Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and the Night Bazaar

For our last day in Chiang Mai we took a trip to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep just west of Chiang Mai in the mountainside. The locals say you haven't seen Chiang Mai if you haven't seen this Wat, they consider it very much apart of the culture of Chiang Mai. So it was a must see for us, even though we were getting a bit sick of temples. According to my Lonely Planet Thailand guide book:
The temple was first established in 1383 under King Keu Naone and enjoys a fantastically mystical birth story. A visiting monk from Sukhothai instructed the Lanna king to take the twin of a miraculous relic (enshrined at Wat Suan Dok) to the mountain and establish a temple. The relic was mounted on the back of a white elephant, which was allowed to wander until it 'chose' a site on which a wat could be built to enshrine it. The elephant stopped and died at a spot on Doi Suthep, 13 km west of Chiang Mai, where the temple was built in the Year of the Goat. ... The temple is famously photographed for it's gold-plated chedi, topped by a five tiered umbrella erected in honor of the city's independence from Burma and its union with Thailand. It is the temples chedi (and the sacred Buddha relic enshrined withing) not a resident Buddha image that attracts the majority of worshipers. The chedi has many Lanna-style characteristics, including the gate around the base, the redented square pedestal and the octagonally shaped bell tower. Flanking the chedi are several within containing Lanna-style Buddhas with their distinctive fat facial and body features, two upturned footpads, shortened chest bands and lotus-shaped topknot. 
The temple was just as beautiful in person as the guide book made it out to be. We were lucky enough to get a very sunny day and the temple of gold was very shiny making it very impressive to look at.
The surrounding Buddha statues as well as offering stations were something to take in as well. I bought offerings for both Dale and I and we had a peaceful Buddhist moment. We each took a moment to light our incense and candle, and lay down our lotus in front of the Buddha statues while saying a little prayer. 
Then we walked the temple grounds and admired the giant gongs and rows of bells.
We sat for a while overlooking the city of Chiang Mai from above. The temples in town are beautiful as well but I thought this was the most impressive. Partly because of the pilgrimage to get there and partly because of the chedi.
On our way back into town we stopped at a hillside tribe village. Chiang Mai is so far north it is considered part of the golden triangle with the neighboring regions of Burma, Vietnam, and Laos. The golden triangle was, from the 1920's until only several years ago when Afghanistan surpassed, the world's leading producer of opiates, mainly heroin. I didn't really know this when I was planning our trip to Chiang Mai but our driver on the way back into town from the temple stopped us at the hillside tribe village and walked us around and told us the history of the people as well as how to make the drug. Random.
The Thai King has been doing an excellent job of helping the tribal people get educated and earn incomes in other ways. So the drug culture is dying down but walking through the village you can definitely see the effects of long term drug use in the faces of the people. Most notably in the village, we saw this rooster in a cage being showed off for bets on his upcoming illegal cock fight. Our driver told us this is very illegal but since the mountain sides are so difficult to travel through, the people have enough warning when the cops are coming to disband and not get caught and so the continue with the cock fighting. Poor little rooster.
Back in the city that evening we went for dinner at a fancier restaurant on the riverside aptly named The Riverside. The views are great along the water with all the lights and the reflections.
The food was great too! Dale got a curry cooked in a coconut and I got the Northern regions specialty Kow Soy. Both were great! I could go for some Kow Soy now, I loved the curry with noodles and the pickled vegetables to take the edge off the heat. Yummy!!

After dinner we walked back to our hotel through the night bazaar. We weren't quite ready to begin acquiring souvenirs to carry around since we had just over two weeks in Thailand still but there were more than enough stalls to walk through and haggle with if you feel so inclined.
One food stall we spotted was selling fried insects!!! That's something I genuinely never thought I would see.
Here's a close up on the fried larvae, cockroaches, and grasshoppers.
Not only did I think I would never see this, I didn't think I would ever try them! But these guys in the picture below were at the fried insect booth too and they bought some and harped on Dale and I until we took the plunge. And I wish I would say it was gross and disgusting but I have to report back, fried insects are actually alright. I wanted to hate them, but they just taste like tiny chips really. After eating the bugs these boys hijacked us and before we knew it we were drinking red bull vodka buckets and dancing to Adele all night at Zoe in Yellow.
This random whirlwind of a night might just be my favorite from the whole trip. Who doesn't love making new gay besties over fried insects?!
Love Always,


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