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Visit to Wat Prathat Doi Suthep Temple in Chiang Mai

Wat Prathat Doi Suthep

Wat Prathat Doi Suthep is the most famous temple in Chiang Mai and we visited it one morning in late December.  This site is always busy with lots of tourists visiting and since it was high season and close to the Christmas Holidays we encountered even bigger crowds. 

The road and parking lots were congested with tour minibuses, red buses (songthaews) brown buses, delivery trucks, scooters and bicycles (yes, people do ride bikes up there from Chiang Mai!)  And there are the inevitable hawkers, some quite aggressive, pushing bells and other trinkets into your face as you attempt to get into the temple!

We bought our tour tickets (Baht 600 or $16.60 each) through a local travel agency in our area.  The price was less than several other companies we checked on so we were expecting a “standard” tour which, in fact, was what we received!

We arranged to be picked up outside our apartment building at 8:45am and received a call just after 9am telling us the minibus was just a short distance away.  With the traffic in Chiang Mai, it’s not easy to estimate arrival times, so no problem!  It was a beautiful, sunny, cool morning – perfect for a trip out of town.

The minibus was almost full of passengers who had been picked up earlier so we had the seat in the back to ourselves.  Normally four people would be seated here so it was nice to have a little more room. Remember, tour buses in Southeast Asia are built for small Asian people, not big Westerners!

Royal Palace Gardens

The tour included a stop at a Hill Tribe Village but some of the passengers were visiting the Royal Palace and we opted to do that instead of the village.  Having seen two working villages on our Northern Thailand Tour, we didn’t want to do a repeat, particularly since we felt it would be more geared to tourism i.e. selling souvenirs (which we found out later was the case!)  The admission to the Royal Palace was Baht 50 each and we enjoyed an hour walking around the beautiful grounds before being picked up for the short drive to the Temple.

Temple Complex

It’s a 15 kilometer drive from Chiang Mai to the temple on a very windy road that reminded us of our drive to Pai and Mae Hong Son.  The temple was built in 1386 and expanded over the centuries.  Construction of the temple would have been extremely difficult because the current road was not completed until 1935 and the only way to reach the site was through the jungle.

Once we reached the temple complex, which sits at 3,542ft (1000m) above sea level, we had a choice of walking up 300 stairs, guarded by Naga (snake) figures from the 16th century or taking the cable car.  For us it was a no-brainer! 

Our entry ticket explained the “Do and Don’t in the temple”:

  • Dress politely, do not wear shorts
  • Show respect in the temple and shrine
  • Take off your shoes before entering the platform around the Golden Chedi
  • Keep your head lower than Buddha images and monks
  • Don’t touch the Buddha images
  • Don’t display affection for another person in public
  • Always keep clean

After a short briefing by our guide we went to the lower terrace for a panoramic view of Chiang Mai which, unfortunately, was very hazy.  After taking our shoes off, we moved on to the upper terrace and walked around the dazzling gold-plated chedi, among the many small shrines, Buddha statues and beautiful golden umbrellas.  

All the colors were enhanced by the brilliant sunshine.  People were praying, chanting, lighting candles, ringing bells and the smell of incense wafted through the air.  Although there was a lot of activity, there was also a sense of peace and calm.

The Legend

Sacred Destinations recounts a myth related to the location of Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep like this:

“According to legend, a magical relic multiplied itself just before it was enshrined at Wat Suan Dok in Chiang Mai. A suitable place therefore had to be found to shelter the new relic.

Unable to decide on the site, the king placed the relic in a portal shrine on the back of a white elephant and waited to see where the animal would take it. Eventually, the elephant walked up to the top of Doi Suthep mountain, trumpeted three times, turned around three times, knelt down, and died. The temple was immediately built on the miraculously-chosen site.”

 What better way to end our article with that wonderful story!  We’ll be back with more about Chiang Mai later.

Festivals of Thailand

 

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Once again we are in the right place at that the right time … Chiang Mai, Thailand, on Monday November 14, 2016!  How does this keep happening to us?  Maybe it’s because we can then share our experiences – such as the Festivals of Thailand – with those who have never visited Southeast Asia as well as those who have, but missed these special events.

On the night of the full moon, the Festivals of Loi Krathong and Yi Peng took place in Chiang Mai as well as other parts of Southeast Asia.  And what an amazing display it was.  It was also the night of the Supermoon, when the moon was the brightest, largest and closest to earth since January, 26 1948! 

We started the afternoon/evening by meeting a friend at a restaurant called The Dukes  located on the banks of the Ping River.  There are four locations in Chiang Mai and all are known for superb western style food – and large portions, so come hungry! dukes-chiang-mai-burgers-900x505

A Brief History of Thailand

We’re sure you are aware that the King of Thailand passed away on October 13, 2016.  This may not make much of an impact around the world but here in Thailand life changed quite dramatically. 

King Bhumibol Adulyadej ‘s reign lasted 70 years, making him the world’s longest reigning monarch.  Now king-and-queenthis honor goes to Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain who has reigned for nearly 64 years.

His Majesty is greatly revered by the people of Thailand, many of whom have known no other monarch in their life time. 

There will be a year of mourning and flags will fly at half-mast for at least the first 30 days.  All entertainment is postponed during this period and Thais are wearing black or black and white to honor their King. 

According to the Chiang Mai Expats Clubnon-Thais are not required to do this but should not wear bright colors.  We are wearing black and white when possible and have a black ribbon pinned to our shirts. 

The TV is covering the many ceremonies taking place in Bangkok as well as reviewing His Majesty’s life.  This is a very sad time for everyone in Thailand.

Travel is Fun … Right?

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The answer is a resounding “YES” – for the most part! But there are always challenges to overcome and circumstances to adjust to, no matter how well traveled one might be. Take, for instance, the first four days of our six month adventure in Southeast Asia. It was quite a marathon!

airportDay 1: We were up at 6:00am and driven by a good friend to catch our 9:00am flight from the Orlando Airport to Washington Dulles Airport. With the help of a United Airlines representative, our check-in was quick and easy and we had plenty of time to relax with a coffee and a light breakfast. We were surprised to find that we had been ‘randomly’ selected for the TSA Fast Pass and were soon at the Gate standing in line #4 for boarding. Flight time: 2 hours 9 minutes.

We transferred at Dulles Airport to our ANA flight to Narita and were interested to learn that Economy class passengers all boarded at the same time instead of being called by row number. We saw people lining up but didn’t realize what was happening! By the time we got on board we only just had room to store our two back packs overhead! Lesson learned for our next connection in Narita to Bangkok! Flight time: 14 hours 5 minutes.

Day 2: Crossing the dateline brought us to Bangkok at 11pm. Total flight time: 16 hours 14 minutes – approximately 20 hours with layovers. Our minds and bodies had no idea where we were or what time it was! Airport pick-up, a quick shower and into bed around 1:00am. No wonder we were a couple of basket cases!

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