Wat suan dok is a temple located to the west of Chiang Mai old city. It’s huge gold chedi is easily spotted from Suthep Road. Once the sun sets it’s dramatically lit up and looks even more impressive. Take a quiet walk amoungst the beautiful tombstones or sit a while in the shady gardens.
Suan dok means flower garden, and this temple has it’s name because the land was originally the flower garden of the Kings palace. The temple was built to house a sacred relic which was discovered by a monk during a vision. The king gifted the land from his flower garden and asked the monk to come and teach bhuddism in Chiang Mai, bringing the relic with him. Somewhere along the way, the holy relic duplicated into two pieces and the smaller one is housed in Wat suan dok. The larger one is housed in Wat phratat doi suthep, the famous temple on top of Doi Suthep mountain.
Wat suan dok is a stunning temple to visit. The gold chedi housing the sacred relic dominates the site at 48 meters tall, it’s bright gold peak stands out against the temple trees. As you enter the grounds through a white archway, you will see a garden of white pagodas in front of the main chedi. These little pagodas house the remains of the Chiang Mai royal Lanna family, so it’s really a royal cemetery. The family remains were relocated here by a Princess so they could be kept together. Each one is for a different individual, sized and styled differently to the next. It feels like you are standing on a giant chess board with only white pieces, each one with a character of it’s own.
Locals come here to pay respects, you might see them placing flowers or incense at some of the chedis. There are also a line of bells along the cemetery wall facing the gold chedi, worshippers will ring these for good luck or to send a prayer to Buddha.
Another unusual feature of Wat Suan dok is the prayer hall because it is open sided. From outside you can see the elaborate blue and gold pillars. The inside of the hall is designed to impress – the red rafters have been left visible and they interlock across the vast ceiling. The patterns somehow make the hall seem bigger, and impossibly grand, it’s all very humbling. At the far end sit the images of buddha, the largest one you can see is one of the largest metal images of a seated bhudda at 4.7 metres tall. It was cast in 1504 by the King himself, which only makes it more revered.
The photos don’t really capture the grandeur of this temple, it’s definitely a be there thing, you’ll just have to pop there yourself! If you want to find out more about Buddhism, they have monk chats 17:00 – 19:00 on weekdays and also run an overnight meditation retreat on a Tuesdays. See the Monk chat website for full details. Modest dress is required as this is an active temple, see the guide to Thai temple etiquette here for more info.
Wat Suan dok is located on Suthep Road. As you look at a map of Chiang Mai, you will see the square of the old city. Suthep Road is the road running west from the centre of the west side of the city, towards Chiang Mai University and the mountains. You should be able to hop on a Song thaew (red pick up bus) and say Wat suan dok all drivers will know where it is.