The final full day in Chiang Mai we drove up to Doi Suthep, a mountain that is immediately to the west of Chiang Mai and offers, on a clear day, a nice view of the greater Chiang Mai area. On the top of the mountain is a temple which ostensibly dates back to the late 14th century and is one of the most significant sites for Thais to visit. It is also a very beautiful temple so is well worth the trip up the winding 13 km road from the city.
Stephanie and I picked up my friend Kari, who recently moved back to Thailand from Kenya with her husband Ron. They are both missionaries whom Tawn and I first met when I was attending Union Language School after first moving here four years ago.
The day was drizzly but as we drove up the mountain, the drizzle subsided replaced by a thick fog. On the way up we had to stop and help a family whose pickup truck had slipped into a small ditch at the side of the road. Thankfully, only one tire was in the ditch and with the help of another driver, we were able to jimmy it free.
The base area of the temple has lots of tourist shops, stalls, stands and vendors. It is a bit of a circus. Thankfully there were not too many people there thanks to both the inclement weather as well as the depressed tourism situation in Thailand. There are two ways to reach the temple: you can either take a short cable car ride or you can walk the 300 steps (decorated with beautiful nagas, or multi-headed serpents). Here’s a photo of Stephanie posing before we began our ascent.
One of the vendor’s dogs sitting on the wall, imitating the nagas in the previous photo!
The temple is perched right on top of the mountain and is surrounded by lush tropical forest. The fog was very thick and advanced quickly, swallowing up the mountainside. This picture reminded me of something from the movie “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”.
Looking down to the area where the monks’ quarters are located. Visibility was down to about 30 meters. Note the lanterns. These are a very typical Lanna / Northern Thai style lantern. Beautiful, no?
While taking pictures the fog started to turn into a mist and, eventually, drizzle. Thankfully we had our umbrellas with us.
The main chedi, or stupa, is covered in gold with four gold umbrellas standing on the corners. On a sunny day it is beautiful and makes a striking contrast with the blue skies. See this photo as an example. Today, however, we just had to appreciate it at a different level. In fact, the fog/mist/drizzle lent an interesting serenity to the place.
Rare to get a shot here with no visitors in it!
I like the drops of water on the statues. After about an hour poking around we decided the dampness was getting to us and descended to the parking lot area.
From the main entrance we looked back up towards the temple and the summit, which was now entirely shrouded in the clouds.
Here’s a video of the few days up there:
While in Chiang Mai we had the opportunity to eat quite a bit of Northern Thai food, which offers some of the best dishes in all of Thailand. Here is a spread we had one night. In the upper left is a variety of vegetables and a Northern style sausage called sai oua. It is served with a green chili dipping sauce (available in varying degrees of spiciness) called nam prik ong. In the center is a red pork and chili dipping sauce called nam prik num. It is more savory than spicy. You eat it with the fried pork rinds in the upper right. That’s right, Thais love cracklins! The bamboo container in the lower left features khao niaw or sticky rice. In the center is a plate of raw veggies and herbs served on ice, which are eaten to cool the spiciness. Finally, the dish in the lower right is a salad made of sun dried pork, shallots, peanuts, cilantro and chilies.
Here’s another view of the sai oua and nap prik ong and khao niaw. I bought some at the Chiang Mai Airport at a vendor who has been around for years and carried it onto the plane. That’s right – you can bring super-spicy green chili sauce onto the plane here as a carry on. Bottled water through security? No. But nam prik ong? Absolutely fine. Everyone knows that isn’t dangerous.