Doi Suthep National Park
Chiang Mai Attractions | Chiang Mai attractions and activities
Doi Suthep National Park was declared in 1981 but it is fighting to survive in the face of increasing urban sprawl from Chiang Mai, the continuing presence of hundreds of hilltribe families living within its boundaries, and the encroachment of luxury holiday retreats. Luckily, a residents action group has sprung up in Chiang Mai in defense of the park and, hopefully over time, some of the damage will be allowed the breathing space it needs in order to repair itself.
The park is still very nice to visit and is a veritable treasure trove of plant species. Almost 2,000 different varieties of flowering plants and ferns have been recorded, some set around quite scenic waterfalls. Although the vast majority of the animals have been tracked, trapped and tucked into, there is still a wide variety of birdlife which would keep most bird spotters more than content and there are hundreds of both butterfly and moth species in the park.
Doi Suthep is part of the ring of mountains that surround Chiang Mai city and it is the most prominent feature noticed by every first timer to Chiang Mai. At the top of the mountain is Wat Prathat Doi Sutep (the holy temple of Doi Sutep) whose gleaming golden pagoda can be seen from any point in Chiang Mai city, erected as the guardian temple of the city.
The temple is a beautiful 17 kilometres' drive through the mountain's national park and apart from being the most visited temple and tourist spot in the north it is also the most holy of Chiang Mai's temples. On arrival at the temple there are many street vendors selling anything from sweet corn to Buddha replicas.
Two spectacular Naga or serpents guard the 300 steps that lead up to the temple. It might be a tough climb for the elderly but with patience and taking it slowly it is well worth the reward of the temple itself.
The temple was constructed in the sixteenth century although little of the original architecture remains today. The view over the city is spectacular, the gleaming golden pagoda even more so than from the city below and at any time in the day it is an interesting experience to see Thais performing various religious rites and paying homage to the Lord Buddha.
Walking in Doi Suthep National Park
There are two main trails which can be walked including one to the peak of Doi Palace and the scenic Khonthathan Waterfall. None of the walks are particularly strenuous and certainly beat driving around for atmosphere. The entrance to the National Park is by the temple car park.
If you can handle some extra steps, the entrance to the National Park Headquarters is on your left, a 10 minute walk up. There is an interesting photo and poster display on the reforestation program at Doi Suthep at the seedling nursery-worth a visit for getting a perspective on destruction of natural resources and the hard work involved in reforestation.
Last Updated: 20 May 2008