Chiang Mai: In front of a market inside the walled city.
I woke up and went in search of breakfast on the streets. I ended up finding a big marketplace on the south end of the walled city. I wandered the stalls and found a lady selling some fried dough balls so I bought 10 baht worth (30 cents). It was actually quite a large bag and I was just able to finish them as I wandered around the market. The market was housed in a big steel shed building and parts of the market spilled out into the alleys. There was a meat section, some clothing and some food vendors. An interesting locals market.
My goal for the day was to get to Wat Doi Suthep which is said to be the most impressive temple in northern Thailand. Wat Doi Suthep is just west of town on the top of a hill.
Chiang Mai: The market inside the walled city.
I had heard that there are sawngthaews that can get you there. I ask the travel agency desk in the lobby of my guest house how to get there and they say there are several transfers in the sawngthaews that you need to take and that it would be worth it to hire a car. She says that there is a driver that hangs out at the guest house who could drive me there and also let me go see other sights. Sounds like a plan. I meet the driver a little later and we head out. He stops a little ways down the road and buys a couple of Red Bull drinks for us. I am not really into them but what the heck. These are the Thai version in glass bottles and this one is called Shark. We swill our bottles and head out. A little further down the road we stop to pick up his wife, who rides with us for the day.
Chiang Mai: The bottom of the hill leading up to Wat Doi Suthep.
She is a really cute Thai lady. She does not speak that much English but I guess this is how she learns it. We head up towards the temple and the road starts to wind up into the hills. Halfway up there is a viewpoint of the city and the driver stops to let me take a look. It is pretty hazy and you can't really see the details of the city but it is nice to get out and see this viewpoint. We continue up and get to the entrance to Wat Doi Suthep. They tell me to meet them back at the car when I have seen enough. The area outside is pretty busy with tourists. There is an elephant in a round cement enclosure and a guy selling bananas to feed the elephant. At the street is an arched gateway and the start of the stairs up to the Wat.
Chiang Mai: The vendors outside the Wat.
I had heard that there are a lot of stairs to get up to the temple. I start up the stairs and there are a lot of vendor selling items as offerings and also just some tourist stuff. Half way up there are no more vendors and there is a long straight shot of stairs all the way to the top. At the base of the staircase are dragon's heads and the rails to the stairs all the way up are dragon's backs. Beside each step there is a plaque with something written in Thai on it that must have some meaning to it. There are a lot of stairs but sinse you are in such a magnificent setting it doesn't seem all that tiring. Up at the top at the entrance to the temple there is a place where foreigners are supposed to pay an entrance fee and Thais can enter for free.
Chiang Mai: The stairs leading up to Wat Doi Suthep.
It would be easy to miss this sign and I feel that it is good to pay to enter to help keep this place maintained. They give you a map of the temple for paying your entrance fee. The temple grounds are very nice. It sits atop the ridge overlooking Chiang Mai and there are lots of trees and landscaping. The temple is impressive and there are several beautiful buildings, rows of bells to ring and the best part of all the inner temple. You take your shoes off to enter the inner temple courtyard. Inside the inner courtyard there are lots of people worshiping shrines with incense burning and people carrying flowers as they do circuits around the golden Chedi in the center of the courtyard. The golden Chedi is amazingly beautiful.
Chiang Mai: A courtyard at Wat Doi Suthep.
The gold gleams brightly in the sun. There are lots of golden buddhas around the courtyard. There are a couple of worshiping temples inside this inner temple area where monks are performing ceremonies. This is the best Wat that I have seen in Thailand and I am glad that I made it up here.
Back at the road I find my driver and we head back down the hill into town. We are now heading towards the handicrafts part of town where you can see a lot of northern Thai handicrafts. It is lunchtime and the driver brings us to a place for lunch. I was hoping for a favorite street food place of his but he brings me to tourist central which is a place where all the tour buses and tour groups bring their tourists for a buffet style Thai meal.
Chiang Mai: Bells at Wat Doi Suthep.
It is an all you can eat feast which and a little expensive but there were a lot of things to choose from. I get a big pile of food and chow down.
After lunch the driver brings me to a store selling expensive silks and carpets from Kashmir. There is some beautiful stuff and the salesman inside tries to convince me to buy a nice Kashmir silk carpet that is $300 and it is only 3 feet by 4 feet. He gives me an interesting tour of how the carpets are made and the history of the carpets but this was not in my budget for this trip. True they are a piece of artwork that I would love to have but maybe next time if I budget it into my trip. On the way out he has me try on silk scarfs. He is trying to find the best color for me but I am not into scarfs for guys.
Chiang Mai: Inside the main Temple at Wat Doi Suthep.
Not my style.
Back safely at the car with my budget still safe the driver continues me along the tourist trail to a silk factory. Inside there are women at looms demonstrating the weaving of silk. Off to the side there are some baskets of silkworms showing the stages of how the worms make the silk for their cocoon and then how this gets twisted into silk threads. Then through the doors is the silk showroom where there is an extravagant display of clothing, bedspreads and other silk designs. All very nice but I don't need any right now thank you. Out at the car The driver suggests I walk next door to the Jade store. I take a look inside and there are counters with various jade knickknacks. What is the most impressive are some of the larger jade sculptures.
Chiang Mai: A silk weaving demo at a touristy silk store.
There are some very impressive Jade Buddhas and dragons I wouldn't mind having but these are pieces of art and cost in the thousands of dollars.
Back on the tourist trail again we head over to a lacquerware "factory". They give a little tour of how the lacquerware is made which is interesting. Seven layers of black lacquer and then they start putting the design on and they show how to put various designs on with paint, gold and eggshells glued onto the piece. All very interesting. I peruse the showroom of "factory discounted" items. There's some nice stuff but I don't need any.
My final stop on the tourist trail was a furniture store and the salesman were from Kashmir. I check out the furniture and get ideas on how to make someof it myself.
Chiang Mai: Lacquerware demonstration. Applying eggshell.
I am a carpenter by trade and like to make things like that. I ask a salesman what kind of wood one of the bookshelves was made of, then I tell him I am just looking to see how I can make some of it for myself. That was the perfect thing to tell him because he immediately turned off his sales pitch and left me alone. The tourist trail had a lot of interesting things to see. I learned a lot about how some of these handicrafts are made. The driver brings me back to my guesthouse. Along the way I learn that he was a monk for a couple weeks when he was 20 years old.
Back at the guest houe the rest of my trek group is back from the third day of their trek. They seem tired but satisfied. We are having an after trek dinner party in the restaurant at the guest house.
Chiang Mai: A japanese restaurant in town.
I join them for that and it is fun hanging out with them again. I get a nice green curry and pork stir fry which is good. There is pretty good food at this guest house (except for the breakfasts). After dinner I want to head down to night market and see if I can get a good price on a hill tribe blanket and ask if anyone else wants to go. One of the Irish guys says he'll come along with me so we head out to night market. I stop at a money exchange booth to change some travelers checks and then we head down the busy side street heading to night market. We check out a side street which looks like it has a lot of activity. It is a street of pool halls and there are pretty (mostly) Thai girls playing with tourist guys.
Chiang Mai: Night market.
The pool tables are in open walled buildings and you can see inside. Looks kind of fun. Too bad I am terrible at pool. We get to market and get a roti from the vendor I got one from the other day. I get the honey one again and the Irish guy gets one with chocolate and bananas. That one is good too but it is a lot heavier and more filling. We head over to see about the Hmong blankets. The price is diferent today. I must be dressed a little nicer today. I decide I need the large one because the smaller one is definately small. (It might make good fabric for a couch cover or throw though) I am only able to get them down to 1900 baht (about $60) after starting at 2200 baht. It is a really nice blanket though with nice colors so I decide that is low enough.
Chiang Mai: The main temple at Wat Doi Suthep.
We head back to the guest house, stopping at a 7-11 to get some water and snacks. These store are so convenient, I guess that is why they call them convenience stores.
Another good day in Thailand...................Click here for tomorrows journal.