Wat Pha Lat, Chiang Mai: Hiking the Monk’s Trail
Chiang Mai is the city of temples and Wat Pha Lat is among our favorites. It seems like there’s a temple at every corner of the city, each one intricately beautiful. That said, some of the city temples can get incredibly busy with other tourists. Looking for a quieter, more serene temple experience? Head for Wat Pha Lat.
Just outside the city limits of Chiang Mai, sat on the slopes of the city’s own mountain, is Wat Pha Lat. This little-known temple has been here for hundreds of years but has only recently begun to be discovered by tourists. It stands apart from the other similar temples due to its secluded location and lack of access road. It is absolutely worth a trip and the effort that you’ll make to get there.
How to Get to Wat Pha Lat
This isn’t as straightforward as any of the other temples in Chiang Mai. In fact, you’re going to need your walking shoes and a decent reserve of energy. To start with you’ll need to head out of town as if you’re heading for Doi Suthep. The temple is actually on the same hill as Doi Suthep but not accessible from the main road you’d use to get to the more famous temples.
To begin the hike, head for the end of Suthep Road near Chiang Mai University and head for the zoo’s back entrance. You’ll notice a red and white antenna to your right. This is the start of the trail. Once you’ve passed the zoo you’ll see a trail sign at the end of the road. The signs are completely in Thai but show the loop that it is possible to complete.
Begin the trail and you’ll find yourself walking up an incline. It will take around 45 minutes from the signs to get to Wat Pha Lat. Rather than signs you’ll be following a Hansel and Gretel style trail- but instead of breadcrumbs you’ll be following orange pieces of cloth tied to the trunks of trees. The monks leave these as a reminder of the route.
Whilst this route is fairly simple to follow, if you can’t spot any of the trees adorned in orange then you’ll likely spot a monk in the same cloth. This temple, possibly because it is less swamped by tourists, is a favorite of local monks looking to find some serenity.
You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see two bright white serpents lining some stairs that seemingly burst out from a waterfall. Take a moment to rest and appreciate the peacefulness. You can watch the monks going about their business and congratulate yourself on finding the temple.
The Temple Hike
It is just as you’d imagine a secluded temple to be. Relaxed. Serene. Peaceful. The only sounds are of the monk’s prayers, gentle bells and the jungle. The temple is immaculately kept but nature is allowed to grow freely in certain areas making it feel as if the temple has grown from the earth itself.
Take your time to explore and relax. This temple used to be an overnight resting stop for those en route up to Doi Suthep before the road was constructed. Now, it stays as a sanctuary for the monks.
Once you’ve completed your visit you can either walk back down the way you came, continue up to Doi Suthep (a lengthy climb) or walk to the road (a short trip) and flag a passing songthaew for a trip back down the mountain.
If you’re wondering what to wear to the temple (or any other one), be sure to brush up on our guide on what to wear in Thailand. Typical temple etiquette is to cover your shoulders and legs, but that can get pretty damn hot when you’re walking up flights of stairs.
#BodegaHostels Insider Tip
This is a jungle trek, therefore plan accordingly. Mosquito repellent, proper shoes and sun protection are a must. You’ll also be arriving at a temple and should dress appropriately. It will be a hot climb so we’d recommend carrying conservative clothing rather than wearing it on the way up.