This complex is special less for its architecture (the buildings, though monumental, are undistinguished) than for its contemplative spirit and pleasant surroundings. The temple was built amid the pleasure gardens of the 14th-century Lanna Thai monarch, King Ku Na. Like several of Chiang Mai's other wats, Wat Suan Dok functions as a study center for monks who have isolated themselves from the distractions of the outside world.

Among the main attractions in the complex are the bot, with a very impressive Chiang Saen Buddha (one of the largest bronzes in the north) dating from 1504 and some garish murals. Also of interest is the chedi, built to hold a relic of the Buddha, and a royal cemetery with some splendid shrines. An informal "monk chat" is held here each week.