Have ever planned to see a place and only to realize when you get there that it was not what you expected? Visiting Temples in Chiang Mai is a bit like that. Streets lined with souvenir shops, walkways dotted with hawkers selling goods and the temple crowded with people, tourists and locals alike. I’m standing at the foot of the stairway behind a group of people, waiting to get into Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. It was at this moment when I realized two things; this site was a tourist trap, and I knew nothing about Buddhism in Thailand.
Being a tourist, visiting the temples in Chiang Mai
Let me be clear that I am not against tourists. I am a tourist. However, we try to make a conscious effort to tour things we enjoy and will add value to us. Our filter, for some reason, was not used on this particular occasion. On the subject of religion, we hardly know anything about Buddhism. The extent of my knowledge is my Gramma is Buddhist, Japanese Buddhist, to be exact. As we start to enter the temple and remove our shoes, I feel entirely out of my depth and overwhelm because I don’t want to seem disrespectful. But I have no idea what I would be disrespecting! You can see my dilemma.
HOW DO YOU GET UP TO DOI SUTHEP
There are a few ways to get up the mountain to the temple. A well-used method was the city bus (red covered trucks) which we believe are the most effective way. These buses go up quite often so you can have some flexibility when arriving and departing. We travelled there by scooter, which was equal parts exciting and nerve-wracking. Exciting because we had the flexibility to come and go, nerve-wracking because there were a lot of turns (some very steep) and the possibility of falling off the edge. Thankfully Josh is a cautious driver, and we made it up and back safely.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO GO TO DOI SUTHEP
Cost to get to the temple will vary on your transportation. However, the cost to enter the temple is a donation of 30 baht per person. Once inside, you will be free to roam the temple, make offerings and prayers. We ran a bit short of cash when we arrived and were pleased to find that there were ATMs available to get some money.
WHEN SHOULD I GO TO DOI SUTHEP
We arrived at the temple around lunchtime, which seemed to be very busy at that time. A few coaches along with a dozen red shuttle buses coming and going with travellers. We were there for about two hours, and there seemed to be a constant flow of people. I think it would be best to know why you are going to the temple. That may help you decide when would be best for you to be there. If you are going there to worship, then you can choose to go at any time that suits you. If you are going there for photo opportunities, it’s best to head up early, when the temple first opens or later just around sunset.
IS DOI SUTHEP WORTH IT
While it was not what I expected (because I wasn’t expecting anything really), we stayed for 2 hours. We roamed the temple, witnessing hundreds of people praying, offering and enjoying the scenery.What I can say, as far as temples go, this one is impressive. Incredibly large golden statues, a museum of antiquities and a panorama of Chiang Mai became the reasons we went to visit. I was enlightened and how suiting was it to be enlightened at a Buddhist temple! I was reminded to take more care into visiting places of worship. Yes, they are points of interest, a must-see attraction, but I must do my part to learn more and understand why these places are unique or else how I can appreciate what they represent?
TEMPLES TO VISIT IN CHIANG MAI
There are a LOT of temples in Chiang Mai, and a Google Map will show just how many there are, especially in Old City. We visited these temples and thought they were equally impressive and worth a visit.
- Wat Umong, if you take the path to the right of the temple, you will see a very different statue of Buddha – fascinating!
- Wat Phra That Doi Kham, you will be greeted with an enormous white and gold sitting Buddha – stunning and captivating
- Wat Chedi Luang, in the heart of Old City and easily walkable to Sunday Night Markets
TEMPLE ETIQUETTE AND WHAT TO WEAR
There is an etiquette when visiting all Buddhist temples in Thailand. It’s appropriate to have your shoulders and legs covered when entering the temple. Footwear is not allowed, as you will see with the piles of shoes at the entryways. Admission fees, or donations, are required and range from 20-40 baht per person depending on the temple you are visiting.