Thursday, May 7, 2015
The first goal for the day was to first visit Wat Phra That on the mountain Doi Suthep. Originally, I was going to book a tour, but, the lady who runs the hostel said that I could easily catch a taxi to temple in front of the 7/11 (There are SO many 7/11s here!) by the hostel. So with that in mind, I left the hostel around 8:15 and walked to the 7/11. The thing about the taxi is that is fits 10 people, and the driver will only leave when his taxi is full. After about 15 minutes we had 8 people and the driver told us that he would take us then, instead of waiting for 2 more people, if we pay a little more. We all agreed to the higher price, and we were off!
As the crow flies, the temple is not that far, but take a winding road up a mountain, and you end up with a 40 minute car ride. Once we finally reached the top, and piled out, I was already thinking…
I just got this feeling that I was about to be underwhelmed. I am not a huge fan of uber-touristy sites, and this had all the signs of the ultimate tourist destination.
- Stands selling teeshirts like “I partied in Bangkok”.
- Numerous tour groups speaking a variety of different languages.
- Taxis lined up for a mile.
With an already compromised attitude, the thought of climbing 309 steps just to get to the temple seemed excessive. Here is the first set of stairs…
and here is the BIG SET…
Many people were pausing along the way, myself included, which allowed me to get this shot…
Ok. I made it.
Before I share the rest of my photos let me tell you the story about Wat Phra That….
The legend has had many versions over the years but the story begins with a relic, a very important relic, that was thought to have magical powers. The relic split in two, where one piece was enshrined at Wat Suan Dok and the other was placed on the back of a sacred white elephant. The elephant stubbornly climbed Doi Suthep until it reached the summit…
And it is at that site that King Nu Naone declared that a temple should be built to store the holy relic. Over the years the holy site has evolved from a single temple into the glittering extravagant complex it is today.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep:
At one point I just sat down, one, because I was waiting for people to disperse so I could get a shot, two, I was captivated by the crowd’s insatiable desire to take pictures of the holy relic. Have you ever seen those nature shows where they show the predator devouring the prey? Well, that is the feeling I got while watching these people try and get their next “Profile Picture”. They were devouring the image of the temple, but were they fully appreciating the meaning of the sacred site? At every ideal location there was a rotation of people and cameras, all seeking that perfect picture, but there was no line in front of the plaque explaining the significance of the relic. I am not excluding myself from this animalistic desire to capture the moment, I mean I literally took over 500 photos in one day, but it was truly mind-blowing to sit there and see how focused we have all become with the perfect photo.
Case in point. The selfie stick.
Here are some photos I snagged while observing the crowds:
With enough selfie stick spottings to last me a lifetime, and the realization that…
when traveling, I need to take the time to put my camera down and truly experience what is going on around me,
I made the descent back to the cab. I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, and I still had time before I was expected back at the cab, so I found a food stall and ordered some grub.
Pork and basil to be exact 🙂
Made fresh to order, the aroma of the stall presented itself on my plate in the form of basil, chiles, onions, and pork. Served over white rice, this yummy concoction sent my tastebuds into overdrive. The heat caught me off guard, but with the rice, the heat subsided into a warm sensation paired so well with the bright basil and onions. Simple. Easy. Delicious.
Do I think you should go to Wat Phra That? Yes.
But go with the right expectations. It will be crowded, the view from the mountain will be hazy (I mean it is ~80% humidity, what do you expect?!?), and it is overall very touristy. BUT, It is an important part of Chiang Mai history, and on that point alone, this temple should be on everyone’s “To Do” list when visiting the city.
Goal #2: Wat Umong
Before leaving, I had asked the taxi driver to dropped me off at Wat Umong, he nodded his head, and was like “yes yes yes”. So I believed him. Ha. He instead dropped me off at Chiang Mai University (about 2 1/2 miles away from the temple), and told me I could get another cab that would take me to the temple. I was irritated, which brought out my stubbornness, which meant I was walking. And in the end it all worked out, because the walk ended up being great 🙂
Look I found the their science building!
By the time, I was feeling heat, I stumbled across a coffee shop (Like 7/11s there are coffee shops EVERYWHERE). I ordered a Iced Thai Tea, and used to Wifi while enjoying the comforts of AC. I have never had a Chai Tea, but I imagine this is what it would taste like, with the bitterness like coffee with the tea flavor (you know, that flavor that instantly tells you, you are drinking tea) and little bit of sweetness.
With my map, well my phone, in hand, I walked the rest of the way to Wat Umong. At first, Wat Umong appears below-average. The chedi looks like all the other ones (if not in worse shape) and there are no massive buildings with extravagant designs. Just a lot of trees and chickens. But then….
You find the tunnels, and Wat Umong becomes one of your favorite temples.
Leaving the tunnels, I wandered towards the lake and noticed there were a lot of pigeons. Not like 10-20, I am talking like 100-200. I was already on edge with all the terrifying roosters that were roaming the grounds, and these pigeons just did me in. AND THEN they decided to ALL FLY AT ME. TERRIFYING. A monk that was standing near the lake, was laughing as I was running away from the terrifying birds. I am so glad my awful experience was amusing 😉
Also, it was during my visit to Wat Umong that I realized my pants were ripped. Yes, the new pants that I had just bought, were ripped, right in the crotch area. Fun times. I guess my thighs decided to attack the poor seams that contained them.
Goal #3: Wat Suan Dok
Anyway, with nothing I could do but try and keep the hole hidden, I grabbed a taxi to the next temple, Wat Suan Dok.
The driver delivered me to the steps of the pavilion hosting the Buddha statue. This was probably one of my favorite buildings that had a Buddha because of the open air design. I also happened to be one of two people sitting in front of the statue, like I said, not a fan of crowds.
Wat Suan Dok:
What does one think when sitting in such a peaceful, serene environment, while staring at a larger than life Buddha statue?
One. I was thinking about the hole in my pants, which definitely got bigger.
Two. Posture. Every time I look at a Buddha I think, “Man, I really need to work on my posture.”
Three. Anything and everything. That moment, that day, the year before, the year to come….
Lunch was easy because it was on the grounds of the temple. Win! Pun Pun is a vegetarian restaurant serving local dishes. nomnom.
The mushroom fritters, were WAY tinier than I expected, but size doesn’t matter, right?! 😉 The one sauce, the tamarind sauce, reminded me of the ginger dressing you get at Japanese restaurants, super bright and light. The other sauce, the peanut sauce, was not what I expected, it was more like a jam rather than a sauce. Flavor-wise it was definitely peanut-y but it was also on the sweet side.
Khao Soi is a traditional northern dish with strong Burmese influence. This rendition was made with a variety of vegetables, broccoli and mushroom to name a few, both fried and boiled egg noodles, shallots, lime, chillies, and a curry-like sauce. With my first bite I got the spice from the curry paste and chillies and the sweetness from the coconut milk. Personally, the soup was a little on the sweet side, but overall very delicious.
Goal #4: Work in Coffee Shop
Satisfied with an excellent lunch I started walking to Tree Sis Coffee Shop 🙂 I just had to get another coffee 🙂 They also had wifi so I wanted to use the “Hot Hours” of the day to work on my blog and finals.
Look what I found while walking…
The medical school! It is like the world doesn’t want me to forget that I will be heading back to school soon…
Goal #5: Wat Buppharam
Before I know it, it is 5 o’clock and I was still sitting in the coffee shop. There was one more temple I wanted to see (they close at 6pm) and I DESPERATELY needed new pants, so I quickly packed up and headed out the door.
Going into the first store I could find I bought some massive genie pants, and borderline sprinted to the next temple. I got to Wat Buppharam with 15 minutes to spare, and honestly that is all I really needed.
Hey! Look at this shirt I saw on the way, it made me giggle 🙂
The complex may be small, but the architecture and details sure do pack a punch. Well worth a visit, all you need is ten minutes 😉
Dinner was going to be down the street at the East Gate market.
After a couple of circles I decided on Papaya Salad, meatballs of some sort, and a mango smoothie. Not sure if it was the exhaustion or the heat, but about two bites in and I was done. It tasted great. I just couldn’t eat anymore.
So, with my smoothie in hand I began the long walk home…
Check out these shots along the way:
Overall, I walked about 6 miles! CRAZY!
Can’t wait for my cooking class on Friday, and then it is off to Chiang Rai 🙂
Arianna the Wandering Pipette