Chiang Mai Travel Blog› entry 53 of 56 › view all entries
November 12th, 2009 – by: fromtheblock
Boasting almost as many temples as Bangkok (in a much smaller square footage), I took a sticky walk through the top 3.
Wat (temple) Phra Singh was established in 1345 when King Saen Muang Ma was reigning the Lanna Thai Kingdom.
Wat Chiang Man is the oldest temple within the city walls, erected in 1296. The temple is home to two famous Buddha images: crystal buddha and marble Buddha. Crustal Buddha was made over 1800 years ago and is believed to have the power to bring seasonal rains. The marble Buddha was made in India over 2000 years ago. Behind the main temple is the Sacred Elephant Encircled Stupa (stupa: a monument containing Buddha images). It was erected where the old sleeping quarters were originally placed during the building of new Chiang Mai. Enshrined is a hair relic of the buddha within the chedi (interchangeable term for stupa).
One of the north's most sacred temples, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, is a 20 minute moto ride up a hilltop. The sight was chosen by a Buddha relic that was mounted ontop a white elephant. The elephant dropped dead of exhaustion and fatigue on Doi Suthep, marking it as the relics new resting place. The walk from the parking lot is a heafty 306 steps. The temple offers great views down on Chiang Mai city and a host of Buddha images. In one of the rooms you can, I'm assuming, be blessed/given luck, by one of the monks. You walk in and kneel down as he chants something and sprinkles water over the group. Then, forming single sex lines, you go up to another monk who chants something again and ties a white string around your wrist.
As with all Thai towns, Chiang mai offers up many a market.
Ah...but then there was Pai...
My favorite place in Thailand!
Taking a short break from Chiang Mai, I left my newly acquired travel buddy (from Bangkok), and headed 3 hours northwest to a quaint littly town nestled between the mountains. VW minivans are still driven around town, hippie style laidback vibes are omnipresent, and the small roads offer up peaceful motorbiking and beautiful scenery.
If I were to buy an "I (Heart)" shirt, it would have said "I (heart) Pai." It felt more like an authentic Thai town, especially on the drive up. Granted, the tourist trail is alive and well here, but the meager size of the town offers the sense of a close-knit community and just across the shaky bamboo bridge are wooden huts on stilts as guesthouses.
It's been 3 weeks in Thailand, and what a fantastic country. It's so easy to travel around, everyone is ridiculously friendly and eager to help and they love to chat. After New Zealand, I'd say Thailand is my second favorite country to visit... although the list isn't finished yet... I hit my next (and last new) country on Thursday: Cambodia!
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