Turn Down for Wat (Chiang Mai Day 3)

On my third day in Thailand, Will and I hiked up Doi Suthep, the mountain by the city. I was feeling pretty out of shape as we climbed the steep path, and the heat wasn't helping. First, we stopped at a forest temple, which had amazing statues of all sorts of guardian creatures (and Buddhas, obviously).

Here are some of the cabins where the monks live. Yes, they are as small as they look—just enough space for an average-sized person to sleep. Cozy, huh?

My legs were pretty tired already and we were only half way up the mountain, so we grabbed a rot daeng to Wat Phra Doi Suthep, the giant, ornate temple on top of the mountain. It's a major tourist site as much as it is a religious site.

After going through a big gate and passing through a market (where everything costs twice as much as it does down in the city, though that is still very cheap by American standards), we came to the steps up to the temple, which have seven-headed nagas running all the way up both sides. Nagas are a kind of Buddhist deity that looks like a snake or a dragon. According to Buddhist legend, one time when the Buddha was meditating in a forest, it started raining and a naga rose out of the ground and shielded the Buddha from the rain with his seven heads. There are pairs of naga guarding the entryways to most of the wats in Chiang Mai, but they all look slightly different. The ones at Wat Phra Doi Suthep were the most ornate I saw though.

There were little girls in traditional garb sprinkled up the sides of the steps asking tourists for money to take pictures with them.

At the top of the steps, we bought tickets to go inside the outer gate of the temple. Then we took off our shoes and walked up a few more stairs to the inner courtyard, where there is a giant golden chedi surrounded by other buildings.

People were buying lotus blossoms and walking around the chedi praying, and around the inside walls of the courtyard, there were Buddha statues and paintings depicting stories about Buddha.

Ignoring the signs that said not to ring the bells
Ignoring the signs that said not to ring the bells

After we were done looking around, we hopped in a rot daeng to go back down the mountain and were surprised to find that inside, it kind of looked like an 80s party bus.

Then we got lunch, two-hour Thai massages (which are amazing, but nothing like massages in the States), and walked in a few more temples on our way home before calling it a day.