Doi Suithep (also called Doi Suthep) is one of those places you just have to go to or you can’t really say you’ve been to Chiang Mai at all. Doi means “mountain” so it’s a great place to see Chiang Mai from above (assuming the air is reasonably clear, which it is most of the year except during the rainy season and when the farmers are burning off last season’s crops). On top of the mountain is Wat Phra That, a Buddist monastery built originally in the 1300s and still in use. What you spend in and around the temple goes to the monks to support its upkeep and operation.
We rode up Doi Suithep on a small scooter, two up, which was quite an adventure as the bends in the road are very tight and then steep uphill stretches, which a couple of times saw the front wheel go up in the air and my other half almost fall off the back! But you can do it much easier with a variety of organised tours or just hire a songthaew or a tuk tuk for about 400 Bt round trip.
When you first get to the summit you’ll see a 300-step staircase leading up to the temple, which can look a bit daunting. But never fear, if you can’t face the Naga Serpent Staircase there is a lift that will take you up to the top for 30 Bt and you can walk the intricately carved stairs on the way back down.
At the top is the golden spire, which dominates the mountain top for miles around. The temple grounds are very interesting to explore with lots of interesting murals, carvings, gongs and shrines as well as a copy of the Emerald Buddha which once lived here, but is now in a museum in Bangkok. There are plenty of souvenir stalls where you can buy miniature copies of what you’re seeing as well as postcards much better than you could shoot yourself.
While you’re exploring Doi Suthep, don’t forget to pay a visit to the White Meo Hilltribe Village which is just 500 metres or so past the Wat Phra That temple. It’s a great spot to get a taste for hilltribe life and there’s a nice craft market to buy some souvenirs. This is the closest hilltribe village to Chiang Mai, so don’t miss it.
Hotels near Doi Suithep
Sireeampan Boutique Resort and Spa – 5 stars
88/8 Moo 1, Liab Klong Chonlaprathan Rd, Tambon Changpuak
Located near Chiang Mai Zoo in the foothills of Doi Suithep. Studio rooms from 10,600 Bt per night, up to superior suites for 14,700 Bt per night. A nice boutique hotel run by Gino who looks after every guest like a relative. Topical chic design with some interesting furnishing and decor. Professional staff and chef Scott make sure guests are well fed and watered. There’s even a coffee machine in the rooms.
V Residence Hotel – 3 stars
10/10 Moos 2 Changpuak A, Huay Kaew, Chang Phueak
Five minutes from Kad Suan Kaew Shopping Centre, this stylish contemporary hotel offers big, comfortable rooms for an exceptional rate of around 1000 Bt per night. Although in the foothills of Doi Suithep, it’s also just over 1 km from the city gates and only 700 metres from Chiang Mai University.
There are other great hotels and guest houses near Doi Suithep: