Wat Suan Dok’s brilliant golden spire has stretched high into the skyline of the Northern Thailand city of Chiang Mai since the 14th century. The name roughly translates to "field of flowers," as the temple stands on a site that was once the garden of a ruling monarch just west of the Old City walls.
Wat Suan Dok is a favorite among travelers, particularly photographers, who gather amid the temple’s ornate structures during sunrise and sunset to capture impressive photos filled with rose-colored light. A 500-year-old bronze Buddha—one of the largest in the region—also makes this a popular stop. At the on-site Buddhist university, monks in training are often eager to share conversation and practice their English with visitors in informal "monk chats.” Many cultural and temple tours of Chiang Mai include a stop at Wat Suan Dok, along with other notable attractions such as Wat Phra That Doi Suthep or Kad Thon Payom market.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Wat Suan Dok is a must-visit for photographers and those interested in Thai Buddhism.
- Remember to dress respectfully, as this is an active place of worship.
- The temple is free to enter, but donations are accepted.
How to Get There
The temple is located on Suthep Road, a half-mile (1 kilometer) west of the Suan Dok Gate, west of Chiang Mai’s Old City. If you’re not visiting with a guide, the best way to get there is to hire a tuk-tuk.
When to Get There
Those wanting to capture images of the impressive temple architecture should plan to arrive just before sunrise or sunset. Monk chats on the grounds typically take place on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings.
The Founding of Doi Suthep
If local legend is to be believed, Wat Suan Dok played a part in the founding of nearby Doi Suthep Temple. As the story goes, Wat Suan Dok once housed a Buddhist relic that broke into two pieces. One piece was housed in the temple’s main pagoda; the other was placed on the back of a white elephant. The elephant then climbed Doi Suthep and died on its slopes. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep was founded on the site where the animal met its demise.