The Wat Suan Dok located just West of the old walled part of Chiang Mai city is a very old temple known for its large number of white chedis or pagodas.
Wat Suan Dok literally means “flower garden temple”. The temple derives its name from the location where it was built. The temple area was once used as a Royal flower garden by the ruler of Chiang Mai.
The most noticeable feature of the Wat Suan Dok is the large number of chedis. The tallest golden chedi in Sri Lankan style is 48 meters high and contains the relic of the Buddha. A large number of smaller white chedis contain the ashes of members of several generations of the Chiang Mai Royal Family. The ashes were brought here from several places in Chiang Mai as requested by Princess Dara Rasmi early 20th century.
The sacred Buddha relic of the Wat Suan Dok
The Wat Suan Dok temple was built during the second half of the 14th century to house a sacred Buddha relic. A monk named Sumana Thera from Sukhothai discovered a relic which was believed to be the shoulder bone of the Buddha. King Kuene who ruled the Lanna Kingdom during much of the second half of the 14th century invited the monk to Chiang Mai. The King had the Wat Suan Dok temple built to enshrine the Buddha relic.
When the monk arrived in Chiang Mai, the bone had magically split into two pieces, one being of the original size, the other one smaller. The smaller relic was enshrined in the Wat Suan Dok.
The King ordered the larger part to be put on the back of a white elephant that was set free to go where it wanted. The elephant climbed up Doi Suthep mountain, West of Chiang Mai. It trumpeted three times and died close to the top. At that spot the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep was built in the year 1383.
Structures in the temple complex
The unusually large viharn and the ubosot (ordination hall) were rebuilt during the 1930’s by the famous monk Kru Ba Srivichai, who renovated a number of other Chiang Mai temples as well.
The viharn contains several Buddha images including a large standing Buddha holding a bundle of straw and a sitting Buddha. The ubosot contains an almost 5 meters high bronze seated Buddha statue named Phra Chao Kao Tue that was cast in 1504. The walls are decorated with mural paintings depicting scenes from the Jataka, the stories about the previous lives of the Buddha.
Within the temple grounds is the Chiang Mai campus of the Maha Chulalongkorn Rajavidyalaya university. Large heavily decorated gates provide access to the temple grounds.
Meditation retreat and monk chat
If you are interested to learn about Buddhism or meditation techniques, the monk chat program and the meditation retreat are open to everyone. Both are organized by the Chiang Mai campus of the Maha Chulalongkorn Rajavidyalaya university.
During the monk chat in English language you will have a chance to discuss with a monk what you want to know about Buddhism, life in the temple, Thai customs and culture or anything else you are interested in.
The meditation retreat will teach you the basic meditation techniques and the advantages meditation can bring to improve the quality of daily life.
For more information about meditation and a list of retreats and temples in Thailand that teach Vipassana or Samatha meditation, read meditation retreats in Thailand.
How to get to the Wat Suan Dok
The Wat Suan Dok is located on Suthep road, about 1 kilometer West of the old walled city center. You can get there easily by tuk-tuk or rented bicycle.
Entrance fee & opening hours
The temple grounds are open from 6 am until 5 pm. Admission is free.