Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Thailand

Journey Through a Sacred Temple in Thailand

Situated approximately 10 miles above the bustling city of Chiang Mai, Thailand, the temple of Wat Phra That on the mountain of Doi Suthep offers the serenity of nature combined with intricate architecture and thousands of gleaming golden buddha statues. It is believed to have been built in 1383 and expanded over time. Today, it is one of the most popular destinations in Chiang Mai.

My girlfriend Melissa Johnson, who is on a very similar life path, recently met up with me in Thailand. Her and I decide to take a day to explore one of the ancient temples to capture it’s beauty and practice meditation. After some research, we decide on Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. It was the allure of the golden Chedi and the distance from the city lights that sold us.

We navigate the unique transportation system, realizing tuk tuk’s can’t make it up the mountain, and find a private open-air minibus that takes us up the curvy road to the temple. Once we arrive, we approach the grand multi-headed dragon archway and the famous staircase, with 309 steps to the top.

Prayer Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Visitors are asked to remove their shoes, cover themselves appropriately and, get this, keep their heads lower than the buddhas and the monks. We crouch around like the hobbit, sometimes crawling on our hands and knees to get a glimpse of the different rooms and ceremonies… we couldn’t help but laugh. Each shrine is filled with more buddhas than the last. We just sat in awe at the diversity and sheer volume of buddha statues, unlike anything we’d ever seen.

Locals and visitors from around the world visit the temple with elaborate gift baskets as offerings to the monks. Unexpected items, such as toothpaste, vitamins and colored pencils fill the baskets as well as the expected fresh fruit, sweets and cash.

After capturing the various corners of the temple and activities on film, we look for a place to meditate. We find ourselves in a room with the Abbot who offers us a blessing in Thai while sprinkling holy water over our heads. Afterwards a white string is tied around our wrists with a prayer for good health, peaceful mind and happy life.

Monk Doi Suthep Temple Chiang Mai Thailand

We make our way to another holy shrine just in time to witness the nightly ceremony. Several long, slow strikes of the gong send deep vibrations throughout the temple and the prayer session begins. We find a comfortable spot in the back of the room, listening to the harmonious chants, while we absorb the palpable energy from thousands of years of worship. We close our eyes and take the journey within.

It felt like 20 minutes but there was no way to know for sure. We both opened our eyes at the same time, a break between verses. Upon closer observation, we notice the height of the book they were reciting from and realize the meditation would be about 3 hours. We acknowledge and appreciate the patience they have cultivated for these rituals, clearly we have a lot more work to do in this area. With our bus driver waiting and nightfall upon us, we bid farewell to the monks and the temple.

Of all the meditative experiences I’ve had, this was definitely one of the most memorable. The positive spiritual energy could be felt on every level. To be surrounded by a group of people that are willing to give up everything, including their sense of identity, aka Ego, to experience something more profound is incredible. If you ever create the opportunity, I would highly recommend visiting the temple of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, it was an incredible experience.

To watch the video, scroll to the top or click here.

Photography and video production by Angelina Sereno.

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    Melissa Johnson

    I love reading this story because I love re-playing that experience in my mind. It brings a smile to my face. That was one experience I will never forget!

    • Reply

      Angelina Sereno

      Melissa, Thank you for finding it and accompanying me on the journey :) Can’t wait to meet up again soon! Looking forward to reading about your travel adventures as well!

    • Reply


      So cool! I love it! And yes, I liked your point about there being all types of pelope in the US. with my brown skin pelope always seem to ask if I’m originally american, which somehow means white-European instead of Native America. I always answer by saying I’m as American as Obama. Seems to work. But great post and I hope to visit the temple next time I’m in Seattle!

    • Reply


      Thank you Alyona and the same to you! Hope you had an amazing time duirng this Christmas season and Happy New Year to you and your boyfriend. How did you spend Christmas in Chiang Mai and what are your plans for New Years Eve?

  • Reply


    I love the way your story begins to slow down and get quiet as you go deeper into your inner temple. Lovely journey you’ve taken us on. And the pictures/ video bring us in. I recommend watching it both before and after reading the blog.

    • Reply

      Angelina Sereno

      Mama, meditation always seems to slow us down… I wonder why I don’t do it everyday! ;) Thank you for being a shining example of peace and love. Thank you also for your words of encouragement and sharing the article!

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