The Wat Phra That Doi Kham is an attractive not much visited temple known for its 17 meters high Buddha image. The temple that was built towards the end of the 7th century sits on top of a forested hill just outside of Chiang Mai. The name of the Wat means golden mountain temple.
The oldest structure of the Wat Phra That Doi Kham temple is the chedi (pagoda), that was constructed in the year 687. It shares many characteristics with the chedi of the better known Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple, that is found a little more to the North.
Huge golden colored Naga serpents guard the stairs on both sides of the pagoda that is enclosed by a gate. The chedi enshrines a sacred relic of the Buddha. A local legend tells about two giants who lived in the Doi Kham area thousands of years ago and who were said to be cannibals. When the Buddha visited the area he convinced the giants to give up cannibalism and convert to Buddhism. The Buddha gave them a relic of his hair, that is now enshrined in the temple’s chedi.
When the chedi collapsed in 1966 after heavy rain, local people discovered a number of Buddha images inside the damaged structure. Funds were then raised and the chedi restored.
The temple’s courtyard containing the chedi and the viharn is partly enclosed by a gallery lined with square green pillars decorated with golden flower motifs. The gallery contains numerous seated Buddha images in various postures seated on white pedestals surrounded by smaller Buddha images. A number of prayer boxes are placed inside the gallery.
The courtyard contains large numbers of bells and very large gongs that visitors can strike. Several large warriors armed with swords similar to those at the Grand Palace in Bangkok and white lion figures or Singha guard the grounds. The viharn contains beautifully carved window panels, its roof is decorated with Naga barge boards.
17 Meters high sitting Buddha image
A little bit away from the chedi and the viharn is the Wat Phra That Doi Kham temple’s most noticeable feature, an enormous sitting Buddha image displaying the Calling the Earth to witness mudra. The 17 meters high image on the hill top dominates the area and is visible from miles away.
The image sits on white pedestal with a number of smaller Buddha images in front of it. Large warrior figures on both sides of the stairs guard the image.
Lanna style ubosot
The Lanna style ubosot or ordination hall next to the image is a very ornate structure with a multi tiered roof and Naga barge boards. On either side of the stairs are large golden colored Naga serpents that come out of the mouth of Makaras, a mythological water creature.
The facade of the ubosot is particularly beautiful. Over the entrance door is a golden peacock motif on a very lively green background, over that is a beautiful mural painting.
Due to its location out of town the Wat Phra That Doi Kham temple grounds are usually quiet. The temple’s setting on top of a hill contributes to the serene and peaceful atmosphere. From the viewpoints you will have great views of the surrounding area including nearby Royal Park Ratchaphruek.
How to get to the Wat Phra That Doi Kham
The Wat Phra That Doi Kham temple is located on top of a mountain South West of Chiang Mai city in Mae Hia sub district almost 10 kilometers from the town center. It is just North of Royal Park Ratchaphruek.
The easiest way to get there is to hire a taxi. Most hotels in Chiang Mai can book one for you. Because of its location away from the city it might not be easy to find a taxi at the temple for the way back, therefore a round trip booking would be convenient. Agree on the price before setting off.
Entrance fee & opening hours
The temple grounds are open daily from 6 am until 5 pm. Admission is free.