A glittering temple, a white chedi, and a giant sitting Buddha on the top of a little hill just 20 minutes outside Chiang Mai – this sight is very familiar for anyone who regularly does visa runs. Wat Phra That Doi Saket is right by the Chiang Mai – Chiang Rai highway, just before the road hits the mountains. It is most spectacular from a distance; close up, it is an unusual temple with some unique features.
There is a long but not so steep Naga staircase to approach the temple. I insist on climbing these out of respect – at least on my first visit. For the less spiritually minded, there is a road just right of the staircase that leads all the way up.
The typical Thai temple features modern murals painted by Thai artist Chaiwat Wannanon in an amazing style merging colours and vaguely shaping a thousand details, forming them into complex and powerful messages. I don’t think I had ever spent so much time looking at the walls in a Thai temple, I was simply overwhelmed. The paintings emphasise the eternal struggle of good and evil, with Buddhism and meditation providing a calm, safe haven. Some are slightly disturbing, some just very scary, others grasp the ambiguity of life so perfectly.
Another interesting touch is a “chedi inside the chedi” construction – you may enter and walk around in between the two chedis. It is not easy to take impressive photos though in such confined space.
There is a large monastic school on the temple grounds, a little cemetery, a small Chinese-style shrine with a dragon, and a meditation garden with lots of colourful Buddha images. The view is also quite spectacular if it is not hazy or smoky. You can really appreciate how enormous Doi Suthep and Doi Pui are from this distance. (Yes, it was too hazy for a decent photo – you will need to go and see for yourself.)
The large sitting Buddha actually appears much bigger from the distance.
Finding Doi Saket happened to be one of my “let’s get lost” acts. We continued on the small country road that goes along Bosang umbrella village to see where it would take us, and this was where we ended up after twenty minutes or so. It could be a nice daytrip to visit Doi Saket, then continue on to Bosang and Sankamphaeng hot springs.
Usually, I prefer just to stumble upon sights by chance, rather than read about them and consciously try to find them. I’m always in for a surprise, not a disappointment. But, who knows, maybe you prefer to know where you are heading before hitting the road, and these few photos and brief description will make you stop at a temple that you would just pass by in a wizz.