History of the road to Wat Doi Suthep
Few people know about the history of the road to Wat Doi Suthep. Followers of the “monk-engineer” Kruba Srivichai constructed the road to the base of the stairs leading to the temple. He known as the Saint of Lanna and was involved in more than a hundred projects. There was already a road leading up to the temple suitable for cars but this was most likely not an all-weather road. Work on the paving of the road started on November 9, 1934, at the start of the dry season. Pictures show Chao Kaew Nawarat (1862-1939), the last ruler of Chiang Mai, wielding a tool to ceremoniously start the construction.
The road is finished
Before the start of the rainy season, on April 30, 1935, the road was finished. On that day one of Kruba’s followers volunteered to drive him up the finished road. That follower was Chin Ngow, a businessman of Chinese descent. Chin Ngow owned a Ford 1925 model T. He had a shop in Chiang Mai selling car accessories. The shop was also Sub-Agent for Ford Cars and Asiatic Petroleum Co.. The Asiatic Petroleum Company was a joint venture between the Shell and Royal Dutch oil companies founded in 1903.
Chin Ngow’s family now runs a gold shop in the Warorot Market area. His grandson Kim told us that his grandfather suffered a gunshot wound during a business conflict. Kruba Srivichai helped him recover from his wound. After this Chin Ngow became a follower and a student. He supplied food and water to his followers while they were constructing the road to Wat Doi Suthep.
So on April 30, 1935, Chin Ngow took the monk in his car on the new road to Wat Prathat Doi Suthep. Accompanying them was Luang Sriprakad, the mayor of Chiang Mai. A couple of pictures were made on that day of which one is probably one of Chiang Mai’s most famous photographs. It shows Kruba Srivichai standing amidst his followers, including two other well-known monks called Kruba Khaopee and Kruba Chaiyawongsa. Chin Ngow and Luang Sripakad are sitting right and left on the picture. Another picture shows the car as well. Kruba Srivichai passed away in 1938, Chin Ngow in 1950.
Wat Ban Pang
Where is this car now? According to his grandson Chin Ngow sold the car to a man who worked for a newspaper. This man donated the car to Wat Ban Pang, a temple in the village where Kruba Srivichai was born. Wat Ban Pang houses a small museum dedicated to Kruba Srivichai. The car is on display there.
Chiang Mai a la Carte tours in which the road to Wat Doi Suthep features: