In Northern Thailand is a small town called Chiang Dao. Chiang Dao is surrounded by jungle and is a 1.5-hour bus ride from Chiang Mai. Tickets are only 40 baht for the public bus. It is an ideal escape from the city for people who love an outdoor adventure.
Visiting temples in Thailand is a very popular activity and Chiang Dao is no different. When you come to Chiang Dao you must visit Wat Tham Pha Plong temple or what the locals call the “500 Steps Temple.” You will see many monks in their orange robes walking, meditating, or working; please be respectful with your silence, cleanliness, and modesty (covered shoulders, chest, tummy, and knees). At the bottom, they have clothes you can use to cover your shoulders or legs if needed. At the top, there are toilets, free water, and umbrellas available for tourists.
The nickname is derived from the 510 step staircase up to the temple. Though it sounds exhausting it’s actually a very peaceful stroll. The base is very easy to access and is nearby many of the hostels and cafes. When you reach the base look for the sign asking for help to carry things up the stairs. There is no entry fee but the monks would appreciate your help to carry up some supplies.
As you begin going up the steps nature pulls you in and the worries of the world stay behind. Soon, you will see Buddha’s words of wisdom on the trees written in both Thai and English, “…Our duty is to work on our own heart. Work on the only heart we can truly feel— this heart here in this body and this mind.” The words encourage the walker to slow down, take time to read, breathe, think— let the words bring new awareness within you. Eventually, the trail opens wider and there are benches for you to rest and look at the stunning view: a golden spiked temple towering above the trees peacefully nestled in the mountains which serve as an epic backdrop. Go ahead and snap a picture, it’s a great photo-zone.
Once at the top you can enter the cave-like temple. This temple is dedicated to a famous meditation master, Luang Poo Sim, and there are many pictures of him on the cave walls. Remember to maintain silence and to remove your shoes. Outside the temple, feel free to walk around and take in the 360-degree views. Beneath the golden spiked tower, the valley sprawls out below— if you can catch it on a clear morning, this is an epic viewpoint. Take time to meditate, reflect, and enjoy some quiet time.
We hope you take time to enjoy the peace of Wat Thom Pha Plong “500 Steps Temple” here in Chiang Dao.