Touring Thailand

 

Wat Prathat, Doi Suthep


Highway 1004

Doi Suthep Distance

Doi Suthep is an imposing and lofty mountain with an ancient temple complex called Wat Prathat that is perched on a high plateau. Thousands of tourists visit this majestic temple. The views of Chiang Mai (on a clear day) are worth the time and effort it takes to get there. It can be justly considered one of Chiang Mai's finest temples.

The Legend of Doi Suthep

Over 600 years ago a holy monk and King Kuena met in Chiang Mai. The monk was the guardian of a holy relic said to be a piece of shoulder-bone of Buddha. The relic mysteriously split into two and the smaller piece was enshrined in Wat Suandok.
For the original, larger piece a white elephant with the holy relic strapped to it was sent forth on a quest to find a holy resting place worthy of the relic.
The elephant set out from the Chang Puak Gate and headed westwards towards the mountains.
Doi Suthep PagodaAs it climbed the mountains more and more people followed. Soon it rested at a hilltop (later named Doi Chang Norn). Before long the elephant began climbing again. Soon it reached a second hilltop (Sanam Doi Ngarm) and many considered the place a suitable area a for a pagoda. However the relentless white elephant soon departed and continued further up the mountain to the suprise of the onlookers.
Soon it reached the imposing summit of Doi Suthep. Here it circled three times and trumpeted three times.
Certain that this was the rightful place the thai king had the relics carefully removed them from the elephant and had them buried in a pit, on top of this the pagoda was constructed.

The exhausted elephant died shortly after the relic was removed from its back and a monument to it was erected in the pagoda complex.
From the fourteenth centurey onwards to this day the temple complex has been improved and renovated by each successive monarch. Since the 1940s a succession of abbots have been responsible for the temple and pagoda of Wat Prathat.

Although the temple is often referred to as 'Doi Suthep or Wat Suthep' this is incorrect, Doi Suthep is the name of the mountain itself and the temple is called Wat Prathat, Doi Suthep or Wat Prathat for short.
Doi Suthep summit is where highway 1004 finally ends, but few tourists actually know about it, many stop at Wat Prathat or Phu Ping Palace.

Visiting Doi Suthep

Getting to Wat Prathat before the 1930s was awkward and took at least five hours on foot. A road was constructed in 1934 though and through a joint effort from many thai volunteers and monks they have improved travel to and from temple.

Whilst on the mountain the highway road becomes a weaving, wending, bending and swooping ride until you reach the final approach for Doi Suthep. Although it is quite dangerous the road is very wide in places and there is some margin for error. Take it easy and don't race and you'll be alright.

Wat Prathat, Doi Suthep Stairs

Wat Prathat, Doi Suthep Cable Car Entrance

Once at the foot of the temple complex there are two ways of getting from your bike/car up to the temple itself. One is by climbing a steep set of stairs and the other is to pay for a cable car to carry you there.
In the old days it used to be free to enter the temple, however when the cable car was built entrance fees were introduced for entering the temple complex.
If you take the stairs it's 30 baht, if you take the cable car it's 50 baht.

On The Road to Doi Suthep

It's quite straightforward really, just follow Huay Gaew Road westwards. when it reaches the superhighway intersection. Now it becomes highway 1004. Keep head west on this road and follow it all the way up the mountain.

Doi Suthep Road

 

Doi Suthep Road Entrance

 

Viewpoint of Chiang Mai- Lower

It is not just Doi Suthep that has a good view of Chiang Mai, Wang Bua Baan viewpoint is located a short way up the mountain road and has a good view of Chiang Mai and a river runs by it (see roll-over pic).

Doi Suthep Viewpoint - Lower

After the viewpoint the journey up the mountain is still gradual.

Doi Suthep Road

 

Doi Suthep Road

 

This stretch of road is where the Monthatarn waterfalls are. Turning is just on the right here (see sign on roll-over pic). They charge 200 baht for foreigners to enter. They lowered it to 40 Baht on producing a thai drivers license.

Doi Suthep Road

Doi Suthep Road

From here on in you'll need to be extra careful. The rainy season this year (2007) has eroded this route in two key places. The picture below shows you approaching a left hand bend. Take it slow cause around the second corner bend is a suprise (see pic 8)!

Doi Suthep Road - Erosion Warning!

I'm actually pulled over to the right-hand side of the road here, taking these photos weren't easy. Many of the areas where at blind corners, but it's all in a days work for Watch Rider :)

Doi Suthep Road

 

Doi Suthep Road

This is a view point location, just pull over to the left and theres a small clearing with decent views of Chiang Mai

Viewpoint of Chiang Mai- Middle

This viewpoint surpasses the lower one and it is worthwhile for photography but a small clump of trees still obscures a small portion of Chiang Mai. If you want the full view then Wat Prathat is a good place to get it. Be warned that cloud can often obscure what would be a perfect view where a clearer one could be had at the lower levels...

Doi Suthep Viewpoint - Middle

Doi Suthep Road

 

Doi Suthep Road

 

Doi Suthep Road

 

Doi Suthep Road Erosion warning!

This is the second and worst section of erosion on the route to Doi Suthep, take it into allowance if you are pushing the speed.

Doi Suthep Road

 

Doi Suthep Road

 

Doi Suthep Road - Miniwaterfall

You're nearly at Wat Prathat, Doi Suthep now. Around this corner is a left hand bend. After that your practically facing the stairs.

Doi Suthep Road

You've made it! You can park your bike at the bike park on the left (just out of sight) or just blaze on through like we did to explore Phu ping Palace!

Highway 1004
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