The 14th century Wat Suan Dok Temple located on Suthep Road in Chiang Mai lies just outside the original walls of the city.
The temple which is one of the city’s oldest was built by King Keu Na of Lanna in honour of the forthcoming visit of Sumana Thera a highly revered priest from Sukhothai .The name “Suan Dok” loosely translates to “field of flowers”.
A highly noticeable feature of Wat Suan Dok are the large number of assorted sized “chedi’s” or pagodas that are located with the temple grounds.
The largest of these pagodas is gold in colour as is the source of much local folklore. Most large pagodas contain relics of the Lord Buddha himself, the one at Wat Suan Dok however is said to contain a relic that “self-replicated” itself into two parts.
One of the parts of the relic was then placed on the back of aRoyal White Elephant, which was then allowed to wander wherever it wanted to go around northern Thailand.The elephant is rumoured to have dropped down & died on Doi Suthep mountain which overlooks the city of Chiang Mai.The other part of the relic was later placed in the largest chedi at Wat Suan Dok.
On the exact spot where the royal white elephant died, one of Thailand’s most revered temples the Wat Prathat Doi Suthep Temple was built.
Directly in front of the largest pagoda are literally a forest of smaller white ones, these are typically around 3 meters(10 feet) upto 6 meters(20 feet) in height.
These smaller pagodas are all the final resting place for the ashes of many of the early Chiang Mai Royal Family. The ashes were collected from sites around Chiang Mai and placed here at the express wishes of Princess Dararatsmi in 1909.An impressive sight as you can see!.
Wat Suan Dok Temple also has several other interesting points:
The Viharn (prayer hall) which is the main temple building is huge & is not just the largest in Chiang Mai, but one of the largest viharns in the whole of Thailand.
Another interesting feature of the viharn is that fact that both sides & ends of the structure are open rather than being completely enclosed as you would see in most other viharns.
The Viharn is also very colourful, the pillars and eaves of the building are highly decorated and hung with trembling wind bells.
The altar displays Buddha images of several various sizes with the main features being a large sitting Buddha facing and a tall standing Buddha image behind facing the opposite direction.
The Wat Suan Dok Temple is also the northern campus of the Maha Chulalongkorn Buddhist University, which is a study center for young buddhist monks.
If you are interested in learning more about Theravada Buddhism ,on certain days of the week, you can enjoy a “Monk Chat” which is a program designed to both provide the visitor with a further insight into the religion & also to help the monks practice their English skills!.
Getting There: Wat Suan Dok is located on Suthep Road in Chiang Mai, next door to the Hill Tribe Products Promotion Center & close by the CMU(Chiang Mai University).