Well, today was our last day in Chiang Mai. We slept in a tad today before setting out to see Wat Doi Suthep, which is something like 16km outside of Chiang Mai and sits atop a mountain. After a winding, and nauseating ride up the mountain, it takes 306 steps to reach the top. I should note that we travelled there in the back of a songthaew (remember those?). On the top was a very old, yet well kept Wat.
The highlight was this enormous gold stupa. People walked clockwise around it as a way of making merit. On either end were chambers containing gilded Buddha images and monks who would sprinkle holy water over your head (I got blessed 3 times)! The monk also put a piece of white thread around my wrist, which also came with some sort of a blessing in Pali, the language of Theravada Buddhism (it’s an ancient Indian language). Many other normal features of many Wats were present, but at a much greater scale…people made offerings of incense, flowers, candles, and gold leaf and presented “monk buckets” to the monks, containing supplies they could use; there were also bells to ring and the fortune sticks (you shake a bunch of sticks and one falls out with a number on it that corresponds to your fortune). The complex also contained an interesting bookstore.
After we caught another songthaew for a cold ride further up the mountain for two stops. The first was at the King’s Winter Palace. The ground were absolutely beautiful. As usual, none of the buildings were open, but the gorgeously landscaped grounds were a sight in themselves.
Our second stop was at this H’mong village, which was quite disappointing. Lonely Planet nailed it on their description that all you could really do there was shop, which was true. It was not, however, a good place to go to see a tribal village. At least I got my fill in Vietnam!
Back in Chiang Mai we set out for dinner and to check out the Saturday market. My grandmother and father tried Khao Soy, this curry that is only found here in the northwest of Thailand. Along the way we noticed a strange light formation in the sky. More small balls of light were joining the formation. Then we realized they were rising from the ground. People were setting off what were essentially hot air balloons. A large paper bag had a wax burner on the bottom, which people lit and then sent into the sky. It was beautiful!
The Saturday market was quite the place. It seemed as if there was a higher quality and variety of stuff there than could be found in the Night Bazaar. As another farang told us, it stretched for over a mile and a half! We only saw a small portion before calling it a night, but it was definitely worthwhile!
Anyways, tomorrow we fly back to Bangkok. We’ll be there tomorrow evening and all day on the 25th, which isn’t a holiday at all here. On the 26th, we leave for Cambodia!! I can’t wait to see the temples of Angkor!