Doi Suthep

Yesterday, I visited Doi Suthep, also known as Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, about 5500 ft up a mountain to the west. A very popular tourist destination, both Thai and foreign. Also very beautiful, opulent, larger than anything in the city. And naturally, upon arrival, along with about twenty other tour vehicles, I encounter the shopping experience.

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The temple is accessed either by climbing a long stairway about 100 ft up or by cable car. I took the lift. Foreigners are charged 20 baht more than Thais, to assure our contribution to the maintenance of the facility.  At the top, a multi-level, sprawling complex, complete with sales of religious jewelry, malas, silver and jade bracelets, CDs (CDs??), waffle and tea shop, oriented around a central spire and altars. Stunning beauty everywhere.

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Carved wooden pillars on a viewing platform overlooking the city. Haze/smog too thick to see anything.

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I wandered downhill, past monks quarters, past ongoing construction, finding the meditation hall. I sat for awhile.

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Up on the central main plaza: gold and inlaid artifacts, altars, niches, the main pagoda.

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I circumambulated. It’s a little difficult to reconcile the opulence with the centuries of devotion expressed here. It’s a different practice than I am familiar with, or used to. But there are surely some of the most beautiful creations to be found anywhere in the Buddhist world.

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The walkway down. At the bottom, a strangely incongruous plethora of Nepali vendors selling Nepalese-made buddhist art and clothing (they do get around), along with a great deal of Chinese-made schlock. And your intrepid traveler (how’s that for a selfie?!)

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2 thoughts on “Doi Suthep

  1. Opulence, yes, though I see and feel the experience of devotion in the careful craftsmanship. Working in any medium, with attention paid to what the material can and cannot do, and following one’s creative intention one gesture at a time, is, to me, a meditation of tremendous power and nourishment. Thanks for sharing these beautiful photos! Inspired, I’m off to our studio to make stuff!!

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  2. The expression of devotion in the world of form, coupled with the characteristic importance of renunciation in Theravada buddhism (putting all the gold on the buddha instead of one’s pocket), might be what we see here. Any real contrast with the northern style, with equally ornate, but less opulent artistic expressions, is probably nonexistent. Maybe the northerners just didn’t have as much gold.

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