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.

28367565141_2d789f6d23_bTo get there from Bangkok, I took a ferry to the historic center, then an overnight bus to Chiang Mai. 🙂28352623221_93253b164a_cCost: 20 USD for the bus ticket, including on-board dinner and snacks. Tickets booked online with 12GO Asia.27829414774_9af38a1632_c

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.”

28447862385_5475ac0804_cChiang 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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28352623351_9b487edba3_cIt was even recognized by Travel + Leisure as being the world’s best cities for tourism.27847134944_5f7bb7c6bc_zBooking 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.27815180503_a48f408f22_cTaking advantage of the crisp mountain air, this royal residence is able to grow gorgeous flowers not normally found in Thailand. 🙂27815180493_720512bd0e_c27815180543_7de9dd99d2_c27815057174_4102f21dc7_c27815180523_77be773ce7_c27815180483_c8450c8489_c
27815180453_63f6c2fb84_c28352652881_c069ea0981_c28352652871_8792f72ec7_c27815057224_c8e49e66f9_c27815057254_8e3a1daf8c_c27815057284_8d91c176f0_bCost: 1.50 USD entry ticket28367858861_3646835d0d_c

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. 27815057324_e61f2810a4_bIt’s quite a jaunt to reach the temple, with over 300 stairs to climb along this jewel encrusted serpent staircase. 28433199106_787c33716e_cIt’s all worth it to view the breathtaking golden shrine, with a rather interesting history.
28366849661_8bd0c34523_bIt was said that the temple was built in this location due to a mythical white elephant. 27853818693_a1c11f540e_cAccording 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. 28366849731_25052d67e7_cFor Thais, this temple is a sacred site of worship, and for foreigners, the site offers insight into Buddhist teachings.28366849681_f170dc6528_cAlong the temple walls, are murals depicting the life of Buddha, used to educate visitors and apprentice monks alike. 28470197155_8a00ee1d9d_cOverall it was worth the trip, and in the end, visitors can sign a golden robe, which will encircle the temple base. 🙂28433199126_8e032309c9_cCost: free entry, but donations are appreciated.

Doi Inthanon National Park 

28367565141_2d789f6d23_bOn my second day in Chiang Mai, I chose to join a tour to visit Doi Inthanon National Park.
27833490834_c01b4fa53a_cThe 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. 28447862435_812ca444d1_c

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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.28449915485_7a8feacfbf_cFrom the village, we moved on to visit both the Siribhume and Wachirathan Waterfall.27833660884_b106a9c95d_c28167322120_0a57d29bae_c27833660784_a033c82fe8_c27833660804_203da75fb2_c28449915545_c5ae489017_c28449915505_af9ca951d4_cI chose to follow the dirt path leading up this waterfall, which gave me the opportunity to appreciate the natural surroundings.27833490654_f2319554e4_c28449915565_094daf5241_cSomething so beautifully simple as ants diligently working on a log. 🙂28449915575_c8b5fb0e20_cI also got the chance to refresh by splashing my face with the cool water flowing across the rock. ❤27833490684_7b31ef7cc7_cAfterwards, our group enjoyed lunch adjacent to the falls, sampling bits of spicy chicken, mushroom and omelet.28449915595_69d5be8433_c//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsI 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.27833490764_c066f8ff7c_c//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsDSC_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”

27833490804_1fa6534629_cThe air at the highest point was cool and crisp, with a wet moss coating the trees and ancient shrines.27833490824_7142ff2a0f_cFrom 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.28167322110_194e7fe431_cThe lavender pagoda for the Queen and the brown pagoda for the King.28433199096_907a622c39_cThe pagodas enshrine Buddha relics, and are covered in wooden carvings depicting the enlightenment of Buddha.28167322000_1d018a4afb_cIt was almost otherworldly, walking around the striking temples, surrounded by dense forest and a low-hanging fog.28167322040_d1329f3ef9_cI 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. 😥28167322070_ce1021e597_cWell 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. 😮28167491060_9a9186a479_cTaking risks paid off, since I got a spectacular view from the top. :DCost: free entry, but donations appreciated. 😀28367565181_3ece46513c_cNow as I’ll mention more in my next post, opium use and distribution had been a big industry in northern Thailand for many years.28413936266_4c0fd73521_cAfter 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. 😀28167490970_4d4ccd8356_cEssentially, the King established farms in locations like Doi Inthanon, which fund the growth of high quality produce and educates locals on modern agricultural practices.28167490990_823c53d6bb_c
The farm itself is gorgeous, with fresh flower gardens and guesthouses on-site.

28371848141_fe7fbabffd_c28167491020_9ae86eac01_cI especially appreciated the updated facilities, with clean bathrooms, free WiFi and an organic cafe.28360833092_dec49626a6_cAt their cafe shop is where I also learned you can still look sexy in a raincoat. Fashion: 1 Rain: 0 😛28360802112_5fa1f3e743_cAnyway, after visiting the farm, we were taken to the local market to purchase a few of these high quality items. 28418158296_6990ae6d95_cHighlights 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.27833660774_4b5a68110d_cOverall, 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. 😀
28373215801_4165d39cd1_cAnyway, 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. 😀

2 thoughts on “Travel in Chiang Mai: Doi Suthep and Doi Inthanon National Park

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