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March 10th, 2011 | Asia

The Temple of Doi Suthep…

A visit to the Temple of Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai is a must if you’re in the city…

Entry to the Doi Suthep Temple complex...

Doi Suthep, is actually the name of the mountain on which the temple is built, but most people refer to the many shrines collectively as “Doi Suthep”

If anything, the ride to and from the temple is something that most bikers will not want to miss…!! The road winds up through the mountains for about 15 kilometres, twisting and turning all the way… The surface is great (when it is dry anyway…!!) and if you want to get rid of those little “whiskers” on the edge of your tyres, then this is the place to do it…!!

Buzzing along, on our way through Chiang Mai to Doi Suthep... Willi and his popcorn machine...!!

Smaller shrines dot the area, this one under a tree near the main entrance...

Colourful character...

With Willi in tow, the throttle of his little scooter wide open to take him to the top, we wound our way ever upwards to the parking area at the entrance to Doi Suthep…

The road continues on into the mountains from here, but I was not sure where it led to… If we had the time, I would have liked to take it through to wherever it went, so enjoyable a ride was it…!!

This time it was Willi who ran out of petrol, and barely made it to the top… I politely refrained from giving him the “Pot…Kettle…Black” routine…!!

Before going up into the temple, he scouted around and bought two whisky bottles of fuel from a petrol trader, and later complained that the fuel had been “cut”, as his scooter coughed and spluttered until he refueled back in town…

There are two ways of getting from the parking area to the top of the hill on which Doi Suthep sits… There are the 306 steps which you can climb for free, or you can take the elevated tram for about $1.00…

It took us about two seconds to decide which of the two methods we would use…!!

Prayers bells can be found all over the site and visitors ring them as they pass by... The racket when they are all sounding is unbelievable...!!

Building of the temple began in 1383, and a legend surrounds the site on which the temple is built…

It is said that a monk discovered a bone in the forest which was believed to be part of Buddha’s shoulder bone, and to have magical properties… The bone was strapped to the back of a white elephant (of which there are quite a number in Thailand and Laos…) and the elephant was set free and followed…

The Sacred White Elephant Shrine... There as many statues depicting Thai war elephants...

The elephant went up onto Doi Suthep, feeding happily as it went… When it reached the top, it trumpeted three times, lay down, and died…!!

This was interpreted as a sign by the King, and he ordered the construction of a temple on the exact spot where the elephant had died… I wonder if they bothered to check it’s teeth…?? Might just have discovered that the animal was on it’s very last legs anyway…!!

The main temple of Doi Suthep, sacred site for Thai's... The exact spot where the elephant was said to have "popped it's clogs"...

The site is regarded as sacred to many of the Thai people and is a popular destination for tourists…

Today there are many temples, Chedi’s and shrines on the site, tucked away in corners, or standing shoulder to shoulder with others…

Rum and Rasin ice cream...!! Who would have thought...!!

I had no idea that Jackfruit grew directly off the trunk of the tree... But seeing the size of the fruit, I guess it should have been pretty obvious...!!

The three minute tram ride had made Willi a bit peckish, so we stopped at the little restaurant located to the one side of the temple complex and bought an ice cream to have with our coffee…

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that they stocked “Rum and Raisin” flavour…!!

“You see…!! If it wasn’t for me, you would have walked right past this place and missed out on your favourite ice cream…!!” Willi said with a grin while puffing away on his cigar…

I couldn’t argue with that one…!!

While birds twittered in the trees above us, we lapsed into silence, enjoying the tranquility of this hilltop refuge…

We strolled around the complex, taking photographs of the many different statues depicting Buddha in his many guises… Sitting, standing, reclining, riding and elephant…

There were statues made stone, marble, gold, and one moulded from green glass…

This particular shrine drew much attention...

I do not know enough about Buddhism to properly describe many of the statues we saw, and most of them were not labeled either, so all we did was snap away at those that had a distinctive look about them or attracted our attention…

Yeah, right...!! Must be the German and French tourists...!!

After walking around the periphery of the main temple, I was ready to take the stairs through the main entrance, but Willi had other ideas…

“I’m not taking my shoes off…!! I’ll wait out here while you go in…!!” he said, taking a seat in the shade outside…

I walked up into the main temple, and was immediately taken aback by the sheer amount of gold used to decorate the many statues and shrines… If gold is your colour, than you don’t want to miss this…!!

If the colour gold "blows your hair back" or "rows your boat", come see Doi Suthep...!!

The golden Chedi stands in the centre of a large square...

In an  open courtyard, a prayer ceremony was under way… Male monks in their orange robes were seated on one side of the square, while female monks(ettes?) in white robes were seated separately and perpendicular to them…

Monks in prayer...

I could not see who was leading the prayers, but every so often, all the monks would bow deeply forward, almost touching their foreheads to the ground before them… They said a few verses aloud, and then sang a short hymn together… The harmonizing was something I will not forget soon… Quite special as it echoed around the temple…

And their female counterparts dressed in white robes, heads shaven... It took a while for me to realise that they were not young boys, but Willi eventually convinced me by pointing out a few attributes that the male monks did not seem to have...!!

In smaller shrines tucked away in the corners, families lit incense and candles, and said their private prayers…

And in amongst all of this, tourists wandered around, filming, taking photographs and whispering to each other when they found anything of special interest…

I felt that I was intruding somehow, and wandered how the monks could be concentrating on their prayers with all the hubbub going on around them…

Elephant poses with Willi... "I should of bought one of these, rather than the scooter...!!"

Back outside, I found Willi at ease on a bench, watching the world go by… We walked out to the viewing deck, where you can look down onto Chiang Mai…

There are many place to sit and contemplate your suroundings... This viewpoint looks over the city far below...

A haze of smoke pollution hung over the city, and I was told that this is usually the case… Smoke from the Thai’s age old practice of “slash and burn” of the forests to make way for plots of agriculture, especially along the Burmese border, result in that smoke being blown down into the “bowl” which Chiang Mai is situated in…

It hangs about in the valley, shrouding the city, and causes major respiratory problems for the local population… Emissions from the many diesel fueled taxis and buses adds to the problem…

This shot was taken from a third of the way up the mountain... From Doi Suthep, you could hardly see the city, hidden by a smoky haze....

Mmmmm... Just about ready for Track Day....

Although Willi and I had ridden up to Doi Suthep together, the Big Fella baulked at the idea of riding the entire way down in tandem with the little red scooter…

I filmed the ride for the first few kilometres, and passed the camera over to Willi so that he could film me for a while…

Then I took off downhill, the bike handling the curves like a dream, getting to use the thread on the outside of the tyres for a change…!!

Ramos in Cyprus would have been pleased, as he always commented that I was only using half my tyres and should get a refund every time I bought new ones…!!

Cheeky, but true…!!

And speaking of tyres, the current set of Michelin Anarkee 2’s were put on in Warsaw, Poland, and have now carried me for almost 22 000 km…!! Great tyres…!! Everybody I have spoken to rates them very highly, and these are the third consecutive set I have fitted and have togther carried me for almost 60 000 km to date…

Can’t see myself using any other…!!

(Now if only somebody from Michelin was reading this and could put in a word or three about some sponsorship of tyres…!!)

I could have got another set sent up from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, but feel that I still have another few thousand kilometres left in them, (believe it or not…!!) despite the “Doomsayer” (another nickname I have for Willi, apart from the many unprintable ones…!!) advising that I should change tyres without further ado…

“Wait until we get into Laos…!!” he has said over and over, “Those gravel roads are littered with sharp rocks, and your tyres are worn down thin in the middle…!! If you have a tear on that rear tyre, you’ll be sorry…!!”

To which I give my standard reply…”Yeah, yeah, and “IF” my uncle grew tits, then he’d be my auntie…!!” This usually shuts him up…!!

I know that I am now getting close to the point where they must be changed, but we both wanted to ride again the next day, and waiting in Chiang Mai for another full day before the tyres arrived was not on the agenda…

I am hoping to get the tyres changed when next I service the bike, and that will be in Bangkok, or Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia…

Until then, it will just have to be fingers crossed, and a bit of nail biting…!!

©GBWT 2011

4 comments to The Temple of Doi Suthep…

  • Charmz

    You know how much I love gold and bling….sounds like a place for me to visit. Thanks for sharing it with us. I will pass your message on to Kimi, if anyone can do this, she can. It’s what she does best. She loves a good challenge.

  • Ramos in Cyprus would have been pleased, as he always commented that I was only using half my tyres and should get a refund every time I bought new ones…!!

    He is, he is. So much tire wasted, every two you recycle they should give you one free ha ha ha
    BTW: you forgot my name, it seems that William is stealing your memories … keep away from him LOL

  • Kim

    Working on the tyre thing already – will keep you updated…
    Yeah-ha!!! BLING!!!! I’m so envious – bring some home please!!!
    Chat soon
    BIG kisses
    K

  • Mark Behr

    A great deal of the shrines and temples seem very similar. Without being signposted, they must become a bit “never ending”. It looks like you are enjoying the company though, despite the inherent aggravation. Have fun !

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