Fun & Weird

Visiting Chiang Mai’s Mountain Temple

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Pollution was one of the things that marked my time in Chiang Mai last February. The air was thick with smoke from forest and home fires and the famous temple on the hill was almost never visible.

View of Chiang Mai Mountain from Le Meridien Chiang Mai

The Le Meridien Chiang Mai club lounge supposedly boasted a lovely view of the moutain but I only saw it once during my stay.  So though the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep was highly recommended, I wasn’t anxious to go and kept putting it off hoping the next day would be clearer. Finally on my last day I saw some reviews that said you could get great views even on high pollution days so I decided to do it.

Getting to the Temple

I waffled between taking one of the red truck taxis from downtown or taking a hotel car for the 40 minute drive to the top of the mountain.

The red trucks have two covered benches in the back which you share with as many people as the driver can pick. Reports said they’d run around 300-400 baht one way or 500-600 baht round trip depending on how well you bargained.

chiang mai red truck

The hotel car was 1200 baht for an hour or two.

Normally I would go for the cheaper deal, but a few factors came into play.

-I had just landed a big project and was trying to cram in siteseeing with a close to full day’s work.

-The pollution was taking a big toll on my health and I tend to get carsick. 40 minutes each way in the back of an open truck on a curvy road seemed like a bad idea.

I went for the hotel car and when my driver returned within an hour to pick me up and I sank back into the clean cool air conditioned interior, I didn’t regret the extra cost at all!

Visiting the Temple

When you get dropped off in the front, you still have some stairs and a cable car to go.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep entrance

I made my way past all the souvenir and incense sellers up the stairs to buy my ticket.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep admission fee

You have the option of taking the cable car for ~$1 or going up the super steep 300 step Naga Serpent Staircase.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep naga serpent staircase

Then it was a wait in line for one of the two cable cars.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep line for cable car

A little tip, by the way, use the bathroom before you come because all the facilities are squat toilets.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep bathrooms

But eventually my turn came and I was up the steep cable car and out by the temple.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Keri cable car

Eagerly I made my way past some beautiful buildings and areas in search of the gorgeous view.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep garden area

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep bells

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep buddha window


Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Mom statue

And was met with a wall of white cloud and smog. Oh well.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep view on cloudy day

The temple complex which was built in the late 1300s is still quite beautiful with many ornate altars and statues.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep golden temple

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep tree

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple complex
Note: You’ll need to take your shoes off to enter the complex, so don’t wear anything fancy or that you’d be sad to lose.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep shoes

It took less than an hour for me to see all the sites and while I was waiting for my driver several of the souvenir sellers kept coming up to me. I kept politely declining with a smile and somehow developed a repore with them. One relentless lady approached me so often she started laughing too hard to speak. 🙂

I enjoyed the temple. But having visited all of Bangkok’s impressive temples, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep on a cloudy polluted day wasn’t as awe-inspiring as all the reviews had led me to believe.

Summary of Recommendations

  • If you’re in a group of 2 or more, take a hotel car to the mountain. It will be the same price or less and alot more comfortable than the red trucks!
  • If you’re in good shape and hate waiting in line, take the stairs up to the top.
  • Use the bathroom before you go unless you’re comfortable with squat toilets.
  • Wear cheap shoes, you’ll have to take them off and leave them outside unattended while you’re in the temple.
  • Go on a clear day. If there aren’t any and you’ve already seen the temples in Bangkok, it’s ok to skip.

More from this trip

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