Wat Prathat Doi Suthep

by David on November 25, 2009

One of the major tourist attractions in Chiang Mai is Wat Prathat, a Buddhist temple that sits atop Doi Suthep (Mount Suthep), about 10 miles from the Chiang Mai city center. The temple is believed to have been founded in 1383, with the building of its first chedi (a mound or dome structure built to house Buddhist relics). Legend has it that king Nu Naone of the Lanna kingdom heard that a monk named Sumanathera had found the shoulder bone of a Buddha. King Nu Naone asked Sumanathera to bring the relic to him in what is now Lamphun in northern Thailand. When the relic was presented to the king it split into two pieces, with one of the pieces being the same size as the original. The smaller of these two pieces was enshrined at a temple in Suandok, and the larger was placed on the back of a white elephant which climbed to the top of Doi Suthep, trumpeted three times, and lay down dead on the spot. This was taken as a sign, and the king ordered the construction of a temple, Wat Prathat, at that spot.

My own journey to Wat Prathat was more prosaic, starting with a tuk tuk (three wheeled motorcycle taxi) ride to the outskirts of the city, where I caught a songthaew (truck) to the temple.

SongthaewMy white elephant.

On arriving at the temple, the first thing that you notice is a large number of people who very badly want you to buy things from them.  Shortly after that you notice the stairs leading up to the temple.

Wat Prathat StairsStairs at Wat Prathat.

The crowds were a mix of locals, tourists and the devout, with some people fitting in to all three categories.

Cellphone MonkEveryone was taking pictures.

Buddha statues of all types abound, from the grand

Wat Prathat Buddha 1

to the more modest

Wat Prathat Statue

to the ancient-looking and revered.

Wat Prathat Statue Praying

My favorite statues, though, were the Emerald Buddhas.  The original Emerald Buddha is a jadeite statue located in Wat Phra Kaew temple in Bangkok.  I did not discover of what material the statues at Wat Prathat were made, but they are certainly impressive.

Wat Prathat Emerald Buddha 2

Wat Prathat Emerald Buddha Glowing


Steve Gleaves November 27, 2009 at 12:27


I need some perspective. How tall is this statue? It’s beautiful!

David November 27, 2009 at 23:00

Good point, I didn’t include anything in the photo which gives scale. The statue is about two and a half feet tall, including the gold headpiece. It was one of three, all of similar size, sitting in a row. It was about ten feet to my right from the one pictured directly above it, and was catching the sun at the perfect angle to give that look of internal illumination.

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