Backpacking Indochina: 309 Steps Up Wat Doi Suthep

While western Europe was in the middle of its Hundred Years War, something mystical was happening over in Chiang Mai. According to legend, a Buddhist monk found what was then believed to be a holy relic – Gautama Buddha’s shoulder bone. The then king of Chiang Mai, King Nu Naone, asked for this relic but on its way to him, it broke into two. The smaller of the two pieces was enshrined at Wat Suan Dork, while the bigger piece was put on top of a white elephant. This elephant went up Doi Suthep mountain, found itself a special spot, trumpeted three times, circled it three times and then dropped dead. This location was then selected as the “chosen site”. A few years later, the Wat Doi Suthep was built.

The story of its legendary origin could not underscore enough the importance of Wat Doi Suthep (or Wat Phra Tat Doi Suthep, also Wat Phratat Doi Suthep). It is touted as the one temple that must not be missed when in Chiang Mai.

Read more: Wats to see in Chiang Mai

Located about 16 km from the Old City, getting to Wat Doi Suthep involves a forty minute ride up the winding roads of the Doi Suthep Mountain. After climbing up the 309-stepped stairway to the temple, foreigners are asked to pay the entrance fee of 30 THB. Dress code is strictly enforced: no footwear allowed and shoulders must be covered while inside the temple grounds.

 Welcoming Committee Backpacking Indochina Wat Doi Suthep Entrance Backpacking Indochina Wat Doi Suthep

309 steps Backpacking Indochina Wat Doi Suthep

309 steps up Wat Phra Tat Doi Suthep

Hill Tribe Girl Asking for a Selfie with Tourists Backpacking Indochina Wat Doi Suthep

A hill tribe girl asking for a selfie with tourists.

Complete Buddha Poses Backpacking Wat Doi Suthep Chiang Mai Chasing Jayce

Buddha’s poses.

Praying Backpacking Wat Doi Suthep Chiang Mai Chasing Jayce

Backpacking Wat Phra Tat Doi Suthep Chiang Mai Chasing Jayce

Gilded temple housing the sacred relic.

Green Glass Buddha Backpacking Wat Doi Suthep Chiang Mai Chasing Jayce

Green Glass Buddha

Devotees Receiving Blessings Backpacking Wat Doi Suthep Chiang Mai Chasing Jayce

Devotees receiving blessings.

Wall of Buddhas Backpacking Wat Doi Suthep Chiang Mai Chasing Jayce

Resting Hill Tribe Girl Backpacking Wat Doi Suthep Chiang Mai Chasing Jayce

Hill Tribe Children at the Doi Suthep Temple Backpacking Chiang Mai Chasing Jayce

Hill tribe children

Fried Quail Eggs Coconut Pancakes Backpacking Chiang Mai Chasing Jayce

Going up to see the Wat Doi Suthep also presents the option of going on a mini food trip.  Check out this stall that sells fried quail eggs and coconut milk pancakes.

Barbeque Backpacking Chiang Mai Chasing Jayce

But my favorite are these pork barbeques. Really yummy!

At the exit of the temple grounds are some taxi cabs that offer rides up to the Bhubing Palace.  Unfortunately, I was not able to go there. My companions on this road trip – two Dutch guys – were not very keen on seeing the gardens so we headed back to the Old City after an hour and a half.

My next activity: Chiang Mai’s Sunday Walking Street Night Market.

Read more: My (mis)adventures while backpacking around Indochina.


August 23, 2015

***photos were taken using iPhone6 and GoPro Hero 4 Silver

Jayce Cairo

Jayce is a linguaphile who speaks four languages and currently works as a translator to finance her various interests. Scoring very high on “Openness to Experience” on the Big Five Personality Test, she is an avid globetrotter who aspires to retire at 35 and travel for the rest of her life.


  1. Me gustan las fotos! 🙂

  2. A CM guy stumbled upon your blog.

    Wat Prathat Doi Suthep is one of the most sacred temple for Thai, not just the Chianger.

    There is a tradition that each year all freshmen of Chiang Mai University will walked 12 kms. (14 if you count from the starting point in CMU) up the mountain to pay respect to the Chedi or pagoda there. It has been practiced since 1964. There’s only one rule:Leave no one behind. If your friend’s too tired, you have to help. If your friend’s a disable person, you have to push his/her wheelchair. If your friend cannot walk, you have to carry him/her. The ceremony gains more and more interested from others it becomes one of the major event in TH.

    Below is the video of this year’s trekking. You can hit CC button for English sub. Also there is a blog by a tourist who visit the trekking 2 years ago.

    CM, or I should say TH, is not different from any country. I mean we have both good and bad things, also good and bad people. Hope you see the first ones wherever you go.

    Welcome and be our guest again any time.

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