Doi Suthep is a very sacred temple which shares its name with the mountain it resides on. It is located about 15km from the center of Chiang Mai.
Of course you can take a tuk-tuk straight to the temple but if you have more time you can decide to do a hike up there. Of course we took the hike. The departure of the track is just after the Chiang Mai Zoo, although we walked from our apartment (located near Maya Mall).
It is a surprisingly wild area covered by a beautiful forest. There are waterfalls all around but I guess they are more impressive after the rainy season… After the first hour on this trail you get to the main road, which is much less friendly to walk on. According to what some friends told us we must have missed the continuation of the trail a few hundreds meters away.
Instead, we followed MapsMe which was indicating a trail through the Nature Park but we had to pay an entrance fees: 20 THB for locals, 100 THB for foreigners… That’s a big difference. We were not really convinced and decided to continue and see if we could stop a car to have a lift… it took us 1 minute to get it! The car already had 4 passengers that made some room for us in the back. The couple sitting with us was from Bangkok and came to Chiang Mai for a funeral. The car owners were their cousins. Funnily enough this couple went to Paris the year before and was going to Vienna and around 2 weeks later! And they also knew Romania (not that many people know about it in this region!).
Doi Suthep Temple
Outside the temple you already find impressive statues and a giant gong. To access the temple you have to climb a long staircase protected by a dragon on each side. Foreigners have to pay an entrance fees (30 THB). Be careful to respect the dressing code and wear a proper outfit (cover your shoulders, cleavage and knees), otherwise you will be denied access to the heart of the temple.
One sad thing we saw is that along the stairs you find many children dressed with traditional outfits waiting for tourist to take a picture of them in exchange of money. Those kids were between 2 and 12 years old. We were there on a Wednesday morning, they should have been in school… There were only girls.
The heart of the temple
Once passed the entrance gate you get in a beautiful courtyard. You need to leave your shoes here to get in the heart of the temple. In the heart of the Holy square stands a big golden stupa. Very shiny! It is surrounded by smaller temples and many many statues of Buddha! The walls also present different stories of the life of Buddha.
The main activity in this area (except for praying) is to take pictures! Between the selfies and the professional photographers, you are always on the way of someone’s picture!
Around the temple
It is worth taking a walk around the temples where you will find smaller pagodas, statues, sculpture and a very nice viewpoint overlooking Chaing Mai and part of the forest of the Natural Park!