Our 6:00am departure today comes so early. Our guide, Fa, arrives just as we get to the lobby, so we’re on our way quickly. We failed to pay attention to the weather (it’s been great our entire trip), and it’s raining this morning.
After a twenty-minute drive to the other side of Chiang Mai, we arrive at an intersection with a brightly lit shrine and several food carts. There are Buddhist monks standing in groups in several places and people are placing food items in gold-colored bowls held by the monks. They walk here every morning between 5:00am and 7:00am to receive donations and then walk back to the temple to distribute to those in need. The proper procedure is to place the offering of food items in the bowls, then kneel and receive a chanted blessing from the monks in return. The rain makes it more interesting, combined with our repaired knees that don’t feel that great when kneeling on pavement. We “soldiered through”, made our donation, and watched them walk back to the temple. It was raining so hard we didn’t get many pictures.
We continued to drive up the mountain for 20 more minutes. When we arrived at the small village that serves as the base area for Doi Suthep (the temple), Fa gets our tickets and we board a tram (funicular) to take us to the top. What a relief! I had read something about 300 steps to climb, but Fa decided it was too slick for us to take the stairs. That saved us from wimping out.
At the top, the temple area is beautiful and quiet. We’re early, and few if any other visitors have arrived yet. The rain is continuing. No one may wear shoes in the temple area, so we’re walking around barefoot in the rain. Again, there’s so much beauty. The temple was originally built in 1572. There are lots of monks around doing their monkly duties. In one of the smaller temples, we went in, trying to keep our heads below the level of the monk (as advised). As we kneeled (ouch) he sprinkled water on our heads to purify us, and then chanted a prayer. Normally, the view from the top of the mountain is gorgeous, but rain/fog is not cooperating.
We rode the tram back to the bottom, and began a short drive to another temple near the city. It’s called the Tunnel Temple. It’s built into a hill with lots of small rooms branching off the main tunnel for some serious meditation. Above it all is a shrine built in the Sri Lankan style (as opposed to the Lanna or Bangkok style)
Next stop is a restaurant for breakfast. We had a chance to try Thai food cooked in the Northern style (different peppers and curries). It’s slightly different and good. After breakfast, we’re taken back to the hotel where we caught up on our sleep.
We finally cleaned up and headed out to make a laundry swap. We picked up our batch from yesterday, and left some more (can’t beat the price, less than $4 for the 2ndbatch). We returned to the room, dropped off the laundry and headed out the local night market. We walked about 10 minutes and began to pass shopkeepers setting up on the sidewalk. We made a few small purchases, but kept walking until we finally reached the big market area. This market opens every evening at 6:00, closes at 11:00, and is open every day of the week. Everything “Thai” that anyone could want can be found here.
We shopped for a couple of hours before eating dinner in a Thai restaurant in the market. The food was good and cost about $5.20, including drinks.
It’s been a fun evening of hanging out around the locals, the expats, and the tourists. We made our way back to the room to prepare for our long drive tomorrow, even farther north, to Chiang Rai, near the borders with Myanmar and Laos.