Day 170: Chiang Mai, Thailand. We were up super early to head out and hike the Monk’s Trail up to Wat Doi Suthep, a Buddhist temple on the top of nearby Suthep mountain.
We could have got a taxi to the start of the hike, but decided to walk the 5.5km instead. It was a cool and overcast morning, perfect for hiking. As we walked out of town we could just about see Wat Doi Suthep through the trees, perched up on the mountain in front of us – from where we were, it looked an awfully long way up.
We walked west out through the town, eventually passing Chiang Mai Zoo, and up a steep paved road to the start of the walk.
The Monk’s trail up through the forest was fabulous. It’s a little rough and pretty steep in places, but very easy to follow, with strips of orange monks robes tied around trees at intervals. It’s a popular hike with locals too – we passed lots of other walkers, and some very keen people running up and down the trail, somehow managing to stay upright.
It’s autumn here now, and lots of fallen leaves were piling up along the way. Some nice cover for the oodles of snakes that are no doubt lurking in the forest.
Roughly half way up the trail is another temple, called Wat Pha Lat. The temple itself isn’t large or particularly ornate, but it’s very pretty and in lovely surroundings, with shrines, gardens, a rocky stream and some great views across the city.
We continued up the trail, reaching a main road where we needed to cross over to the continue the trail up the mountain. There were big signs saying ‘Construction area, do not enter’ and the route to the trail was taped off. Lil went and spoke to the workmen and asked if we could climb over the tape to access the trail. They nodded yes, and didn’t seem at all bothered – over the course of the day we realised that stacks of people were doing the same thing. The guys were laying new power lines and further up the trail we had to step precariously over the new cables and conduits before continuing up the path. Clearly OH&S isn’t much of a thing here.
The second half of the trail was even steeper than the first half. We eventually arrived at the main road again, and walked a few hundred metres to reach Wat Doi Suthep. We could see straight away we’d arrived at temple tourist land, with thousands of people milling on the streets and in the temple complex itself.
The temple definitely wasn’t our favourite place. It’s hellishly touristy, with endless opportunities for people to part with their money by buying flowers, candles, incense, having photographs taking or donating to a list of different causes. But on a positive note, there wasn’t a single monkey in sight.
As we walked up the steps to the temple, we spotted three little girls dressed in what we assume is some sort of traditional costume. They were posing for photographs with people – we guess in return for money, though we didn’t actually see any money changing hands.
When we’d finished at the temple (which didn’t take long), we walked up to a viewpoint, then retraced our steps back down to the town. The return trail was easier because it was downhill, but also tougher in parts due to the slippery mud. A little bafflingly, we saw a few girls walking the trail in flip flops and thin sandals – hopefully they managed to stay upright.
As we walked into the old town area, lanterns were being taken down and packed into the back of trucks – the end of the Loy Krathong and Yi Peng festival for another year. Next up is the Chiang Mai Pet Fair from 14th to 17th of November, the biggest pet event in Thailand with a theme of ‘My Pet, My Super Hero’. While we doubt it will attract many tourists, perhaps we’ll see some superman and superwoman attired moggies roaming around town.
In total we walked 22km, a decent chunk of which was uphill, so we were happy to put our feet up for a bit when we reached our guesthouse.
This evening we went for a couple of beers at the Sax Bar (though again there wasn’t any live music). We had a lovely chat with a couple from Canada who spend 6 months of the year at home, and 6 months travelling to avoid the Canadian winter. Afterwards we went to a nearby eatery for dinner, where it took forever for our food to arrive. We only got three of the five items we ordered, but couldn’t be bothered asking for the missing food, or we might well still be there now.
Tomorrow we’re having a catch up day, to do some travel planning and a large pile of washing, and Lil needs to do another chunk of her Teaching English as a Foreign Language course. Our legs will also be happy to have a rest.