Like most visitors to Chiang Mai, we also made the trip up to Wat Prathat Doi Suthep. Located on a mountain overlooking the city, it is visible as a faintly gold-colored spire and set of buildings during the day and is well-lit at night (just glancing up, we thought it could have been a low-flying airplane except for the brightly lit chedi).
The Wat is in a national park, so once we passed the zoo on the outskirts of town the number of buildings drops precipitously and the surroundings become jungle. We went on a cloudy, cooler day, but the temperature kept dropping as we climbed, a nice respite from the lowland.
A few fruit stands are situated near viewpoints on the way up and the top is a full-fledged temple complex with market and dozens of food vendors. The temple is separate from most of the hubbub and is up a 300+ step flight of stairs. We paid the foreigner fee for entry at the top and went in. The courtyard is a semi-continuous shoe pile.
The Wat is an active temple and so many of those visiting are there to worship. The main gilded chedi is in an interior courtyard and many take the time to pray and circle it with a lotus flower. Images of Buddha abound and, like the other Wats, everything is intricately carved, gilded, and painted and flowers and bright fabrics adorn many of the altars and trees around the Wat.
Offerings of coins can be made by lighting candles and dipping the coin in the dripping wax and then attaching it to a board near one of the altars. Alternately, there are donation boxes for the various needs of the temple complex and the monks.
There are also bells for devotees to ring and candles kept burning with oil poured onto them by the faithful.
To the right side of the the main temple is a deck overlooking the city. The airport is visible on the nearer side of town (our temporary home is located a bit to the left of the runway).
Dogs have a particularly good time near temples in Thailand. They are willing to eat anything visitors drop or give to them and act as a pet/guard dog combo.
We ate lunch at the market near the bottom of the steps (and paid a higher price to do so, since the day was cooler on the mountain and though the food was not as good as the rest we’ve eaten).
A word about the roads: Driving up is an adventure. We caught a red truck by the Ford dealership near the old city’s north gate. We shared the back with 7 other people (so 9 total on the way up) and were part of a group of 13 on the way down (2 were in the truck’s cab). The road up to Wat Prathat Doi Suthep is three lanes so vehicles having trouble with the grade can go slower. At least that is the theory. In practice, everyone drives in the center, even around blind curves. And there are dozens and dozens of blind curves. Even swerving into oncoming traffic we were being passed by vehicles even farther over the center line. On the way down a full-sized tour bus was stuck (with rocks under the wheels) on the final blind curve before the Wat. I hope it didn’t cause any other accidents as everyone was veering around it at speed to take the corner in the single remaining lane. Cyclists take on the mountain in high numbers, but I am not as brave as they are.