Travel Photo: Bells at Wat Pharathat Doi Suthep Temple, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Doi Suthep Temple, Chiang Mai

Bells at Doi Suthep Temple, Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai’s Buddhist temples are some of the oldest in Thailand. Open to the public, they’re great examples of Thai architecture, and a wonderful way to see true Thai culture and history.

Doi Suthep can be seen from almost anywhere in Chiang Mai, clinging to the mountainside close to the summit of Doi Suthep hill. Doi Suthep temple was built under King Geu Na in the late 14th century.

It’s believed that striking the bells will bring good luck.

Legend holds that the temple’s site was chosen by a sacred white elephant charging through the forest. King Geu Na ordered the temple built where the elephant trumpeted its last breath, and fell to the ground near the summit of Doi Suthep hill.

The walk to the top of the temple is about 306 steps up a steep serpent (Naga) staircase, or by cable car for about $1. The outside plaza holds several buildings and a great lookout point over Chiang Mai. The temple is a 15 km drive from Chiang Mai.

Thai Temple Etiquette: While not required at most Thai temples, it’s considered respectful to cover your arms and legs. Pointing is considered rude, and it’s polite to remove your shoes and hat. Sit with your feet underneath your body, facing the door, don’t point them to the front of the temple. Remember, you’re in a place that Thais consider sacred and holy, so be respectful.

Travel Tip: To get to Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, take the night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. We took a private sleeper car for about $20/person, with a private toilet. Just don’t drop anything down the loo by accident. Ours had no bottom, and opened directly onto the tracks rushing below.


4 Responses

  1. OutsideMyMind

    I’ll be in Chiang Mai in a few weeks and really looking forward to it. I love going to temple, unfortunately it’s one of the only times I find myself “in the moment”, not so pre-occupied with thoughts on top of thoughts, on top of thoughts : ) I think it’s great that you’re able to travel with children, when most use it, or find it as an excuse to not be able to travel.

    • Micki Kosman

      Chiang Mai is amazing. It’s so on my “must go back” list.

      It’s funny that people use kids as an excuse. The kids will be fine. Kids thrive on new experiences, and meeting new people, as long as they have parents who help and guide them (and I speak from experience, I’ve got a six and three year old who travel everywhere with us). Parents tend to use their kids as an easy go-to excuse for not going out of their comfort zone (not that I haven’t done that occasionally myself). It’s something that most people won’t call bullsh*t on.

  2. OutsideMyMind

    Good call, yes, it’s really that the parents that don’t want to travel, and it’s an easy out. I was lucky to have parents who traveled quite a bit, and as a kid I traveled a lot and lived outside my country (the U.S.) There is no amount of money in the world that could replace what I gained from these travel experiences as a child; you’re children are very fortunate. If more or every parent was required to take their children out on the road, I have no doubt the world would be a much different place.

  3. The Scuttlefish

    Thanks for the tips! I’m headed to North Thailand in a week and am excited to spend a few days in Chiang Mai. My first time in the country was spent along the southern coasts, and with the overly touristy atmosphere there you feel like you could be in any of the Southeast Asian beaches. I hope the north will help me understand Thai culture and the people better!


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