Doi Suthep

Chiang Mai Day 6

Doi Suthep

We began the day with plenty of food, ordering yellow curry THB89/4 and red curry that we shared THB89/4, and three plates of rice for myself THB30). After settling the tab, we all grabbed our bags and jumped on the new van (get someone from Jira's homestay to call for the times beforehand) that went straight into the city of Chiang Mai for a mere THB35, that ended up dropping us off at Tapae gate.Once we arrived, we decided to have a quick look around the area for a lodge and eventually found a nice one called 'Siri'. We then jumped onto a songthaew THB25 for the long ride to Chiang Mai University, which was the starting point of our hike up to the peak of Doi Suthep (ดอยสุเทพ), elevation : 1676m, following the route known as 'the monk's trail'.

Difficulty Rating : 2.6 / 10.0 (Class 3 - Straightforward)

*Cick here to learn more about the difficulty rating.


Chiang Mai University lies directly to the west of Chiang Mai city, nestled right under the shadow of the mountains. Ensure that you head down Suthep road (ถนน สุเทพ), heading almost directly westward before leading to Suthep alley (ซอย สุเทพ), your last stop before hiking up the mountain. Bear in mind that Huaykaew road also heads up to the mountains, and to the front of the university, but heading north-west instead. If you find out that you are heading towards Chiang Mai Zoo, then you know you are on the wrong road.

Directions to Suthep alley from East Gate (Tapae Gate)

The songthaew ended up bringing us down Huaykaew road and dropped us off right in front of Chiang Mai University. Unbeknownst to us at the time, we were on the wrong road and should have been on Suthep road, which runs (somewhat) parallel to Huaykaew road but on the other side of the university instead. We dropped in to 7Eleven to purchase a bunch of snacks (THB100), before continuing our journey along the road westward by foot. As we were walking, I kept my eyes peeled for the junction that I had read about online. I began to grow a little concerned over time as nothing like it could be seen.

We kept on climbing higher and higher and the road began to wind back and forth before we decided to turn back and check if we had somehow missed the turning. A few hours had gone by at this point and the lack of progress had left us fairly discouraged, so with no mobile phone reception, no internet, and the GPS on my Suunto Ambit showing that the start of the trail was fairly far off, we decided to just flag down another songthaew THB40 and get the driver to take us up the mountain to the Doi Suthep Temple (Wat Phra That Doi Suthep - วัดพระธาตุดอยสุเทพ) directly. That way, we could try and locate the trail head from the temple and just hike down instead.

The view of Chiang Mai from the Doi Suthep Temple

A throng of tourists completely choked up the temple grounds, leaving me fairly disconcerted. We had already made our way up the 'Naga stairs' to the main entrance and were told that we had to pay an entrance fee of THB30. All the tourists were making their way in to the main temple, so we decided to wander around the lower levels of the temple instead to avoid both the entrance fee and the ridiculous crowds. The crowds were still a little unbearable in and around all the viewpoints, so we decided to just head back out of the temple and down the road to the trail head.

Doi Suthep trail markers

The trail head began at the curve of a huge U-turn that was next to an overtly large, unprepossessing billboard, that was just down the road from the temple. There were steps that were cut in the rock that brought us down and onto the trail. Every now and then, amongst the constant drone of cicadas (Family : Cicadidae), we would pass orange pieces of cloth that were tied around the trunks and branches of the trees that acted as trail markers.

The trail began to widen after a few minutes of walking, and moss-covered stones lining the sides of the trail began to make their appearance. A stream appeared soon after with the trail leveling off, and we traced the edge of a rustling river to the right as we continued on. The trail then dipped a little and followed a line of unsightly electricity poles for a while.

A Doi Suthep trail marker and a decorative silver orchard spider (Leucauge decorata)

Next: Doi Suthep (Part 2)

After half an hour of walking, we emerged back out onto the road. We turned left and walked down the road before crossing the road in order to access the continuation of the trail. It turned out that we had walked a bit too far down the road before turning in to Wat Phalad, but this was easily remedied by following the right branch of the dirt path as it lead directly to the temple grounds.

Wat Phalad, which stands for 'Monastery at the Sloping Rock', is a much smaller temple than its counterpart further up the mountain. Despite this, this temple is much nicer since it lacks the throngs that tend to flock to tourist 'attractions', lacks the gaudy and obtrusively bright decorations that larger temples have, and is quaintly nestled in the jungle and is flanked by a wonderful waterfall. The temple was originally used as a rest stop of sorts, for those who were walking up the monk's trail up to the main temple at the peak of Doi Suthep. Since the road was built, however, Wat Phalad has mainly been used as a monks’ residence.


A statue and the waterfall of Wat Phalad

It had been an hour since we started the hike, so after the short rest, where we quickly dipped our feet in the cold and refreshing water of the waterfall, we crossed the shallow river to get to the trail that continued down the mountain. The path followed the right side of waterfall downwards and seemed to split at a few points, but we found out later that a few of these trails cut in to the river but then dipped back in to converge with the main trail once again. There were a few turn-offs as well but as we followed the main trail downwards, it gradually became wider and much rockier, and sounds seemed to grow much louder as the foliage began to thin. Every now and then I heard the sounds of monkeys but couldn't slow down for long as swarms of mosquitoes would end up engulfing us.

Jeepers creepers!

We eventually reached the end of the trail, and it had taken us an hour and a half of slow walking, including the long rest stop at the waterfall. To get back out to the main road, we turned right at the TV tower and continued down the road and past the back entrance of the zoo. The road also passed by a cluster of dilapidated shacks that left us reeling from the squalor. A right turn at the junction that lay just after brought us right back to the cluster of sign posts (opposite Casa Condominium) that marked the point where we were supposed to have started.

As our stomachs rumbled and we eagerly awaited the dinner (THB80) that lay in wait for us, we glanced back at the mountain whilst we sat in the songtheaw (THB50) that was slowly taking us back to the the South Gate. We managed to catch a glimpse of, far off in the distance and glittering snugly in the serenity of the mountain, the incongruent, bustling temple that overlooked the hustle and bustle of the city.

Route Playback

Suunto Movescount Stats

doi suthep movescount

Download file: Doi Suthep.gpx

Day 6 Expenditure

Next: Chiang Mai Day 7 – Samoeng Loop