Wat Phra Putthabhat Tak Pha

The Wat Phra Putthabhat Tak Pha is 45 km from Chiang Mai. From downtown Chiang Mai it takes a bit over an hour to get there. The temple is in Pasang district, Lamphun province. Some people know this temple from the beginning scene of the movie Rambo 3 from 1988. The main character John Rambo, played by the actor Sylvester Stallone, had gone in secluded retirement at a Buddhist temple in Thailand: Wat Phra Putthabhat Tak Pha.

Stairs to a temple at Wat Phra Putthabhat Tak Pha
Stairway to Phrathat Chedi Si Kruba close up

Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep

Almost all visitors to Chiang Mai pay a visit to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, the famous temple overlooking Chiang Mai. Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep is one of the major attractions of Chiang Mai and I deeply love this temple. Over the years commerce has changed the character of this most revered Buddhist sanctuary. There are restaurants, souvenir and food stalls before you can make your way up. For those who don’t want to walk up the 300 steps to the temple, there is an elevator. Unless you come early in the morning or late in the afternoon there will be hundreds of visitors. I made below picture at 6AM before there were any visitors.

Long stairs up
Stairway to Wat Doi Suthep

The ground level complex

It is a very large temple complex. At the ground level, there are several buildings. The main hall houses two footprints of the Buddha. The interior of the hall is of outstanding beauty. A legend says that Lord Buddha once stayed here and laid his outer robe on a nearby cliff to dry in the sun. There are more places of interest on the ground level such as monk statue, a line of statues symbolising the cycle of life, a small cave and a giant gong amongst others.

Giant footprint
Buddha footprint Wat Phuttabhat Tak Pha

Phrathat Chedi Si Kruba

An impressive stairway of 469 steps leads to the second part of this magnificent temple complex. There are many monks studying and living at Wat Phra Putthabhat Tak Pha. To reach the foot of the stairway we will walk through a village of kuti, the monk’s accommodation. At this temple, there is no elevator. If you don’t want to walk up the stairway you can drive up to the Prathat Chedi Si Kruba. Walking up these seemingly endless stairways to Buddhist temples I always enjoy. Unlike at Wat Doi Suthep you will probably not be joined by a hundred people or more.

Golden chedi with green leaves
The Phrathat Chedi Si Kruba close up

The Temple on the Mountain

After you have reached the Phrathat Chedi Si Kruba take a rest and enjoy the fantastic view. On a clear day you can see the mountains Doi Suthep and Doi Inthanon. This upper part of the temple dates back to 1988. Shortly after completion of the chedi on the mountain the Rambo 3 film crew must have arrived at the scene. They filmed John Rambo at the top of the stairway with the view in the background. There is a giant bell and there are two statues, of Kawila and his brother Boonma. Both played a role in the revival of Lanna and, in particular, Lamphun more than 200 years ago.

Two nobles with swords
King Kawila and his brother Boonma