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The Road Less Traveled

4 November: The Beauty of Chiang Mai... Old and New.

THAILAND | Saturday, 4 November 2017 | Views [346]

Today was a great all-around day. We had arranged our own private “song teow” (two rows) truck to take us on a private tour up the mountain today. Sounds expensive, but it isn’t. The funny thing is that a driver will charge 300-400 baht per person up and down the mountain round trip – or 200 each way. They will load the song teow with 8-10 people. We called someone who drove us last year – he was busy, but got his friend to take 4 of us round trip in private comfort for 1000 baht. The lesson here is that if you bargain with them and are polite – tip them too – you can get a better deal that is on your time.

We first went up to Doi Pui which is a Hmong villager settlement and cultural camp. On our way, we stopped at a scenic vantage point and took some pictures overlooking the city of Chiang Mai and the airport. Of course there were some great grilled snacks to be had, so my wife collected up a few pork and chicken sticks from the vendors there. The ride up to Doi Pui can be a bit slow as the road winds around the mountain. The temperature drops, the flora changes, and the road narrows. Once we were there, the settlement was teeming with activity. It was a Saturday, so plenty of tourists. There was some good shopping to be had up there and our friends rounded out a number of the souvenirs they have been looking to buy for family and friends at home. The ladies got to dress up in traditional Hmong outfits and we took plenty of photos in the botanical garden and near the waterfall. The weather was so cool and beautiful up that high. Doi Pui is high enough and cool enough that poinsettias grow and bloom nearly all year long there – not what you would expect in Thailand.

After our time in the Hmong settlement, we headed down the mountain slightly to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep – the beautiful temple founded in the 14th century around 1383. You have to climb 306 steps from the base to get to the temple. The staircase features ornate naga (serpent deities) on either side. If I remember reading correctly, the snake figures date back about 500 years. Their heads are at the base of the staircase, and their bodies go all the way to the top. Green enamel “scales” have been preserved well. Wat Doi Suthep (for short), is beautiful. This was my second time there. The air is crisp and clean, the sky is so very blue. There are numerous temple structures on the grounds such as ubosots (prayer rooms) that have been added through the years. The golden chedi that is the centerpiece of the temple is incredible. On each of the four corners are gilded umbrella-like structures. They glisten in the sunlight and made for some beautiful photographs.

After leaving the temple, we returned to the Old City in Chiang Mai to our hotel. After climbing up and down the Naga staircase, it was time for a massage. After checking around to several locations (because they were busy) we found a Lila Thai Massage location that could take us in an hour or so. With that in mind, we settled in across the street at a bistro for some beverages and snacks.

The massage did not disappoint. It was just what we all needed. Lila Massage is a connected to a government rehab program for female prisoners – teaching them a skill (certified massage) they can use on the outside. With their certification, these ladies can work for hotels and spas down the line. The best massages I have had in Thailand have been with ladies plying their new-found skills at Lila. Always courteous, polite, and professional, I highly recommend Lila if you are in Chiang Mai looking for a massage.

Then we struck out for the Saturday night market. We got some food from the street stalls – most of it was quite good. Then we headed down the market street. While we were briefly looking at the items for sale, initially our main goal was to get down the street to Wat Sri Suphan – Better known as “The Silver Temple.”  When my wife and I accidently stumbled across this temple last year, I was simply astounded at its beauty.  The original temple – which was not silver – was built in 1502 and little if anything from those days remain on the grounds. The silver temple was constructed beginning in 2008. It is one-of-a-kind. I believe it is best visited at night when LED lights illuminate the outside in different colors – green and purple are the most stunning. Interesting to note, while women are allowed on the temple grounds and in the temple (not the silver one), the silver ubosot – or main prayer room – excludes women. The explanation is rooted in old Buddhist beliefs. There are amulets more than 500 years old beneath the silver ubosot (temple). Ancient beliefs dictate that women do not come too close to those antiquities or it may hurt the sanctity of the temple as well as the purity of the women themselves. Most women seem to not have a problem with it out of respect for a religion that generally places the female gender in very high regard.

After the silver temple, we wandered back through the market. Our friends collected up a few more souvenirs for family and friends. It had been a long day, so we made our way back to our hotel to wind down and retire for the evening. We all agreed it had been a great day, full of memories and great pictures. It was definitely just what we needed for our last day in the wonderful city of Chiang Mai.

Thank you for taking time to read this journal. Cheers!

Tags: chiang mai, doi suthep, night market, thailand, wat sri suphan

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