A few kilometers to the west of Chiang Mai’s old city walls is a mountain called Doi Suthep, and at the summit of that mountain is a large temple named Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. I could have taken a taxi up the long, winding road to visit the temple, but after about a week of walking around town, I was ready for a change of pace. That road was long, exposed, busy, and generally unappealing, but I figured that no one would build a temple on top of a mountain without a trail to the top. A short time on Google revealed the location of the trailhead, a trip to 711 filled a small daypack, and I was ready to go.
The daypack proved to be necessary, because this trail is rough. Chiang Mai old city is at 310 meters and the temple is at 1676 with only four or five linear kilometers in between, and the trail doesn’t wind around very much. There is also a smaller temple called Wat Pha Lat about halfway up the mountain, and the trail doesn’t really get steep until then. That last section is murderous. It’s also in the jungle, so the mosquitoes would have driven me away without repeated application of DEET. All those stories about monks meditating in the woods are much more impressive when you remember that they were sitting in the forest with no bug spray. Lastly, I went through about two liters of water. Even under tree cover, it was hot. Regardless, it was good to be in the woods again, and the salty snacks I picked up that morning got me through. I made a video:
Speaking of cool temples, I took a quick detour to Chiang Rai. I didn’t have nearly as much time as I would have liked to explore, but I did get into the famous Wat Rong Khun, or White Temple. It’s not on a mountain or anything, but it’s definitely unique.
I’ve seen a lot of temples, but I was impressed by this one. I couldn’t photograph the interior, which looked a lot like a standard Buddhist sanctuary at first glance, but the walls were painted with raging faces, flaming eyes, screaming skulls, erupting volcanoes and space battles. Frank Frazetta would be proud.