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Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep

Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep

One of Chiang Mai's most popular tourist destinations is Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep - a Buddhist temple located at the top of Doi Suthep, the 1676 meter mountain that towers grandly above Chiang Mai. Wat Phrathat is locally referred to simply as Doi Suthep, the name of the actual mountain itself. Located 15km up a windy road to the apex of Doi Suthep, Wat Phrathat greets you with an impressively steep and fierce-looking dragon staircase (16th-century Naga)that is definitely not for the weak of heart - there are about 300 steps. Wat Phrathat is a sacred site to many Thai people and should be respected as such, try and wear appropriate clothing (no singlets, flip flops and shorts). It features a beautiful golden Chedi (pagoda) and golden umbrella on the site where legend suggests a white elephant delivered a magical bone of the Buddha himself (see below). On a clear day Wat Phrathat offers wonderful views over Chiang Mai and the religious significance of the site can be felt through the reverential behavior of those pilgrims who visit it daily. For those travelers who can't tackle the dragon staircase, don't worry there is a funicular railway. But if you can resist the urge to take it, tackle the stairs, you will enjoy a sense of relief and achievement when you reach the top. Once inside, you can purchase a bunch of flowers, joss sticks and candles for 20 baht and prey for some good luck. The idea here is that you hold the offerings you have purchased while walking in a clockwise direction around the golden pagoda three times. Once completed, head for a praying area of your choosing, light up the joss sticks and candles and offer the bouquet to Buddha in return for blessings. If you are in desperately in need of some good luck, you can also ring some bronze bells around the side of the temple or be personally blessed by a monk inside a small room to the side of the Chedi.

The Legend of the White Elephant

According to legend, a monk named Sumanathera from Sukhothai had a dream in which Buddha told him to go to Pang Cha and look for a relic. Once there, he discovered a bone, which displayed magical powers - it vanished, reappeared, glowed and could move itself and reproduce itself. Many believed it was the shoulder bone of Buddha himself. Evidently, the relic apparently split in two with the smaller piece enshrined at a temple in Suandok. The other piece was placed by King Nu Naone (of the Lanna Kingdom) on the back of a white elephant, which was then released into the jungle. The elephant is said to have climbed Doi Suthep, trumpeted three times before dying on the spot. It was interpreted as a sign and King Nu Naone ordered the construction of a temple at the site.

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