Wat Phra That Doi Kham: Exploring 5 Hidden Gems

Wat Phra That Doi Kham, a historic temple located in the city of Chiang Mai, Thailand, is renowned for its beautiful architecture and religious significance. Often overshadowed by more famous temples in the region, this hidden gem offers a serene atmosphere where visitors can enjoy a more intimate experience while learning about its history and cultural importance.

The temple’s name, “Doi Kham,” translates to “Golden Mountain” in English and offers a stunning view of Chiang Mai and its surrounding areas. Established over 1,300 years ago, Wat Phra That Doi Kham houses a large seated Buddha statue known as Luang Por Tan Jai and is said to bring luck, particularly for those praying for good fortune and success.

Visitors are drawn to this sacred site not only for its peaceful ambiance and spiritual connection but also to appreciate the intricate Lanna-style artwork and craftsmanship adorning the temple’s structures. As you explore Wat Phra That Doi Kham, it becomes evident why this temple has become a favorite among both locals and tourists seeking an authentic Thai cultural experience.

History and Legends

Wat Phra That Doi Kham, also known as the Temple of the Golden Mountain, is a highly revered temple situated in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand. It is believed that the temple dates back to the 7th century, making it one of the oldest temples in the region.

The origin of Wat Phra That Doi Kham is rooted in the legend of the White Elephant. According to the tale, a sacred relic, believed to be a piece of the Buddha’s shoulder bone, was placed on a white elephant. This elephant was set free and allowed to roam the hillside until it stopped at Doi Kham, trumpeted three times, and died. The local people then built a chedi (a pagoda or stupa) at the site to enshrine the relic.

Beyond its legendary founding, this temple has a historical connection to the ancient Hariphunchai Kingdom (now Lamphun province) and had been renovated and expanded several times throughout the centuries. Some of the main attractions within the temple complex are:

  • The large statue of the sitting Buddha, locally known as ‘Phra Chao Tan Jai’.
  • The gilded chedi and pagoda, housing the sacred relic.
  • Beautiful murals depicting scenes from the life of the Buddha and Jataka tales.

Wat Phra That Doi Kham is not only rich in history and legends but also provides a peaceful and serene atmosphere for visitors. Whether you’re a history enthusiast or a spiritual seeker, this temple is a must-visit destination when exploring Chiang Mai.

Architecture and Features

Wat Phra That Doi Kham, one of the lesser-known temples in Chiang Mai, boasts a rich history and exquisite architecture. The temple was built during the 7th century, and the architecture has evolved through various eras, showcasing the Lanna, Sukhothai, and Ayutthaya styles.

The main attraction of the temple is the 17-meter high Chedi or stupa, which houses the sacred relic of the Buddha. This Chedi is built on a square base adorned with intricate carvings of elephants and mythical creatures in a traditional Lanna style. At the top, the Chedi narrows and ends with a spire, characteristic of the Sukhothai period.

Surrounding the Chedi are several halls and pavilions, including:

  • The Ubosot, or ordination hall, which is designed in the Lanna style and features beautifully decorated columns and woodcarvings.
  • The Wihan, or prayer hall, built in a blend of Thai and Lanna styles with a multi-tiered roof, intricately carved woodwork, and fine mural paintings.
  • A golden statue of Phra Chao Tan Chai Waet, a revered monk in Chiang Mai, located on the temple grounds in homage.

Visitors can also find numerous Buddha statues of varying sizes throughout the temple. A highlight is the large, 40-foot-tall white Buddha figure called Luang Por Tun Jai, which can be seen from a distance and is especially striking when illuminated at night.

Near the Chedi, there is a viewpoint where visitors can enjoy panoramic views of Chiang Mai city and its surroundings. The temple’s location on Doi Kham mountain offers a peaceful and serene atmosphere, making it an ideal stop during your visit to Chiang Mai.

Visiting Information

Wat Phra That Doi Kham is located in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and is easily accessible by car, motorbike, or local transportation. The temple is open daily from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, with no admission fee for visitors.

When visiting the temple, it is essential to dress respectfully, following the standard dress code for Thai temples. This includes covering your shoulders and knees, and removing footwear before entering the temple grounds.

Here are a few practical tips and information for your visit:

  • Bring appropriate sun protection, such as a hat and sunscreen, as the temple area can become quite hot during the day.
  • Stay hydrated and carry bottled water with you, especially during the hot season.
  • Be prepared for a steep climb up the stairs to reach the temple, as it is located on a mountain slope.
  • Be respectful of the religious significance of the site and avoid loud conversations or inappropriate behavior within the temple compound.

To get to Wat Phra That Doi Kham, you can choose from several transportation options:

TransportationApproximate Cost
Red Songthaew (shared taxi)20-40 THB per person
Tuk Tuk150-200 THB
Taxi300-400 THB

Cultural Significance

Wat Phra That Doi Kham, also known as the Temple of the Golden Mountain, is a sacred place in Chiang Mai that carries significant cultural and historical value. This Buddhist temple is believed to have been founded over 1300 years ago and houses a famous 17-meter high Buddha image known as Luang Pho Tun Jai.

Considered a hidden gem among tourists, this temple offers an authentic experience for visitors seeking to learn about Thai religious beliefs and customs. Deeply rooted in local legends and folklore, the temple is said to have been built to commemorate the visit of Buddha and his disciples to the region.

The temple holds great significance for Thai people, as it is believed to grant wishes and bring good luck to those who pay their respects. Many locals visit Wat Phra That Doi Kham to pray, make offerings, and participate in traditional rituals like ‘Tam Boon’ or merit-making.

Some notable features of the temple include:

  • The Naga serpent staircase, which symbolizes the protection of the sacred Buddha relics housed in the temple’s main pagoda.
  • An impressive collection of Buddhist relics, statues, and artifacts, reflecting the rich history and craftsmanship of the region.
  • Panoramic views of Chiang Mai city and the surrounding mountainous landscape, offering a serene and breathtaking scenery for visitors.

Wat Phra That Doi Kham is an essential destination for those looking to gain a deeper understanding of Chiang Mai’s cultural heritage, and it provides a unique opportunity for foreign travelers to engage with authentic Thai traditions and appreciate the temple’s historic significance.

Nearby Attractions

While visiting Wat Phra That Doi Kham, take the opportunity to explore other attractions in the area. Located near Chiang Mai, several popular destinations are within a short distance of the temple.

Some nearby attractions include:

  • Royal Park Rajapruek – This extensive park features beautifully landscaped gardens, impressive pavilions, and vibrant seasonal flower displays. It celebrates the King of Thailand and showcases various architectural styles from across the country.
  • Night Safari Park – Experience wildlife up close during nighttime at the Night Safari Park. This unique attraction offers guided tram tours through fauna from different geographical zones, providing an unforgettable adventure.
  • Chiang Mai Grand Canyon – An abandoned limestone quarry, now a popular destination for swimming, cliff diving, and relaxation. With waterpark features and floating platforms, it’s a fun-filled day trip from Chiang Mai.

While in the area, also consider visiting local markets such as the Hang Dong market or Baan Tawai Village, known for their unique handicrafts and souvenirs. With a vast array of experiences and attractions available within close proximity, Wat Phra That Doi Kham serves as an excellent base to discover more of what Chiang Mai has to offer.