The temple of Wat Doi Kham is the perfect light morning hike with kids. Persuade them by telling them that you are ascending a Golden Mountain. Just park or drop off below the staircase that goes through a part of nature with holy trees. After that section, you get to the part with the steep 300 steps Naga staircase that leads to the top. Up here, you occasionally get beautiful panoramic sunrises over Chiang Mai.
The temple is open from early sunrise to sunset. It has a magic location at the foothills of the Kham Mountain and on the other side of Chiang Mai City. Walking up adds to the experience and gives you that “wow” feeling when you reach the temple after a 15 – 20 minutes walk.
Sometimes you will see people exercising and going up and down the stairs repeatedly. This section is also part of some of the hiking trails you can do in the Doi Kham loop. Coming down, you can reward yourself with breakfast or some coffee at Cup Fine Day, which is also a nice playground for the younger kids.
If you prefer, you can always drive the whole way up or rent a Songthaew. Songthaews are the red buses that serve as local transportation in Chiang Mai. The drivers perform transfers up and down to the temple for 20 baht each way.
The rise of Wat Doi Kham
When we moved into the Hang Dong area in 2005, I would occasionally ride my motorbike up to Wat Doi Kham. Or Wat Phra That Doi Kham that is the full name. It was a serene spot, a very local temple with few visitors. It did have a long history, though but was even deserted for a while in the 1960s.
Then stories about a businessman started to appear. After making merit at this temple, they had managed to recover lost fortunes. The business began to flourish.
Wat Doi Kham started to obtain a lot of attention. It came to be the temple where you pray for luck and a promising career and bless your business. This is what you learn from the loudspeakers in the temple. Monks inform how to pray, how many offerings to give and so on. If your wish is fulfilled, you are supposed to bring a lot of jasmine flowers back to the temple. That is why you see so many vendors selling jasmine. One wish to the Buddha of success, Luang Por Tan Jai, is approved of, and the offering should be made in garland in multiples of 50!!
Moreover, If your hope is granted, you should return to thank you after three months.
All these aspects boosted the temple to grow and become very wealthy. This temple is particularly popular to visit in the dry season among the Bangkok crowd and especially during New Year.
There can be a heavy traffic jam around those days in December and January. It is interesting to observe everything going on on the temple grounds. Go and indulge in the atmosphere, the scent of incense and listen to the chanting—the sound of Thailand in its true essence.
The Wall paintings
Some amazing legends and historical scenes are depicted on the walls outside. There are scenes from the Ramakien and a procession telling the story of the Haripunchai Queen Chamadevi. The kingdom of Haripunchai had its nucleus in Lamphun. The report says that the Queens two sons built the original temple.
Remember to dress appropriately. So take off the shoes where advised and cover shoulders and knees in the temple grounds.
Also worth mentioning is that when you are at Wat Doi Kham, you are just above the Ratchaphreuk Garden, also called the Royal Flora. You are close to lovely coffee shops like Ban Suan Cafe embedded by the lush teak forest by a stream. Or Fernpresso at the lake that sits by one of the dams connected to Chiang Mai University. Here is also the area where you find the Chiang Mai Night Safari.
The Legend of Doi Kham
Finally, something about the name “Doi Kham”. It derives from a tale. When giants received the Buddha’s hair, a period of storms and lousy weather happened. The rain scoured and blew a lot of gold ore from the mountain slope and to the mouth of a cave, resulting in the mountain’s name “Doi Kham.
A modern tale says that pilots from Thai Airways used the landmark of Doi Kham Temple to help land their planes.