My Heritage 25. Oct 19

From Wat Fai Hin to Wat Pha Laad

World Heritage Road Trip on an Ancient Trail to Doi Suthep

On 26 May 2019, the Working Group for “The Chiang Mai Historical Site Conservation and Development Project for the World Heritage Model Action Plan” or in short Chiang Mai World Heritage Initiative Project (CMWHIP) organized meeting to hear opinions from a focus group about recognition of values and ideas for the conservation of Doi Suthep which is a significant area the Working Group has included in the nomination for a World Heritage site.

The meeting this time was different from the previous ones as it was the first time the Working Group asked the people of Chiang Mai to join a short hiking trip. The group used the trail starting from Wat Fai Hin (behind the Faculty of Architecture, Chiang Mai University) climbing toward Wat Pha Laad which is approximately 5 km. from Kruba Srivichai Monument on the main road to  Doi Suthep Temple. Upon reaching the destination, facilitators and expert speakers from various knowledge areas shared their stories and personal views of Doi Suthep.

The expert speakers included the Abbot of Wat Pha Lad, Phra Kru Theerasuttapochana, conservationist and architect Ajarn Julaporn Nantapanich, faculty members from the Faculty of Architecture, academicians of Lanna Society from the Institute of Lanna Studies Ajarn Phudet Saensa and Ajarn Sithi Wijja and representatives from Doi Suthep – Pui National Park.

The kick-off activity at the Faculty of Architecture, Chiang Mai University, saw Head of the Project Associate Professor Waralan Bunyasurat, deliver a progress report of the project and the property zone designation for World Heritage inscription. Then Ajarn Julaporn Nuntapanich led the group of about 40 people consisting of the Working Group for CHWHIP, Chiang Mai Creative City Team, Chiang Mai Community Network representatives, Doi Suthep – Pui National Park representatives, students and members of the general public to head for Wat Fai Hin on foot. From there, the route taken goes behind Chiang Mai Zoo and merges with the Nature Study Trail before reaching Wat Pha Laad.

Along the journey, Ajarn Julaporn described the diversity and fertility of Doi Suthep forests and pointed out Chiang Mai’s indigenous species of flora rarely found in the city area but still thriving very well on Doi Suthep.

In the old Lanna days, the route was also used by pilgrims. It was considered a dependable way to get to Doi Suthep Temple during the week of Visakha Puja Day. Later, Kruba Srivichai gathered the people of Chiang Mai to construct the road which is used at present.  Phra Kru Thirasuttapot, abbot of Pha Laad Temple also told the participants about the legend connected to the founding of the Doi Suthep Chedi which contained the ashes of Lord Buddha back in the times of Phraya Guena between 1355-1385 A.D. All the temples that were built along the roadway to Doi Suthep symbolize the four levels on the path to nirvana which are; Arahanta, Anagami, Sakadagami and Sotapanna.  Wat Pha Laad’s original name was Wat Sakadagami.

A natural terrace next to the falls at Wat Pha Laad provided a floor for exchange of ideas between the public and the Working Group. Ajarn Phudej Saensa and Ajarn Sithi Vijja, experts of Lanna Society from Lanna Study Institute offered more information about the ethnic history and beliefs of inhabitants living on Doi Suthep and surrounding vicinities. The Lua people who are original inhabitants of the sacred mountain continue to practice animism until today as seen in their traditions such as the feast for the spirits of grandpa-grandma Sae. This festivity used to be held at the foothill of Doi Suthep and Doi Kam but has been reorganized into one event at the foothill of Doi Kam. The representatives from Doi Suthep – Pui National Park followed the session by giving information about the significant of the area as the headwater which has fed and blessed this land for Chiang Mai occupants for more than 700 years. The Working Group also had a discussion with the representatives from Doi Suthep – Pui National Park about the direction and action for conservation and development of the area. The sharing session was also incorporated to allow the public, the temple and the Working Group to make suggestions and share their point of view. More of interesting information obtained from this project will be extracted and published at a later date.