Today we woke up bright and early again, looking for something to do in the morning before our afternoon flight back to Bangkok. Initially we thought we would do more of the same and wander around the Wats in town. However, after talking to our breakfast hostess, we learned that Chiang Mai’s most famous Wat, Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, was a “can’t miss” place. Apparently all of the Chiang Mai University freshmen have to trek up the hill to visit it, so trek up we did. Fortunately we had motorized help in doing so. Unfortunately, the site is fairly overrun with tourists and shops trying to hawk cheap souvenirs, but it is beautiful nonetheless.
The five mile journey outside of the city is almost entirely up hill, through a series of switchbacks that we overtook by minibus at high speed (is there any other way?). Shockingly, several heroic bicyclists were keeping very good time going up the same mountain, in the pouring rain and fog. We were greeted by the beautiful dragon-looking icons on the bottom of the 300 or so stairs it takes to continue ascending to the top.
Within the temple complex, there are a series of shrines, statues, and then the actual temple itself, which was accessed through some stairs adjacent to the temple pictured above. As you can tell, it was quite rainy and foggy. You remove your shoes out of respect before entering the temple, so we frequently heard the *thunk* and laughter from the other tourists falling down as they visited the complex (most seemed to be Chinese and European college students). Once inside the temple complex, it is clear why this is such a visited shrine.
It was also neat to see many people worshiping at the site, something that we have seen relatively little of at other Wats, with the exception of monks and some local worshipers at the neighborhood sites. As you can see, people buy flowers and walk the perimeter of the temple with them, and offer candles and other votives as well.
There were also several other areas away from the main zone where people could pray quietly and privately, including a lotus leaf light area (worshipers pour gasoline onto the lights to keep them going) and several chapel-type areas where monks sat. All were decorated beautifully.
It’s interesting seeing the elephant tusks in this shrine and a couple others. There is now a ban on buying and selling elephant ivory (for extremely good reason), the punishment for which is a fine and several years in jail. There is also a ban on getting the Buddha tattooed anywhere on your body, or purchasing anything with the Buddha’s head on it as a souvenir. As we waited for our minibus to retrieve us, Perry got the best Thai iced tea of his life from a stand outside of the temple, reaffirming our motto that the cheaper the food, the better the flavor.
After the forty-five minute drive back to downtown Chiang Mai, we sought out lunch before making our flight to Bangkok. We went to a small roadside restaurant whose motto is “no view, but the food is tasty”. And, tasty it was.
We got the Thai fish cakes, the red curry, and a chicken and string bean dish, all of which were excellent. We also tried a craft brew from Chiang Mai, which was pretty great. I feel like the character from Eat, Pray, Love, who goes to Italy just to feed herself for three months. I’ve only got two weeks left, so I’m cramming in as much “eat” as I can.
Overall, Chiang Mai was a great adventure and a totally different experience than Bangkok. We are safely back at the hotel here, enjoyed our welcome drink and have opted for room service tonight. It’s been a long several days of travel, so we’re taking it easy and going to enjoy a slower pace while we’re here in Bangkok.
For tomorrow, we have a food tour planned, followed by dinner at acclaimed restaurant Nahm. If you couldn’t tell, our diets have been postponed until further notice.
One thought on “Outskirts of Chiang Mai, Thailand”
Beautiful pictures. Love all the different angles. Thanks for capturing.