Northern pleasures: off the beaten track in Doi Saket
Chiang Mai remains one of the most popular destinations for the long holiday celebration but lesser-known Doi Saket offers attractions of its own
With the Thai Cabinet adding 8 special holidays to the 2021 calendar including an extra day for Songkran, there are now plenty of opportunities to enjoy longer breaks in February, April, July and October. Despite the new wave of COVID-19 infections, hopefully local tourists will still flock to Chiang Mai. Thailand’s second-largest province after Nakhon Ratchasima, the Rose of the North is home to a variety of attractions, many of which are well-known to and much loved by travellers.
And one of the province’s destinations that should not be overlooked is up in the mountain. Although only slightly more than 25 kilometres from Chiang Mai city, Doi Saket is often overlooked as tourists bypass it to continue their vacation in Chiang Rai. Yet the district calls out for attention. New attractions have been added to draw visitors including balloon flights and hang gliding. Those who prefer to keep their feet on the ground should spare half a day to visit three travel spots which top the list of things to do in Doi Saket.
With its plethora of temples, Chiang Mai is a mega travel destination for those on the pilgrimage tour.
For a Buddhist, a visit to Doi Saket is not complete without a stop at Wat Prathat Doi Saket, a royal temple.
Built in the year 1112, the monastery is located right in the centre of the local community and accessible by car and by foot via a long staircase that winds its way to the top. Here, you can pay homage to a large outdoor sitting Buddha image and to the
chedi, which contains the Buddha’s sacred hair relic. Meanwhile, the vihara with four gable ends houses stunning mural paintings in a colourful contemporary style.
Legend has it that the Lord Buddha came to the hill of Saket on one occasion and was visited by two Nagas to whom he offered his hair for worship. The Naga duo then collected a pile of stones on the hill and put the hair inside, thereby turning the site into a place to pay homage to the Lord Buddha. Local Buddhists later built a proper chedi on the spot. The name Doi Saket is derived from Doi Sen Ket, meaning the hill of the Buddha’s hair though there are other versions of how the area got its name.
Simply walking around is a pleasure since the temple is well shaded by trees providing some protection from the bright winter sunlight.
Less than five kilometres from the temple, Chiang Mai Celadon is the pride of Doi Saket residents and filled with ceramic products that make great souvenirs.
Chiang Mai Celadon still maintains the production process of high-fired stoneware with a traditional wood-ash glaze formula that has been around for more than 2,000 years, Different Thai houses are dotted around the compound giving Chiang Mai Celadon the ambience of an art and craft village. Visitors can see the entire process from molding, designing and painting before exploring the end products on display in different locations. The venue, like other pottery factories, no longer enjoys the booming business of its heyday, but the commitment to keep the legacy going is unwavering and the friendly staff are always happy to welcome visitors to their empire of earthenware.
For shopping enthusiasts, products range from tiny teacups and small pots costing a few hundred baht to an elaborately designed delicate centrepiece vase priced in the hundreds of thousands.
The most famous dam in Chiang Mai is Mae Ngad but equally magnificent and a whole lot quieter is Mae Kuang Udomthara. It’s less than 10 kilometres from the city, and just 6 kilometres from Doi Saket District on the way to Chiang Rai.
Mae Kuang is an earth dam, second to Mae Ngad Dam in size, built to block the Kuang River and capable of containing 263 million cubic metres of water. An average of 186 million cubic metres of water flows into the dam annually which is then directed to irrigate 157,000 rai of farms and agricultural areas in Chiang Mai and Lamphun
With breathtaking surroundings, the dam is a place of recreation for locals and also attracts some tourists, mostly Thais. For those with time on their hands, a cruise trip along the dam is the best way to enjoy the scenery up close. Otherwise, simply stroll along the Chuam Jai Bridge, which was completed in 2017 and is now an attraction in
its own right.
Just like lovers do it Paris, young locals like to bring padlocks and fasten them to the railings of the Chuam Jai Bridge, adding a romantic feel to this already spectacular spot that’s deal for viewing the sunset.