Travel in Chiang Mai: Doi Suthep and Doi Inthanon National Park

Greeting all! 😀
This past week Thailand celebrated Asalha Puja, a pivotal Buddhist holiday. As such, we had a five-day holiday where I retreated to the mountains of northern Thailand.

IMG_20160720_121751To get there from Bangkok, I took a ferry to the historic center, then an overnight bus to Chiang Mai. 🙂20160715_174651Cost: 20 USD for the bus ticket, including on-board dinner and snacks. Tickets booked online with 12GO Asia.ss

What to See in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is the most culturally significant city in northern Thailand.
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Wat Chedi Luang
 It was once the capital of the Lan Na Kingdom, also known as, “The Kingdom of a Million Rice Fields.”

DSC_3508Chiang Mai has over 300 Buddhist temples, all with distinctive architecture and design.

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Wat Hua Khuang

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Wat Lok Molee
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Wat Suan Dok
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Wat Phra Singh

It was even recognized by Travel + Leisure as being the world’s best cities for tourism.chiang mai

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!” 😀

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tours booked through my hostel
Chiang Mai is situated near two of Thailand’s best national parks, Doi Suthep and Doi Inthanon, so I chose to tour those sites first. 😀

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. 😀

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TL: university coffee shop, TR: elephant sculpted bushes, BL: cute kid on swing set, BR: fabulous nail art 😛

Our songthaew driver charged $4 to visit two highlights of the national park: Bhubing Palace and Wat Doi Suthep.

Bhubing Palace

The appeal at Bhubing Palace lies not within the building itself, but from the majestic gardens that surround it.DSC_3280Taking advantage of the crisp mountain air, this royal residence is able to grow gorgeous flowers not normally found in Thailand. 🙂DSC_3272 DSC_3293DSC_3317DSC_3311DSC_3269DSC_3265DSC_3263DSC_3245 DSC_3304 DSC_3308 DSC_3319Cost: 1.50 USD entry ticketDSC_3231

Wat Doi Suthep

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Wat Doi Suthep was established in the 14th century as a Buddhist monastery, and remains active to this day. DSC_3327It’s quite a jaunt to reach the temple, with over 300 stairs to climb along this jewel encrusted serpent staircase. DSC_3356 It’s all worth it to view the breathtaking golden shrine, with a rather interesting history.
DSC_3345It was said that the temple was built in this location due to a mythical white elephant. 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. DSC_3343For Thais, this temple is a sacred site of worship, and for foreigners, the site offers insight into Buddhist teachings. DSC_3348Along the temple walls, are murals depicting the life of Buddha, used to educate visitors and apprentice monks alike. DSC_3336Overall it was worth the trip, and in the end, visitors can sign a golden robe, which will encircle the temple base. 🙂ewatCost: free entry, but donations are appreciated.

Doi Inthanon National Park 

IMG_0150newOn my second day in Chiang Mai, I chose to join a tour to visit Doi Inthanon National Park.
DSC_3563The 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. DSC_3515

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traditional Karen village home

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.

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L: dress for married women, R:  dress for single ladies

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.coffeeFrom the village, we moved on to visit both the Siribhume and Wachirathan Waterfall.DSC_3634DSC_3624 DSC_3626DSC_3627 DSC_3535DSC_3534I chose to follow the dirt path leading up this waterfall, which gave me the opportunity to appreciate the natural surroundings.DSC_3538DSC_3539Something so beautifully simple as ants diligently working on a log. 🙂DSC_3543I also got the chance to refresh by splashing my face with the cool water flowing across the rock. ❤DSC_3541Afterwards, our group enjoyed lunch adjacent to the falls, sampling bits of spicy chicken, mushroom and omelet. DSC_3548I 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.DSC_3550From 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”

DSC_3554The air at the highest point was cool and crisp, with a wet moss coating the trees and ancient shrines.DSC_3556

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.DSC_3612The lavender pagoda for the Queen and the brown pagoda for the King.twin chedisThe pagodas enshrine Buddha relics, and are covered in wooden carvings depicting the enlightenment of Buddha.
DSC_3570It was almost otherworldly, walking around the striking temples, surrounded by dense forest and a low-hanging fog.

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Visitors can take either the stairs or adjacent escalator to the top. How accommodating! 😀

DSC_3578I 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. 😮pathTaking risks paid off, since I got a spectacular view from the top. 😀IMG_0147newCost: 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.DSC_3456After 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.

As such, he created the Thai Royal Project. 😀DSC_3645Essentially, the King established farms in locations like Doi Inthanon, which fund the growth of high quality produce and educates locals on modern agricultural practices.DSC_3647
The farm itself is gorgeous, with fresh flower gardens and guesthouses on-site.

DSC_3658DSC_3651I especially appreciated the updated facilities, with clean bathrooms, free WiFi and an organic cafe.
cafe1At their cafe shop is where I also learned you can still look sexy in a raincoat. Fashion: 1 Rain: 0 😛20160718_153424Anyway, after visiting the farm, we were taken to the local market to purchase a few of these high quality items. DSC_3620Highlights 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.DSC_3621

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.

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Safe and Sound Hostel in Chiang Mai. Apparently loud is now a verb. 😛

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. 😀
IMG_0163Anyway, 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. 😀

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