If you have been reading my posts, then you will know about the wrong way to go about a day trip to Wat Doi Suthep via the Pilgrim’s Trail.

With sense on our side, this here is the best way to explore the national park, mountain villages and temple.

Renting our scooter we take Huay Kaew Road until it turns into Siriwichi Alley. Knowing this road well (given we walked it). It takes us about 25 minutes to get to the temple.

I see my drinks and insect guy again and feel good that I didn’t have hallucinations the last time.

Wat Doi Suthep

large statue of Buddha

Full of energy we take the 309 steps up to the entrance of the temple.

309 steps up to the entrance of a temple

The temple is indeed very beautiful and displays an amazing amount of craftsmanship. But what I really love about these historic sites is the story that sits behind them.

Green Glass Buddha

So the legend goes:

A monk named Sumanathera had a dream where he was told to go to Pang Cha and look for a relic. Sumanathera ventured to Pang Cha and found a bone. Many claim it was Gautama Buddha‘s shoulder bone. The relic displayed magical powers: it glowed, it was able to vanish, it could move and replicate itself.

King Nu Naone of Lan Na heard of the relic and bade the monk to bring it to him. Once there, the relic broke into two pieces. The smaller piece was enshrined at a temple in Suandok. The other piece was placed by the king on the back of a white elephant which was released into the jungle. The elephant is said to have climbed up Doi Suthep, stopped, trumpeted three times, then dropped dead. This was interpreted as an omen and the King immediately ordered the construction of a temple at the site. (Source Wikipedia)

There you have it!

White elephant statue

If you like this story you should read how Malacca was founded.

Exploring the area further you are taken by the level of precious metal used, most famously the Golden Stupa.

Golden Stupa of Wat Doi Suthep

Bhubing Palace

Back on the scooter we ride about 4km further over the mountain to Bhubing Palace.

Chiang Mai - Wat Pha Lat-8


It is the winter residence for the Royal family from January to about March. The Palace buildings are not open to the public and the visit would be of interest to people who admire landscaped gardens. It has a rose collection that any enthusiast would envy and for 50 baht you can spend and an hour or so walking around the beautiful grounds and see how the other half lives.

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Hmong Hill tribe Village and Coffee

Another 2km onwards you reach the Hmong Hill Tribe Village and Coffee plantation. Arriving at the base of the town, it doesn’t look like much, but hop off the bike and walk straight and take the route up to the viewpoint and enjoy an amazing cup of coffee and view. The alley ways take you past home life of the villagers, but given this tribe is so close to Chiang Mai, much of the surface construction is for tourists such as cafes, stores selling souvenirs.

Chiang Mai - Wat Pha Lat-10

Chiang Mai - Wat Pha Lat-14 Chiang Mai - Wat Pha Lat-13

We went on a Monday and the town was really quiet. There are narrow alleys lined with 50baht scarves and other souvenir finds. There is also an interesting if super dated museum about the hill tribes of northern Thailand.

Chiang Mai - Wat Pha Lat-11

run down museum in thailand housed in a wooden hut

After a tasty chicken noodle soup and Pad Thai lunch, we hopped back onto the scooter for a super cruisy and cool ride back to town.

Wat Pha Lat

I had read great things about this temple, so before we reached town we turned off to properly explore Wat Pha Lat.

If you remember from the previous post, the entrance to the temple is a not-so impressive pagoda, but take the narrow road downhill and this magical place is all yours to explore.

two stone statues

Moss covered chedis, weather-worn stone statues, the uninterrupted sounds of nature, beautiful buddha-lined stairways and even a functioning well. This became my new favourite place and temple in Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai - Wat Pha Lat-20 Chiang Mai - Wat Pha Lat-19 Chiang Mai - Wat Pha Lat-18 Wat Pha Lat

Wat Pha Lat

It reminded me a lot of a place where you could go do a Vipassana course.

If you do get up the mountain, then definitely make a stop by Wat Pha Lat by scooter or even ask your songtaew driver to drop you off and wait for 15 minutes. You will easily want more time, but worth even that short time.

Feeling revitalised (unlike last time) we set off for our final run to Monthathan Waterfall. We arrive at 5.30pm and it’s too late to gain entrance to the park. We know we want to come back to Wat Pha Lat and just chill out with a book, so we will tackle the hikes around Monthathan Waterfall another day.

A fantastic day out on the bike and in amongst nature with the ability to enjoy it all (and breathe!)

Budget for two people

Scooter and extra petrol350baht
Entry to Wat Doi Suthep60baht
Entry to Bhubing Palace100baht
Entry to Hilltribe museum20baht
Coffee and a bag of ground coffee at the viewpoint365baht

Feeling a sense of accomplishment listening to Funki Porcini.

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Take two – Exploring Wat Doi Suthep
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