Flight attendants are worth their weight in gold. The flight from Kunming, China to Chiang Mai, a bare 1 1/2 hours, was disturbed by turbulence a few times making for tense periods. Each time we were told to relax, there was nothing to worry about – and, along with muttered prayers, it worked. I arrived, sailed through immigration and was greeted by my daughter. She fairly quickly decided to introduce d me to bargaining for a taxi in Thailand and the Thai Tuk Tuks – we have taken many of those in the past six days.
Chiang Mai is a city of colour, pace, mayhem and loose structure – buildings, vehicles and people. Golden stupas, white, Jade, glass Buddhas, temples of stone, teak, brick. Greenery mixed in a cascade of purple, pink, white, yellow, orange flowers. Bells, chanting, light banter provide an undercurrent murmur.
Not all the time, just enough to pick it up every once in a while. Of note is how little drivers of any vehicle honk their horns – unless foolish Canadian visitors are unaware of which side of the rode they are on. Vehicles are driven opposite side as in Canada.
English is spoken by many people here, of course in varying degrees of ability, but quite useful for me as I did absolutely no research before heading here. I have since heard many visitors are even less prepared! I admit it has been rather nice to think in one language only; except I tend to be less willing to be forgiving when things are not seeming to be understood.
My first morning here I headed out alone and had noodle soup for breakfast from a small street side place. It was delicious!
I had gone in search of coffee with no success so. My daughter warned me that any poundal I may have shed after all my walking and stair climbing in China would most likely sneak back on. Then we headed to the Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, first in a Tuk Tuk then a Songthaew (translated: two benches), small red, open passengers vehicles that people wave down, say where to and negotiate a price.
We ended up getting onboard with eight Chinese young women – they were rather surprised when I asked where they were from in Mandarin. (I still love doing that so long as the conversation does not stray too far) we were told to return to the same Songthaew in one hour.
Perhaps the most famous and important temple in Chiang Mai, built on top of Doi Suthep Hill, about 1000metres above sea level, is the revered golden PhraThat (chedi) of Wat Phra. The temple was built in 1383 to enshrine Buddha’s relics. You can drive uphill to the higher platform but nearly everyone either walked up or down the 290 steps (some brave souls did both) up to the hilltop or took the funicular for an extra fee.
The funicular was rather disappointing as the only view is of the tracks and a wall. The views from the terrace are fabulous, I needed a panoramic camera. When we were there a shroud of mist started to cover the city of Chiang Mai town and surrounding countrysides then dispersed as though by magic.
“According to legend, a magical relic multiplied itself just before it was enshrined at Wat Suan Dok in Chiang Mai. A suitable place therefore had to be found to shelter the new relic.
Unable to decide on the site, the king placed the relic in a portal shrine on the back of a white elephant and waited to see where the animal would take it. Eventually, the elephant walked up to the top of Doi Suthep mountain, trumpeted three times, turned around three times, knelt down, and died. The temple was immediately built on the miraculously-chosen site.” (Sacred Destinations)
As we were weaving our way through the food and tourist stalls, to go down the 290 steps, we came across a group of men readying a large, still wrapped, statue of Buddha, with ropes, a makeshift track and plenty of brawn, to be pulled up to the temple. We never did find out if they had been dragging and adjusting this from the bottom of the mountain although it was quite possible.
They allowed us to take some photos, very few onlookers were around and I felt rather privileged to see the beginning of the installation of yet another Buddha. It reminded me of when I first ever saw a totem pole raising. We may never know where the statue was eventually placed.
Our hour was up, we climbed down the 290 steps, piled into our Songthaew with the others in the group and headed down the mountain. My daughter and I decided we needed some coffee and kitty therapy at the Catmosphere. I was feeling quite lonely without Mozzy. We spent a lovely time enjoying coffee, coversation with a family from the U.S., and of ourse visiting cats.