As I said in the previous post, there are two ways to get to the temple from the parking lot. You can take a tram or the stairs. I checked around and some sources said that the temple stairs have 309 steps. Because we wanted to experience both, we went up using the tram and down thru the stairs.
Once you exit the tram or climb the stairs, you will need to remove your shoes. It is important to bring socks. You don’t want to wander around barefoot. Furthermore, if you go in the dry season, some floor areas are going to be extremely hot. You will need some protection for your feet. Also, remember to dress appropriately. If a piece of one of your legs is uncovered, you would probably be offered a sarong to use during your visit.
The first part of the temple that was built was the chedi that shelters the Buddha’s relic. The original construction was improved by subsequent kings and rulers. Lavish buildings and the naga framed stairs were later added to add more exceptionality to the temple grounds. When I visited, the chedi was being maintained. It was still a gorgeous sight.
People from all over Thailand come to present their offerings around the chedi’s surroundings.
As I mentioned in the previous post, the Buddha’s relic was carried to the top of the mountain by a white elephant. These creatures are sacred in Thailand and in other countries like Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia. They are associated with royal power. If you found a white elephant, you are supposed to present it to the king. In Thailand, a white elephant is not necessarily albino. There is a criteria to evaluate the quality of an elephant believed to be white (the criteria includes the color and shape of certain body parts).
Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep is located about 7 miles (15 km) from the city of Chiang Mai. As I said the temple is located at the top of the Doi Suthep Mountain and is surrounded by the Doi Suthep – Doi Pui National Park. The road that leads to the top is well paved but is curvy and tricky. Plus, during the day, small and big buses are constantly making the route from Chiang Mai. I discovered that visitors like to go to the temple in rented motorbikes. If you are not an experienced motorbike driver, I don’t think this is the best way to cover the route. It was painful to watch a lot of motorbikes being almost passed over by big buses. Remember that in Thailand driving is on the left. This adds more danger to westerners trying to go by motorbike. If you want to be safe, arrange private transportation or use public buses. I don’t feel like this is the right situation to get adventurous.
Next week, we are going to continue exploring Chiang Mai. See you next time.