at 4PM).
There is apparently also a great view of Chiang Mai from Doi Suthep, but the pollution here in March/April is terrible, and right now is definitely no exception.
The taxi cost 350 baht (about $12) and waited there for us, so in total we spent about 1 hour and 15 minutes in the taxi (35-40 mins. each way), and the taxi waited for us for nearly two hours.
Once again, the prices in Thailand spoil us… $12 for more than 3 hours of a taxi’s time is pretty amazing in any country.
A visit to Doi Suthep was recommended to us as a must-do when in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
After visiting the temple, I can see why.