Went back to being a culture bunny again today to visit the Doi Suthep temple or to give it it’s full name Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep Rajvoravihare which is a bit of a mouthful for someone who is used to saying St Pauls or St. Johns when giving directions. Actually in the UK it is normally pubs isn’t it. A problem I have found throughout the rest of the world is that they seem to find it almost impossible to give good directions and I’m sure it is a lack of pubs ” turn left at The Fox and Hounds etc” and clearly church names like the one above. By the time you got that one out the enquirer would have driven off in the hope of finding someone more sensible and who could blame them.
This temple though is impressive. It sits on the top of a hill 3,500 feet above Chiang Mai and the road up is a torturous drive of hair pin bends up to the top. A few brave souls cycle up and the monks of course walk up but the rest of us humble mortals take taxis of varying types to the top. The view back down is spectacular
Well okay maybe not spectacular but it is quite a vista and shows you the growth of what was a few years ago a sleepy northern town. They project that in 5 years time with the development going on Chiang Mai will be as big as Bangkok is today so I’m quite pleased to have seen it this year.
What I try to do in tourist locations is find a group with an English speaking guide and kind of tag along staying within earshot but a little separate from the group who still give you the ” we’re paying for this ” types of looks while I pretend to gaze intently at some relic or another. It worked quite well today again though the guide only seemed to regurgitate a load of history I had read about anyway. so maybe there’s not a lot to say about it.
The first thing to know is that there are 306 steps to get up to the temple so if you’re coming get on the step machine in the gym straight away.
This is the main flight of stairs but there are about 60 that are below it where hawkers have stalls on the steps as well so you battle them and the steps for a time. The view from the top down is probably better to give you an idea of the climb
Now you’re looking at that and thinking wow he walked all the way up aren’t you. Dream on my trusty Luxe guide told me there was a funicular railway on the other side of the hill that for 50 baht whisks you to the top . I was on that but unfortunately it was totally enclosed and you could see nothing as you and about 40 others ascended. So no super pictures ( thank god I hear you mutter).
Once up there there is a kind of outer area where you can get coffee etc and where there are a few minor temples and the bells of course which you can ring.
On one side are two entrances up some steep stairs to get into the main event. why do they like all this climbing I wonder. Oh it’s on a hill I guess.
Now I’m sure you have seen Buddhist monks with their saffron robes and robes is a fairly loose term to describe them as they are really a sarong leaving a bare shoulder and plenty of bare leg so imagine my surprise to see this sign
We looked at our shorts and at the guy at the top of the steps looking at the tourists filing in and thought all this way …. but then 10 Americans hove into view all in their shorts and with cameras a plenty. We tagged on and sauntered past. Safety in numbers always seem to work doesn’t it. Thank god for American tourists sometimes.
So the iconic picture that is in every guide book is of the Stupa Pagoda ( my thanks to the other groups guide for the name) and this is mine
Two temples flank the pagoda but the faithful walk around it saying prayers
dotted around the edge of the top complex are lots of buddhas like this jade one
I did walk back down the stairs as did many of my fellow funicular riders and found our driver Kob waiting at the bottom as planned. After our spiritual experience it seemed a little odd to be fair as we drove back down to be listening to the Eagles Hotel California on his stereo but probably a fitting tribute to the Americans who helped us storm the temple so successfully .