Returning to our Chiang Mai Park hotel from our elephant
ride we cleaned up and had a short rest. Next came a long, very winding
drive up the 1,676 meter high mountain to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.
Bill, who is prone to carsickness, sat in the front with the driver, which
was perfect as the drive up was extremely winding and he was able to snap
some good photos of the surrounding tropical forest and the views below.
Our mini-bus met and passed a great variety of vehicles: vans, buses, songthaews,
bikes, scooters, cars, and tuk-tuks.
The 700-year-old temple was accessed from the parking lot via an embellished
309-step stairway with tiled hand rails in the shape of five-headed
dragons. There was a 'village' of little shops selling handmade crafts,
food, drinks, and other souvenirs at the base of the steps - the deep-fried
insects, bamboo worms, water beetles and crickets are a novelty. Numerous
small Hmong girls in stunning mountain-tribe costumes were positioned along
the steps. They approached visitors and asked for photos to be taken with
them after which they held out their hands for 'money please'.
We decided to chug on up the stairs rather than spend a dollar to take
the optional lift. You pass this way once so ya gotta smell the flowers.
But the climb was well paced with a landing after every few steps - lots
of resting places. We made it!
When we reached the top we found ourselves surrounded by opulent grounds
and religious influenced architecture. The pagoda, the decorated halls,
jade buddhas, the big ruby donated by the King, the extraordinary huge
+100-year-old jack fruit tree, and endless variety of decorations and statues
made the long climb worthwhile. Visitors to the temple had to be dressed
modestly. Bill zipped long pant legs onto his shorts, as legs had to be
covered to enter the temple. Sue-On was well covered but had the option
of renting a sarong for entry.