Located just west of the old city walls on Suthep Road, Wat Suan Dok is an important and unusual Chiang Mai temple shrouded in a mysterious Buddhist legend. Constructed in the fourteenth century by Lanna King Keu Na, Wat Suan Dok is distinctive among Chiang Mai’s many temples for several reasons. Visitors to the temple will first notice the unusually large ‘wiharn’, or prayer
hall, that is open at its sides. The wiharn is watched over by a huge 500-year-old bronze Buddha image, surrounded by beautifully preserved murals depicting the life of Buddha. West of the wiharn, are several large pagodas or ‘chedi’ that typically contain Buddhist relics. According to legend, the largest of these - a nearly 50 metre high, bell shaped chedi - contains the most important Buddhist artifact of all - a magic relic from the Buddha.
Mythology suggests a monk from Sukhothai had a dream in which Buddha told him to go to Pang Cha and look for a relic. Once there, he discovered a bone that displayed magical powers - it vanished, reappeared, glowed and could move and reproduce itself. Many believed it was Buddha’s shoulder bone. Evidently the relic split in two, with the smaller piece enshrined at Wat Suan Dok. The other was placed by Lanna King Nu Naone on the back of a royal white elephant,
which was then released into the jungle. The elephant is said to have climbed mount Doi Suthep, trumpeted three times before dying on the spot. It was interpreted as a sign and the King ordered the construction of a temple on the site, Chiang Mai’s well-known Wat Prathat Doi Suthep. Next to the large chedi stands a group of majestic ornate whitewashed mausoleums, they house the cremated remains of Chiang Mai’s former rulers. During the Lanna period, this area was a garden for the royal family. Actually, Wat Suan Dok translates to the ‘flower garden temple’ in Thai, it now serves as their resting place.
Wat Suan Dok also has a dedicated room for monk chats, from 5pm to 7pm, Mondays to Fridays. This gives you the wonderful opportunity to talk in English with Buddhist monks about Buddhism, life in the temple, Thai customs, culture or anything else that you are interest in. Please remember to dress respecfuly and don’t forget that women should not touch or pass anything directly to the monks.
A tour around Suan Dok temple and its garden takes about an hour. Next to the temple is a shop featuring products from the hilltribe people. There are also a few traditional barber shops for men and some nice coffee shops. From there, it is easy to go to Nimanhaemin road, by foot.
SUAN DOK TAMPLE :
139 T.Suthep, Mueang, Chiang Mai.
Tel. 053 - 278 304