CHIANG MAI TEMPLES
I've been in Chiang Mai for over a month now and I have been so busy that aside from the odd Thai massage, yoga and exploring the many coffee shops, I've hardly done any culture at all! So this morning I decided to hit the mountain and check out some of Chiang Mai's most sacred l temples.
First stop Wat Phra That Doi Suthep (AKA The Golden Temple). If you like shiny gold things then you are going to LOVE this place.
It only takes 30mins from central Chiang Mai. If you are like me and you haven't got a scooter for fear of bloodshed, then its easy to get an Uber to Chiang Mai Zoo, where you can find songthaews (shared red cars) to take you up the mountain to the temple for 40BAHT with 10 people, or 80 BAHT solo. This is the way to go as an Uber from central Chiang Mai costs around 400BAHT.
When you arrive at the temple, you will walk up a beautifully decorated stairway, 309 steps. With ornamental dragons on both sides going all the way up. On the way you will see some gorgeous village children dressed in traditional clothing, with painted rose cheeks offering you to take a picture with them in exchange for money.
Then I saw this little monkey looking like she's had a bad day in the office : (
Casual child labour?! Hmm.
There are about a million golden statues and the murals painted inside the temple walls are stunning, you can grab a guide and he will tell you mystical tales of reincarnation.
When you are ready to leave the Golden Temple, you can pick up a songthaew (shared red car) on the way out. I asked them to take me to the next temple - Wat Sakithaka or Wat Pha Lat (AKA The Hidden Temple). What Pha Lat translates to 'Monastery at the Sloping Rock'. This temple is half way down the mountain and often overlooked by tourists as its a little more hidden away in the jungle. Making it a much more peaceful visit that the touristy Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. And its definitely worth the trip. Such a magical, green mossy paradise. After you see the temple walk down and see the waterfall, you can walk over the bridge and see a pretty special view of Chiang Mai.
If you are feeling more adventurous, it is possible to trek the monks trail from Chiang Mai to Wat Pha Lat, which takes about 45 mins. You just follow the trees wrapped in orange robes. I would like to do this next time as I imagine it will be more of a reward to get to paradise at the end.
But, in an Uber from the city it is only 90BAHT to get there, if you're feeling lazy.
The red car was filled with tourists heading back down to the city so I only had 10 mins to wander around the Hidden Temple. I would have loved to spend more time there, taking in the view.