April 23rd 2019

On our final day in Chiang Mai, Thailand we decided to watch the sunrise come up over stunning Wat Phra That Doi Suthep (temple) at the top of Suthep Mountain.

We booked our private taxi using Grab taxi to arrive at our accommodation at 5:10 a.m. so we could observe the sunrise at 6:04 a.m. According to the Grab Taxi app the trip should take about 45 mins. at this time in the morning to cover the 15 + km trip up Doi Suthep-Pui National park. (Doi means mountain in northern Thai).  Our previous experiences with Grab Food and Grab taxi had been very positive and the credit card prepaying ensured that ‘surprises’ in fees didn’t occur. Plus…You can monitor the location of your driver on the map feature.

The cost for the private taxi to pick us up at our accommodation, drive us up the mountain before sunrise, wait in the parking lot for about 2 1/2 hours, then drive us back to our lodging was $24.43 Canadian dollars.

Yes. You could travel cheaper in the red truck songthaews. or “rot daang” (red trucks) for 200 Baht each person.  But….not if you intended on seeing the sunrise!

It was dark when we departed from our location and drove up the mountain, yet in spite of this there were dozens of ambitious athletes up early riding their bicycles up this steep and narrow road!

We were the first tourists to arrive at the enormous parking lot and determined to achieve our goal of seeing the sunrise from the top of the Wat, we nearly ran up the 306 step staircase.

The Wat officially opened for public viewing at 6:00 a.m. and we were first in line! The cost to enter the temple is free for Thai locals and 30 Baht each for foreigners.

As the sun rose the gold Buddha statues, Chedi, and Stupas were intensely regal and reflective. Monks were meditating. The peaceful location and brilliant rich color surrounding us was so worth the early start!

Please click the link below to see a slide show/video of our experience in this most sacred temple.

Slide show/video of sunrise at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep!

In addition to the intricate and opulent beauty of the gold Buddhas and temple grounds, there is extensive history at this sacred temple. Observe the white elephant photos. They are key in this historical story.

The monastery was established in 1383 by King Keu Naone to enshrine a piece of bone from the shoulder of a historical Buddha.  This bone shard was brought to Lanna by a monk from Sukhothai. The shard broke into 2 pieces at the base of the mountain.

One piece is enshrined at the Wat Suan Dok temple (beside our accomodation). The Wat grounds where we eat our daily vegetarian breakfast at Pun Pun. The second piece of bone was mounted on a sacred white elephant that wandered through the jungle until it died. This is now the location of the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.

There is a white elephant statue located beside the temple at the top of the mountain. The golden five-tiered umbrella marks the city’s independence from Burma and its union with Thailand.  Another interesting piece of information I discovered was that the 306 step staircase flanked by naga (serpents) had another purpose …apparently “the climb is intended to help devotees accrue Buddhist merit”. I wonder if running up the stairs accrues additional merit?

At the base of the extensive staircase there was a cute little girl (and mother and grandma?) dressed in northern village tribe traditional clothing. There were also stalls and a small marketplace where tourists tend to shop. Our Grab taxi was waiting and we had packing to do as tomorrow we depart to Hanoi, Vietnam!

But first….one last healthy meal at Pun Pun and photos with our daily waitress. Then one last amazing Thai massage. Mark enjoyed the hour long foot massage and reflexology (usually 250-300 baht) and I enjoyed the hour long neck/shoulder/back massage (usually 300 baht or 350 with oil).

Goodbye Thailand! Our 3 weeks here have been wonderful (minus loosing my hearing aid at the Ancient City out of Bangkok!) we’ll return for 4 more days after travelling through Vietnam and Cambodia for 18 days with Intrepid Tours. Hanoi… Here we come!