Stairway to Heaven: Hiking the Monk’s Trail to Wat Pha Lat

Wat Pha Lat can be described as a hidden gem… very hidden.

In order to find it, you must hire a ride to deliver you behind Chiang Mai University, riding up a steep road and approaching the jungle of Doi Sutep mountain, at which point you will come across signs leading to the the monk’s trail.

Many travellers hire a tuk-tuk or private car to take them all the way up the mountain, rather than use their own two feet and a heartbeat; however, for the sake of filming Tan Your Mind 2 Thailand, we decided to endure the steep terrain and start our ascent.

Orange cloth marks the path to Wat Pha Lat. (Outpost / Michael Fraiman)

Monks carved this trail out of the bush in 1935, and it served as a primary path up to the temple. To mark the way, the monks tied orange cloth around the trees. Although now faded and dirty, we could still see the cloths today.

Thailand has developed some strict regulations around cutting down trees, which is wonderful because the jungle canopy was keeping the sun off my already sweating body.

Along the way, our cameraman spotted a stick bug which enlightened my co-host Jess, a self-proclaimed critter addict. After holding, examining and taking pictures of our new friend, nicknamed “Toby,” we continued up the mountain. It daunted us with a steady incline, but wasn’t too difficult, except for those of us that are a bit out of shape. (Note to self: Invest in a gym membership.)

wat pha lat directions

If you drive to Wat Pha Lat, this is your entrance. (Outpost / Michael Fraiman)

But by the time we arrived at the top, we quickly realized that every step was more than worth it. The main attraction, aside from the temple itself, was the gigantic waterfall that pooled in a number of areas before dropping down onto to the next level and cascading down into the jungle. It was crystal-clear, pristine and breathtaking.

Buildings and areas of worship were nestled among lush gardens, and in those gardens sat strategically placed figurines of bunnies, lions and elephants. Each building proudly boasted the protection of dragon and serpent statues on either side of the entry stairs. These mythical creatures are meant to ward of evil spirits, I’ve been told, and they seem to be working.

There were bits of coloured glass and mosaic tiles embedded in the walkways and walls. Butterflies fluttered carelessly around curious tourists as they enjoyed cup of what was called “butterfly pea latte” (it was electric blue and quite delicious, if an acquired taste) from the small café onsite.

If your idea of heaven is a magical, artistic sanctuary filled with fairy-tale scenes, monks in bright orange robes and majestic scenery, then I highly recommend adding this gem to you bucket list.

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