To get there from Bangkok, I took a ferry to the historic center, then an overnight bus to Chiang Mai. 🙂Cost: 20 USD for the bus ticket, including on-board dinner and snacks. Tickets booked online with 12GO Asia.
What to See in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai has over 300 Buddhist temples, all with distinctive architecture and design.
It was even recognized by Travel + Leisure as being the world’s best cities for tourism.
Booking tours and transport in Chiang Mai is not only easy, but incredibly cheap. When faced with the decision of what to do in the city, most people say, “Do everything!” 😀
Doi Suthep National Park
To get to Doi Suthep National Park I took a ‘songthaew’ or shared taxi truck from the Chiang Mai University. I sat next to two girls from South Korea who both had fabulous nail art. 😀
Our songthaew driver charged $4 to visit two highlights of the national park: Bhubing Palace and Wat Doi Suthep.
The appeal at Bhubing Palace lies not within the building itself, but from the majestic gardens that surround it.Taking advantage of the crisp mountain air, this royal residence is able to grow gorgeous flowers not normally found in Thailand. 🙂 Cost: 1.50 USD entry ticket
Wat Doi Suthep
Wat Doi Suthep was established in the 14th century as a Buddhist monastery, and remains active to this day. It’s quite a jaunt to reach the temple, with over 300 stairs to climb along this jewel encrusted serpent staircase. It’s all worth it to view the breathtaking golden shrine, with a rather interesting history.
It was said that the temple was built in this location due to a mythical white elephant.
According to legend, a Buddha relic was strapped to the back of a white elephant who was released into the forest. He ran loose until finding this spot where he trumpeted three times and died. They decided the elephant must want the relic to remain here, so they built this temple around it. For Thais, this temple is a sacred site of worship, and for foreigners, the site offers insight into Buddhist teachings. Along the temple walls, are murals depicting the life of Buddha, used to educate visitors and apprentice monks alike. Overall it was worth the trip, and in the end, visitors can sign a golden robe, which will encircle the temple base. 🙂Cost: free entry, but donations are appreciated.
Doi Inthanon National Park
On my second day in Chiang Mai, I chose to join a tour to visit Doi Inthanon National Park.
The national park is known for many hill tribe villages, and our first stop was to visit the White Karen Village, known for their coffee and woven handicrafts.
The term White Karen came from the white garments that single females would wear in the village, only changing to darker colors once they had married.
They also sell cups of fresh roasted coffee in the village for less than $1 per cup. I enjoyed my coffee with Noi Noi, a Thai tourist and chemistry professor at Chiang Mai University.From the village, we moved on to visit both the Siribhume and Wachirathan Waterfall. I chose to follow the dirt path leading up this waterfall, which gave me the opportunity to appreciate the natural surroundings.Something so beautifully simple as ants diligently working on a log. 🙂I also got the chance to refresh by splashing my face with the cool water flowing across the rock. ❤Afterwards, our group enjoyed lunch adjacent to the falls, sampling bits of spicy chicken, mushroom and omelet. I sat with three girls from Spain. They thought the food was too spicy, but the egg was OK, since it reminded them of a tortilla, or a Spanish omelet made with potato.From there we visited the park’s two main attractions: the highest point in Thailand and the stunning twin pagodas.
Thailand’s Highest Spot A.K.A “The Roof of Thailand”
The air at the highest point was cool and crisp, with a wet moss coating the trees and ancient shrines.
From there we drove down to the royal twin pagodas.
Doi Inthanon Twin Pagodas
The twin pagodas were built to honor the 60th birthday of the King and Queen of Thailand.The lavender pagoda for the Queen and the brown pagoda for the King.The pagodas enshrine Buddha relics, and are covered in wooden carvings depicting the enlightenment of Buddha.
It was almost otherworldly, walking around the striking temples, surrounded by dense forest and a low-hanging fog.
I was told the best view of the pagodas was from the Ang Kha Luang Trail, which is unfortunately closed from May to November for the rainy season. 😥
Well luckily, as I was wandering the grounds, I saw a tourist walking up a dirt path marked, “Danger: no trespassing.” It seemed to be posted due to the concern for slippery mud from rainfall. Anyway, since it was a dry day, I decided to follow him up the path to catch killer views of the pagoda. 😮Taking risks paid off, since I got a spectacular view from the top. 😀Cost: free entry, but donations appreciated. 😀
Now as I’ll mention more in my next post, opium use and distribution had been a big industry in northern Thailand for many years.After the King of Thailand abolished this business, he knew that he would have to find a way to help these hill tribe communities generate a comparable income, enough to prevent a black market drug sale.
I especially appreciated the updated facilities, with clean bathrooms, free WiFi and an organic cafe.
At their cafe shop is where I also learned you can still look sexy in a raincoat. Fashion: 1 Rain: 0 😛Anyway, after visiting the farm, we were taken to the local market to purchase a few of these high quality items. Highlights included avocados, macadamia nuts, dried strawberries and local fruit wines, such as lychee and cantaloupe. The market staff was very friendly and offered numerous samples of their goods as well.
Overall, this visit gave me so much respect for the King, knowing he wanted to not only abolish dangerous drug sales, but also improve the livelihood for his people. Two thumbs up! 😀
Tour cost: 30 USD for a 10-hour tour of Doi Inthanon National Park, which included round-trip pickup, village visits, national park fee, lunch and guide. My guide Jun-Jun was very knowledgeable of each historic site, and also very helpful at pointing out the best bathrooms to use. 😛
I chose the operator, Journey Tours, conveniently booked through my hostel.
My accommodation, Safe and Sound Hostel, was a dime a dozen, as there are hundreds to choose from in Chiang Mai. Overall, most hostels charge $5 per night, and mine even had a decent rooftop patio with beautiful sunset views. 😀
Anyway, I had to get a good night’s rest, as the next day I would be touring both the Chiang Rai White Temple and The Golden Triangle. Stay tuned to hear all about it. Until then. Take care everyone. 😀