Kruba Srivichai and the road to Wat Doi Suthep

1935 Kruba Srivichai and his followers on the day the road to Wat Doi Suthep opened
KrubaSrivichai Road to Wat Doi Suthep
Shrine of Kruba Srivichai at the foot of Doi Suthep mountain.

History of the road to Wat Doi Suthep

Few people know about the history of the road that leads 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 is 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 start the construction ceremoniously.

The road is completed

Before the start of the rainy season, on April 30, 1935, the road was completed. 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.

 

Ongoing construction of the road to Wat Doi Suthep by the followers of Kruba Srivichai
Followers of the monk working on the road to Wat Doi Suthep, 1934-35.

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 injury. 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.

Chin Ngow

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.

Kruba Srivichai and his followers on Doi Suthep with the car of Chin Ngow before the stairs to Wat Doi Suthep
Kruba Srivichai and car on Doi Suthep

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 vehicle 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.

The car in which Kruba Srivichai was driven up to Wat Doi Suthep on April 30, 1935
The car on display at the Kruba Srivichai Museum, Wat Ban Pang

Chiang Mai a la Carte tours in which the road to Wat Doi Suthep features:

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  • Chiang Mai a la Carte is always looking for the unique places, small restaurants, lesser-visited markets, hidden temples and special events that will make your visit out of the ordinary. We will make sure you will meet people, learn about daily life, customs and traditions, history, religion and culture and makes an extra effort to make your experience unforgettable.

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