Chiang Mai environs: nothing was as we expected.

Chiang Mai Travel Blog

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Crowds at the temple entry area. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.
Today we hired a car and a very nice driver to take us to a few sights around the outskirts of Chiang Mai. (We considered renting a car on our own, but it was 2000baht from Avis. A private car with driver was less -- just 1600baht.) I had some preconceived notions about where we were going and what things would be like…and nothing was as I expected.

First we drove up the long winding road to to Doi Suthep National Park, just southwest of the city. Based on Fodor’s guidebook, I thought the trip would involve some hiking up a mountain and through the forest to see the temple located there, called Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.
Sticking out in the crowd. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.
But our driver just brought us right up the mountain to the temple’s doorstep -- no hiking required other than a very long flight of stairs. Bummer… we were expecting a nice trek!  

Because it’s a big holiday today the temple was very crowded. Not with tourists, but with local Thai people there to visit and pray. There were many ornate buildings in the temple area, and we didn’t really know what we were looking at most of the time, so we just followed the flow around us. The area around the temple was really built up with food and souvenir vendors, so it was an interesting blend of tourism, religion, and commerce. It frankly felt odd to be sightseeing at such an active place of worship. I tried not to be too obnoxious with my camera, taking photos only when I saw others doing so.  

Our next stop was Phuping Palace, the summer residence of the royal family.
Foggy grounds (before the deluge) at Phuping Palace.
It was here that we got caught in an absolute deluge! The grounds are quite extensive (and lovely), and we were about as far away from the car as possible when the monsoon struck -- it was absolutely incredible. Buckets and buckets of rain! Steve had a raincoat in his backpack, which I happily put on (to protect the camera, of course). Unfortunately, that meant Steve had nothing to block the rain. We hid under a banyan tree for a bit, but it was no good -- the rain found us there. So we made a break for it and ran back to the car, getting absolutely soaked in the process! Steve had to wear his wet t-shirt the rest of the day and it was really chilly in the car.  

Our then driver brought us to a local joint -- it was like a Thai diner -- for lunch. Everything on the menu was right around 30 baht (about $1)! And it was very good, too.
Gardens and geyser at Sankamphaeng Hot Springs.
I had pad thai and tofu soup, and Steve had “American fried rice”, which is fried rice with American foods thrown in, such as raisins, fried chicken, and hot dogs (hilarious!). It is served with a fried egg on top. Steve loved it.   

Next on the list was Sankamphaeng Hot Springs. I was thinking this would be similar to the Blue Lagoon in Reykjavik. That’s a tall order…and it was nothing like that. The grounds were very pretty, with flowers and ornamental bushes everywhere. There were two natural geysers, and you could buy eggs to boil in the hot water collected in a big cistern off to the side. There was a concrete “river” built to direct the water from the hot springs, and people were soaking their feet. It all sounds nice, but it seemed grubby and unappealing to us, so we passed on the foot soak.
Checking his egg boil. Sankamphaeng Hot Springs.
We were pretty tired at this point, and had negative attitudes. Steve was also still soaking wet, so we decided to skip our “craft village” stop, though I think it could have been very interesting to see the jewelry, wood carvings, and whatever else being made. Next time.  

For dinner we went to Whole Earth, listed in Fodor’s. It is in a beautiful location, and has a good selection of vegetarian dishes on the menu, so I was very happy there.

We were both very tired, and I am sooo sleepy as I write this. My back hurts like the devil from my crazy Thai massage yesterday, and sitting exacerbates the pain. The melancholy song on my iTunes -- I Think it’s Going to Rain by Madeleine Peyoux -- isn’t helping matters one bit! So I will sign off now, hopefully to sign in again tomorrow with a better attitude… and a happier back! Cheers.  

cmgervais says:
"RFP"...hmmm you must be speaking some sort of foreign language. :-)
Posted on: May 21, 2008
lrecht says:
Cheer up Charlene and Steve - at least you are not stuck at work responding to an RFP ;-)

I think I mentioned it before but if you get the chance, Soppong, Pai and Mae Hong Son are all pretty nice, especially Soppong if you like relatively remote stuff. The link to our Soppong entry is at http://www.travbuddy.com/travel-blogs/2539/Peaceful-Soppong-Pang-Ma-Pha-Soppong-6

Have fun!
Posted on: May 21, 2008
stabber911 says:
Yes, Steve carry the rain coat for you to use it.. (Oh! right to protect the camera!! :)I think you might have enjoy the craft village (I enjoy it when I went there when I was 12!! :) If you still are in thailand and you are facing with wet T-shirt.. my advice to you is to buy a new T-Shirt!! The cheap one which would cost something like 100 to 200 baht only!!
Posted on: May 21, 2008
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Crowds at the temple entry area. W…
Crowds at the temple entry area. …
Sticking out in the crowd. Wat Phr…
Sticking out in the crowd. Wat Ph…
Foggy grounds (before the deluge) …
Foggy grounds (before the deluge)…
Gardens and geyser at Sankamphaeng…
Gardens and geyser at Sankamphaen…
Checking his egg boil. Sankamphaen…
Checking his egg boil. Sankamphae…
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.
Stairs to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.
Stairs to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.
Leave your shoes at the door. Wat …
Leave your shoes at the door. Wat…
Musicians at Wat Phra That Doi Sut…
Musicians at Wat Phra That Doi Su…
Steve watches young musicians at W…
Steve watches young musicians at …
Golden umbrella thingie. Wat Phra …
Golden umbrella thingie. Wat Phra…
Detail. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.
Detail. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.
Worshippers on parade at Wat Phra …
Worshippers on parade at Wat Phra…
A youngster leaves an offering. Wa…
A youngster leaves an offering. W…
Monk at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.
Monk at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.
Long nail dance at Wat Phra That D…
Long nail dance at Wat Phra That …
Long nail dance at Wat Phra That D…
Long nail dance at Wat Phra That …
Entertainment at Wat Phra That Doi…
Entertainment at Wat Phra That Do…
hee hee.
hee hee.
Statue at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.
Statue at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.
Tyke plays on a statue at Wat Phra…
Tyke plays on a statue at Wat Phr…
Ringing bells (for good luck?) at …
Ringing bells (for good luck?) at…
Airport in the distance.
Airport in the distance.
There was lots of bell ringing goi…
There was lots of bell ringing go…
Chillin.
Chillin'.
Stairway to Wat Phra That Doi Suth…
Stairway to Wat Phra That Doi Sut…
Stairway to Wat Phra That Doi Suth…
Stairway to Wat Phra That Doi Sut…
Food vendor at Wat Phra That Doi S…
Food vendor at Wat Phra That Doi …
A little nature hke near Phuping P…
A little nature hke near Phuping …
It is a variety of rose.
It is a variety of rose.
Rose at Phuping Palace.
Rose at Phuping Palace.
The Log Cabin at Phuping Palace.
The Log Cabin at Phuping Palace.
Before the deluge, there was light…
Before the deluge, there was ligh…
Foggy grounds at Phuping Palace.
Foggy grounds at Phuping Palace.
Flower-lined path Phuping Palace.
Flower-lined path Phuping Palace.
Water reservoir at Phuping Palace.
Water reservoir at Phuping Palace.
Steve hides from the rain in a ban…
Steve hides from the rain in a ba…
Self portrait from our banyan tree…
Self portrait from our banyan tre…
Buckets of rain. Phuping Palace gr…
Buckets of rain. Phuping Palace g…
You can run but you cant hide. Do…
You can run but you can't hide. D…
Drenched!
Drenched!
The tourist pose. Sankamphaeng Hot…
The tourist pose. Sankamphaeng Ho…
Gardens at Sankamphaeng Hot Spring…
Gardens at Sankamphaeng Hot Sprin…
I just couldnt figure this out un…
I just couldn't figure this out u…
I guess political correctness was …
I guess political correctness was…
Girls taking photos with the sunfl…
Girls taking photos with the sunf…
Recipe for boiled eggs. Sankamphae…
Recipe for boiled eggs. Sankampha…
Eggs boiling in the hot springs. S…
Eggs boiling in the hot springs. …
Sankamphaeng Hot Springs.
Sankamphaeng Hot Springs.
King of an egg theme going on. San…
King of an egg theme going on. Sa…
Gardeners at Sankamphaeng Hot Spri…
Gardeners at Sankamphaeng Hot Spr…
Gardens at Sankamphaeng Hot Spring…
Gardens at Sankamphaeng Hot Sprin…
Chiang Mai
photo by: Stevie_Wes