Monday, December 6, 2010
Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep
Name : Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep
Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep is a Buddhist temple in Chiang Mai Province, Thailand.
The temple is located 15 km from the city of Chiang Mai and is a sacred site to many Thai people. From the temple impressive views of Chiang Mai can be seen and it remains a popular destination of foreign visitors.
The original founding of the temple remains a legend and there are a few varied versions. The temple is said to have been founded in 1383 when the first chedi was built. Over time the temple has expanded, and been made to look more extravagant with many more holy shrines added. A road to the temple was first built in 1935.
1) White Elephant Legend
According to legend, a monk named Sumanathera from Sukhothai had a dream; in this dream god told him to go to Pang Cha and look for a relic. Sumanathera ventured to Pang Cha and is said to have found a bone, which many claim was Buddha's shoulder bone. The relic displayed magical powers; it glowed, it was able to vanish, it could move itself and replicate itself. Sumanathera took the relic to King Dharmmaraja who ruled the Sukhothai.
The eager Dharmmaraja made offerings and hosted a ceremony when Sumanathera arrived. However the relic displayed no abnormal characteristics, and the king, doubtful of the relic's authenticity, told Sumanathera to keep it.
However, King Nu Naone of the Lanna Kingdom heard of the relic and offered the monk to take it to him instead. In 1368 with Dharmmaraja's permission, Sumanathera took the relic to what is now Lamphun, in northern Thailand. The relic apparently split in two, one piece was the same size, the other was smaller than the original. The smaller piece of the relic 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 in the jungle.
The elephant is said to have climbed up Doi Suthep, at the time called Doi Aoy Chang (Sugarcane Elephant Mountain), trumpeted three times before dying at the site. It was interpreted as a sign and King Nu Naone ordered the construction of a temple at the site.
2) Another more recent legend about Doi Suthep concerns a monk in the 1930's. In 1934, there was still no road leading up the mountain and the faithful had to make the arduous climb in order to visit the temple. Pra Krubra Srivichai, a local monk, thought that the temple needed better access and organized the local villages in order to build a road. A statue honouring Srivichai still remains, at the base of the mountain. It is believed to be good luck to pay homage to him before ascending Doi Suthep.
It is easy enough to get to Doi Suthep. Public transportation may be used to travel the road 16 kilometres northwest out of Chiang Mai, past Chiang Mai University and ascend the winding road up the mountain to the base of the temple.
Doi Suthep is part of Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, which is easily accessible from Chiang Mai. Huay Kaew Road connects the northwest corner of the old town directly with Doi Suthep. After a few kilometers we had entered the park and stopped off at Huay Kaew Waterfall, which was running low as winter is the dry season, but was still a nice diversion and a good place for a cold drink.
There are two choices once you have reached the base of the temple - either hike up the 290 steps to the temple gate (admiring the longest Naga staircase in Thailand on the way) or, hop on one of the cable cars and get conveyed to the top. Most opt for the walk.
Once inside Wat Suthep, you are free to wander the grounds, admiring what each section has to offer. Like many temples in Thailand, there are elements of Hinduism mixed in with Buddhism and an intriguing array of statues, including a model of the Emerald Buddha and a statue of the Hindu God Ganesh, peek out from corners, cubby holes and from the sides of temple buildings. There are Metal bells, double-stacked, line a couple of walls and are kept busy throughout the day. Signs above the bells admonish visitors "not to push the bell."
In the middle of the temple is the sacred square cloister area, where, upon shedding shoes and ascending another dozen steps, visitors can see the Lanna-style, copper-plated chedi topped by a five-tiered gold umbrella. It is considered one of the holiest areas in Thailand contains a piece of holy relics of Lord Buddha. Monks inside are kept busy blessing the devout with holy water and the smell of incense and burning candles fill the senses as you circumnavigate the cloister.
Views of Chiang Mai can be seen on the other side of the temple. The lookout area is the other side from the entrance gate and viewers can gaze down at the city of Chiang Mai and its international airport far below. From here, you have a clear view of the winding Ping River and the surrounding mountains.
Thanks to the roads made by of Monk Srivichai, so it is now easy to pay a visit to Doi Suthep, although the old hiking trail does still exist for those yearning for a more difficult challenge. Either way, the beauty, the holiness and the legends of Doi Suthep wait to be explored.
Tourists attractions :
For the first-time visitor to Chiangmai, the temple part of the tour usually takes them to the famed Doi Suthep or further afield to Doi Inthanon. Then comes the elephant rides and the paltry attempt at giving you a glimpse of the hill tribes. And the other highlight — the tourist trap called the Night Bazaar, where all manner of ethnic handiwork, handicraft, antiques and touristy clothes are on offer.
The other delights of Chiangmai is a favourite local breakfast fare, kao soi. It is a scrumptious bowl of flat green noodles in a curry gravy served thick chilli paste and your choice of chicken, beef or pork.
Sankhampang Hot Springs :
You can proceed to a popular local destination, Sankhampang Hot Springs (www.skpHotsprings.com). It’s about 45 minutes from the city and is run by the Tourism Authority of Thailand together with the Agricultural Cooperative and Sankhampang Village Cooperative.
The first thing that greets you here is the slight smell of rotten eggs. Yes, that’s right, there’s sulphur in the air. Then you will hear the sound of spouting water. The place has two small geysers. There’s a small well where you can boil eggs. And where do you get the eggs? At a nearby stall, of course. It takes 15 minutes of dipping in the hot water for the eggs to be ready.
There’s also a little stream running through the park where you can soak your feet or any other body part of choice. Of course, you can also take baths. There are individual rooms (separated by gender) just for that, and facilities for group baths as well, for a price. There’s even a big sulphur swimming pool if you’re game for it.
If you plan to spend the night, there are rooms and chalets available. You don’t have to worry about food because there is also a restaurant that serves pretty good food, and reasonably priced, too. The tom yam kung and the vegetable salad are scrumptious.
If the therapeutic effects of the mineral bath is not enough, you can always drop in at the booths that offer Thai massage.
River Ping Cruise :
Another calming activity is a night cruise on the River Ping, which runs through Chiangmai (www.chiangmai.bangkok.com). The operators pick you up from your hotel and take you to the docking bay. You pass through all the local markets to get to it. Food is served once the boat starts its journey.
Chiangmai Zoo :
You can also make a trip to Chiangmai Zoo (http://chiangmaizoo.peam.biz/) just 15 minutes outside the city. The zoo, open from 8am-5pm daily, is internationally acclaimed. The locals are proud of the fact that they have pandas, one of the few outside China.
Visitors to the zoo can expect a varied terrain, for there are loads of slopes to walk on and lots of greens. If the heat gets to you, just pay a small fee and take the tram (like we did). And if you want an aerial view, why not take the monorail which offers just that and some great views of Chiangmai too.
There’s also the usual animal shows and animals. The Siberian tiger and the Humboldt penguins were the standouts. The penguins were charmers, playing with visitors by the window.