Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu, Thailand
“It is better to travel well than to arrive” is one of the basic tenets of Buddhism. And whether you are a devout Buddhist, or express your faith through a different religion, you must have travelled to famous places of worship whenever the opportunity arose. Well, one of the most beautiful countries in South East Asia is Thailand, and since Buddhism is one of its principal religions, it is dotted with Buddhist temples, or Wats as they are called locally. So what better way to travel well to a place of worship, offer your prayers and seek blessings, than the famous Buddhist temple Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu? Even if you do not reach your destination, the panoramic view of the surroundings and the natural vistas on the way will certainly enliven your journey!
One of the most important cities in Northern Thailand, both culturally and in terms of population, is the Mae Hong Son city, and the Doi Kong Mu is located in the Mae Hong Son province. In fact it stands atop the Kong Mu hill and is a familiar landmark from anywhere within the city. To reach Mae Hong Son, you can travel to Chiang Mai from Bangkok, and then either take a flight, lasting 30 minutes, or travel on the road. Both bus and rail services are available, and will take from 7 to 10 hours, taking you over verdant green mountainous terrain, rushing brooks and clear, still lakes. Once in Mae Hong Son, a variety of staying options are available, and you can choose either a 5 star hotel or a modest guesthouse depending on your budget. A good way of getting around town is to rent either a bicycle or a motorbike, and plenty of rental outlets are available.
Antiquity of the temple
The Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu is the oldest landmark in Mae Hong Son province. It was earlier called the "Wat Plai Doi", and it features two Burmese-style chedi, or pagodas. The larger pagoda was built in 1860, and contains the ashes of Phra Moggalana, one of the disciples of the Buddha. Theses ashes were carried all the way from Burma by two of his disciples. The smaller pagoda was constructed in 1874 by the first governor of Mae Hong Son, Phaya Singhanat Racha, and contains his ashes.
About the temple complex
You can take paths from the town to reach the temple. One road starts from the Wat Phra Non, and is a series of stairs that will take you up to half the height of the hill, and then you can join the other path, starting at Wat Muo Taw. This second path is a little easier to climb, since it consists of a zig-zag of ramps with short flights of stairs at the switch-backs. Rest stops are available at each turn, or you can rent a car to reach the top if you are unable to climb the stairs. There is a steep road that goes further upward from the temple, reaching the hill top, containing the ‘ubosot’, offering a spectacular view of the countryside stretching across for miles. Next to the ‘ubosot’ stand there is a statue of the standing Buddha, in front of which is a boat rowed by two monks, and a Buddhist wheel, carried by ordinary people. There is a large, sprawling courtyard called the ‘viharn’, containing the main altar, just behind the two main pagodas, or stupas.
You can offer your prayers at this altar and come back happy and contended.