HIKE MONKS' PATH
DISTANCE - 4 km
HIKING TIME - 2 h
ALTITUDE DIFFERENCE - + 650 m
DIFFICULTY - medium
Chiang Mai and its old town captivate with small winding alleyways, modern bars and cafés. But unfortunately, nature falls by the wayside and even the beautifully landscaped city park is no consolation. Only the excursion to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, which towers high above the city between dense forests, provides some variety. When we find out that a hiking trail leads up there, our anticipation is huge. Don't get us wrong, Chiang Mai is beautiful, but sooner or later we are drawn back to nature.
With our rented bikes, we cycle to the starting point of the hike, which is Entrance 2 of Chiang Mai Zoo. We park our bikes safely there and set off on our hike. In principle, there is an extra parking lot for hikers a little further up, but this is impossible to reach on our bikes without gears. Two small hiking signs mark the way. Don't be put off by the blocked entrance. The path is open to pedestrians. It winds its way narrowly uphill, there are a few steep climbs to conquer and after around 45 minutes we reach the gates of Wat Pha Lat. A small waterfall gurgles down into the valley between dense jungle and scattered temples. As soon as we enter, we notice the unique atmosphere, which we only have to share with a handful of other visitors. Back then, people on pilgrimage up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep used this place as a resting place. After the road was built, it was transformed into a place for monks, which explains the name of the hiking trail "Monk's Path".
After a long rest, we continue on, as we have not yet reached our destination for the day. We cross the paved road once and take a sharp left turn onto a small, inconspicuous path to the right. Not directly at the apex, but a little before it, at the third yellow sign, steep clay steps lead up the first slope. The path then runs alongside a power line. The 2 kilometers and 450 vertical meters make us sweat a lot and push us to our limits, the tropical temperatures do the rest. Shortly before the temple, we reach the main road again. You can either follow this to the main entrance or turn right into a side road. This will take you to the back entrance and we are more than happy to have a change of clothes in our luggage. Please make sure you wear appropriate clothing when entering!
If you don't fancy a strenuous hike or simply don't have the time, you can either hire a scooter or take the red shared cabs up to the temple. But there is still a little workout to be had, as a staircase decorated with snakes leads over the last hill. 200 steps later and an entrance fee of 30 baht (~ 80 cents) per person lighter, you stride through the entrance to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. In addition to the golden chedi in the inner courtyard, there is also a viewpoint on the grounds. This offers a wonderful view of Chiang Mai and the surrounding countryside. To enter the courtyard, it is necessary to take off your shoes and the dress code is checked again by friendly ladies.
The center is the gilded chedi, which is said to contain a relic of Buddha. There are several legends about the exact foundation of the temple. One says that the relic was carried up the mountain by a white elephant. The elephant died there and the monks built the temple in 1371. The walkway around the outside is decorated with murals and houses numerous statues. But it is by no means quiet on the temple grounds, in fact the title "Landmark of Chiang Mai" is apt. Especially in contrast to Wat Pha Lat, there is a lot of hustle and bustle and noise here.
If you are in Chiang Mai, you should definitely take the time to explore Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, whether on foot, by scooter or shared cab. But no matter which means of transportation you choose, you can't miss Wat Pha Lat! We slowly make our way home and opt for a red shared cab. However, this is not the quickest solution, as they only run when they are full. And the city traffic also plays its part in the fact that it takes us over half an hour to cover the 15 kilometers. After what felt like an eternity and another bike ride through the city, we finally arrived back at our hostel. And we are more than ready for our next destination. Pai, the hippie village in northern Thailand!