Sixteen kilometres northwest of Chiang Mai (Northern Thailand) is Doi Suthep mountain (1676m) and Doi Suthep-Pui National park. Near the top of the mountain sits Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, one of the Northern Thailand’s most sacred temples with great views of Chiang Mai from up top. I highly recommend that you visit it with a motorbike on your own.
Motorbikes are widely available through Chiang Mai and you can get a really good deal, especially if visiting in October (which is still the low season). I paid 180 THB per day (with insurance) for a 110 ccm Honda Click. The initial price was 300 THB + 50 THB for insurance. Gas is cheap, a full tank should cost around 70 THB.
The road gets a bit steep in some places, but overall it’s a very easy, short ride and a great way to get familiar with your motorbike and get a feeling for Chiang Mai traffic. Especially if you plan on doing other, longer trips (such as the Samoeng loop or Doi Inthanon National Park) later on. There are a few nice view points of Chiang Mai on the way and a few possible stops before reaching the temple; Chiang Mai ZOO, Mon Thaa Than Waterfalls & Nature park being the more noticeable ones. You can also extend your trip further on from the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple to the White Hmong hill tribe village if time permits.
Mon Thaa Than Waterfalls & Nature trail on the way to Doi Suthep
Chiang Mai ZOO is the first possible stop on the road from Chiang Mai to Doi Suthep, but I skipped it. It is open until 5 PM, price of admission for an adults is 170 THB. It’s home to some giant pandas and they supposedly even have a penguin house.
Mon Thaa Than waterfalls are next and they shouldn’t be missed. You’ll see signs on the way and the road leading to the falls is on the right, shortly after the road starts to ascend.
Admission fee for the Mon Thaa Than Falls Nature trail is 100 THB for adult and 20 THB for a motorbike and is worth it. There are two waterfalls, both beautiful and a great refreshment on the way to the mountain (so don’t forget the swimming shorts and a towel).
The Mon Thaa Than Falls Nature trail closes at 4:30 PM, so it’s probably better to visit it on the way to the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple and not on the way back. Especially if you are visiting in the afternoon for the sunset and Buddhist monk’s evening chants (which start at 6 PM)
The first waterfall is located just at the start of the park, right after motorbike parking.
If you want to swim and refresh yourself a bit the second waterfall is better to do so. It is located just a few minutes up the hill.
The trail is made mainly of steps at first and then continues as a normal trail, but gets steep on some parts after the second waterfall so take good shoes if you plan on walking more, not flip flops (which are OK if you just want to visit the two waterfalls and go back).
Another thing worth mentioning (just because it’s weird) is that the The Mon Thaa Than Falls Nature trail also has a …
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple
The Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple is located near the top of Doi Suthep mountain. You can walk the 306 stairs to the temple or take a ride in a cable cart. Admission fee for the temple is 30 THB and 20 THB for the cable cart per person.
A walk around the temple is nice, but the main and most impressive is the middle, main temple area with one of the holiest chedi in Thailand with a five-tiered golden umbrella.
The monks start their evening chants at 6 PM, just before the sunset and this really adds up to the whole experience and makes the place somewhat alive and magical. Maybe it was even more so on my visit because October is the low season and there were not really many people there. I was also surprised at how respectful everybody was to the monks (which is rarely the case).
The feeling when the temple goes completely quiet when the monks start coming outside is really amazing. The ritual goes on for almost an hour, until sundown and well … take a look at some pictures.
When everything goes quiet again it’s already dark, but it’s easy to drive back to the city at night time, just take it slow and you’ll be good. Make sure to also stop on the marked viewpoint for some nice nighttime views of the city.