Flower Garden Temple in Chiang Mai

Wat Suan Dok

Temple with many white chedis

Wat Suan Dok (also known as Flower Garden Temple) is in the west part of old Chiang Mai. It is situated just off the airport road. There are dozens and dozens of small white chedis (or pagodas), from about three meters (10 feet) to six meters (20 feet) high. These house the ashes of many of the Chiang Mai Royal Family but the largest one, just to the south, is a chedi that houses Buddhist relic.

Wat Suan Dok originally lay in a fortified square beyond Chiang Mai walls. Legends tell that King Ku Na invited the revered Sumana Thera, a very devout monk from Sukhothai to bring the Buddhism of Sri Lanka to Chiang Mai. The King offered him the royal flower garden (Suan Dok) as a place to build a temple. The temple was established in 1371.


Wat Suan Dok Chiang Mai


The sacred Buddha relic

When Sumana Thera lived in Sukhothai, he was entitled a power which showed him where to find a very holy relic that had long been buried near the city. When the relic was unearthed, miraculous illuminations took place confirming its power. These miracles did not repeat themselves for the King of Sukhothai, who left the relic in the care of the monk.

Thus when King Ku Na invited Sumana Thera to Chiang Mai, the monk brought the holy relic with him, which was thought to be the shoulder bone of the Buddha. When the relic was about to be enshrined at the temple, he found that the relic all of a sudden split into two pieces. One of these pieces was kept at Wat Suan Dok, and the other bigger one had another legend. The King ordered the bigger part to be carried on the back of a white elephant to go where it wanted. The elephant climbed up Doi Suthep mountain, West of Chiang Mai and died close to the mountain top. At that spot the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep was built to enshrine the bigger part of the relic in the year 1383.

Structures in the temple complex

The main viharn was rebuilt in the early 1930’s by Khru Ba Srivichai. A large Buddha image with a hand holding straw stands back to back with the main sitting image. The images took on their present shape under Khru Ba Srivichai.

A smaller viharn to the south contains a seated Buddha image – the Phra Chao Kao Tue – cast by King Muang Kaew in 1504. The Lanna style image is 4.7 meters tall and made up of nine pieces. The walls of the viharn are decorated with murals depicting the previous lives of the Buddha.

West of the main viharn a number of chedi contain the remains of the royal family of Chiang Mai. These were placed there at the wish of Princess Dararatsmi in 1909. The compound also includes the northern campus of the Maha Chulalongkorn Buddhist University. A wall with tall ornamental gates surrounds the compound.


Golden Buddha Statue in Wat Suan Dok


Meditation retreat and monk chat

Wat Suan Dok is the most accessible temple with the most convenient courses for the curious visitors. They offer simple overnight experiences beginning on a Tuesday and ending the next day on Wednesday. At the end of each month, they also offer a three-day course beginning on a Tuesday as well, and ending on a Thursday. Not only is Wat Suan Dok a lovely, spacious temple close to the city, it also has a wonderful atmosphere for visitors to chat with monks, and the popular vegetarian restaurant located at the back, Pun Pun.

The highlight is to chat with monks. You can meet some of the monks at the university from 5:00 to 7:00 pm. on Mon., Wed., and Fri. You can ask anything about Thai culture or Buddhist ways. So informative in a really relaxed atmosphere! All done on a donation basis. For Meditation, a monk will teach you about buddhism and several different methods of meditation. The retreat is run through this temple, but the retreat center is quite away out of town. The transportation, lodging, meditation teaching, and meals are included. You can do a web search for monkchat.net and you will find the website for the meditation and monk chat sessions through this temple.


Monks in Wat Suan Dok


How to get to the Wat Suan Dok

The Wat Suan Dok is located on Suthep Road, about 1km east of Suan Dok Gate. You can get there easily by red truck, tuk-tuk or rented bicycle.