29 December 2012. Saturday. Past Noon. Chiang Mai, Thailand. After being thrilled like a kid at Chiang Mai Zoo with my very first sighting of pandas and koalas, I thought I was content with my weekend and was ready to go back to my guesthouse and sleep the afternoon away until I saw red taxi cabs that are locally called, songthaews (literally means 10-seater-2-row-cab) in the main road near the exit of the zoo with dispatchers yelling, “Doi Suthep, Doi Suthep!” There must be some force that compelled me to walk towards them and ride the cab with other 9 passengers to Doi Suthep.
I was certainly clueless that the roads from Chiang Mai Zoo to the said temple are zigzag and uphill (think of Baguio and Antipolo Cities in the Philippines). I only learned after the trip that Doi Suthep is the name of the mountain where the wat is located. That explains everything, your honor! I rest my case. Toinks!
After paying my fare of 40 baht to the old lady who happens to be the wife of the songthaew driver, I was alarmed to see her taking the ride with us on that estribo. I admired her being so carefree but at the same time, I became worried for her being risky at her age. Oh, the things you do to earn a living! With my amusement at her happy character, I asked her permission to be photographed. My heart skipped a beat when she smiled instantly with her chinky eyes and let go of her grip to make a peace sign. I was extremely terrified that she might lose her grip with another hand so I clicked my cam immediately and thanked her. She stood on the estribo collecting fares from passengers until we reached the mountain and Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep 45 minutes after. If I only knew how to speak Thai, I could have told her to take extra-care and be safe always. She reminded me so much of my late grandmother who took care of me from my childhood years.
Upon alighting from the 10-seater-red-cab, I finally saw the foot of Doi Suthep temple bustling with food and souvenir stalls. I hurried to the information counter and asked how to reach the wat. There are two ways to go up–either to take the 300-plus-step-stairs to the temple for free or faster and time-saving via the inclined cable car or travelator with a 50-baht-two-way-fee. I chose the one with less energy requirement as I was too lazy and tired to climb the stairs after wandering the whole morning at the zoo (lame excuse!).
Expressions of faith at the facade of the temple greeted me. Although I am non-Buddhist, it was very inspiring to witness how people from all walks of life practice their religion and devotion. The spiritual atmosphere was overwhelming!
It was a pleasant surprise to watch cultural performances at the facade of the Wat. Before I brought my feet inside the shrine, I spent almost an hour admiring these young ones dressed in their traditional attires. I’ve seen them in their most candid moments and during their cultural dance performances right in front of the temple.
The traditional Thai music and dances were very impressive! Vibrant colors, soothing Oriental music, exotic moves and burning incense sticks over soft uttering of prayers summed up to an incredible sensory feast!
It was almost 3PM when I decided to go inside the temple. I removed my slippers (yes, I traveled to Chiang Mai from Penang for more than 4D3N with only 1 pair of flip-flops!) and put them on the secluded rack for footwears and walked through the sacred ground barefooted.
Awe-inspiring ambiance inside Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep….
I’ve visited several Buddhist temples back home in the Philippines, in Penang, in Singapore, in Tokyo and in Bangkok but I’ve never walked barefooted for more than 2 hours under the scorching heat of the sun in my entire 36 years of existence. Walking inside Doi Suthep with nothing on my soles felt very humbling.
Would you not be inspired with such acts of faith?
Two hours for me were not enough to absorb everything at Doi Suthep. The positivity from the faithfuls, the great view of Chiang Mai from this mountain top, the grandeur of Doi Suthep temple itself are definitely extraordinary!
It was already past 5 in the afternoon when I went out of the temple. I washed my feet and walked my way down via the lift. After buying identical T-shirts for Tina and Gabby from one of the stalls at the foot of the temple, I hopped on the songthaew again to Chiang Mai Zoo and transferred to similar public vehicle that took me back to the city.
It was my second time to eat such meal from the same restaurant in Chiang Mai. I must say, I can eat this everyday! It may be simple-looking-all-in-one-dish but I almost forgot my name after finishing the plate. Cheap and sinfully delicious! #favorite
The entire day was physically tiring yet spiritually moving as well. The entire experience from Chiang Mai Zoo to Doi Suthep reminded me what and whom I should cherish in life. Spontaneous and unplanned trips like this truly bring unexpected and priceless happiness!
- Padaung / Long Neck Women & Other Hill Tribes in Thailand
- Doi Suthep Buddhist Temple
- Elephant Show, Elephant Ride, Ox-Cart Ride, Bamboo Raft Ride, Orchid Farm
- Chiang Mai Zoo : Pandas, Koalas And More!
- Beyond Boundaries : Penang-Hat Yai-Bangkok-Chiang Mai
- Anusarn Market, Tha Phae Gate Night Market and lots of Thai Food!