A Taste of Ancient History and Culture

A Taste of Ancient History and Culture

Here’s the dorm room at Mojito Garden 2 that we crashed in after our 12 hour bus ride.  Around 11am Ansel, John, Nicole, and I were ready to explore the city.  We were perfectly placed right in the heart of the old city square and after our first walk, we realized the square is very small and easy to navigate.  The main attractions in the city square are the numerous wats.  However, women have to have their shoulders and knees covered to enter these places of worship.  We headed back to the hostel to change.  Photographs and even video do not do justice to the beauty and serenity of these temples.  We visited Wat Phan Tao, Wat Chedi Luang, and Wat Chiang Man.  It was difficult to chose which ones to visit, but I made my decisions based on the Buddha statues that were contained in each one.DSC_8922

Wat Chedi Luang was initially constructed in the 14th century and some restoration happened in the 1990s.  It once housed the Emerald Buddha before it was moved to Luang Prabang.  We entered the temple and some type of ceremony was happening.  It was mesmerizing.

DSC_8944Thai people were sitting in rows and there were strings hanging down from the ceiling.  I believe these strings all connect to the Buddha at the front.  There was a table filled with monks and it appeared as if some new monks were being welcomed into monkhood.  We stood for a while just observing and taking it all in.  Behind the temple the old ruins of Chedi Luang are evident.  Most interesting was seeing the elephants along the side of the structure, although they were reconstructed and not the original stone. DSC_8992 After some more wandering and awe-inspiring buddhas, I ventured on to find a wat containing two sacred buddhas: Phra Sae Tang Kamani (Crystal Buddha) and Phra Sila Buddha (Marble Buddha).  They were very small and in a case, but it was still impressive to see such old relics.  Elephants around chedis (pagodas) must be a common feature of Lanna (Northern Thailand) architecture.


DSC_9015   I wrapped up the night with a few beers and a game of pool with Ansel.  The next day we packed up and grabbed two songteaws to take us up to Doi Suthep, which is a national park and has an amazingly large wat.  The wat was breathtaking, but hard to appreciate because of all the tourists.  One interesting thing about it is the legend of the white elephant.  The story goes that the elephant trumpeted, circled three times, then laid down and died in this spot.  This led the king to build the temple there because he took it as a sign.DSC_9039IMG_0791

After spending some time walking around, observing, rubbing a fat buddha’s belly, and getting blessed by a monk we decided to head back down the large staircase.  John’s friend that has been living in Chiang Mai for over a year met us and brought us to a waterfall.  Unfortunately, none of us caught the name of it… but it was a hidden jewel.  He walked us down a path towards the bottom of the waterfall.  At one point, he stopped at a rock that overlooked the waterfall and said “Right, this is where we jump.”  We all thought he was joking, but he wasn’t.  After a few false countdowns and watching everyone else jump, I took a leap.  It was quite an adrenaline rush.  IMG_0807

I remember one of the pieces of advice I received at a Meet-Plan-Go conference was to do what scared me.  Whatever it was.  Whatever I was most scared of, just do it.  So I jumped.

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It was insane and with my fear of heights, the adrenaline rush was intensified.  Looking back I’m so glad I did it!  After a few more jumps and watching a local Thai man use the rocks as a water slide, we walked up the side to check out more of the waterfall.  We were able to go under the water and enjoy a nice, high pressure shower.  The best moment was when we were just sitting on the edge of the rocks looking up at the water as it poured down.  It was beautiful and serene.  Ironically I began singing Kelly Clarkson’s “A Moment Like This” in my head.  Over and over I just kept thinking about how people wait a lifetime for a moment just like this.  And I was living it.

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And going to continue living it for the next 11 months.  The rest of the night was pretty low key.  I visited Wat Phra Singh, again I chose this one because there was an interesting story about the buddha statue there.  The walls in one of the murals on tapestry showing the history of something significant in Buddhist history.  Another aspect of this temple that I really enjoyed was that it had quotes from the Dharma posted on trees all throughout the grounds.  It was refreshing to take some time to read them and remind myself of the quote that I left the states with… “If you are depressed you are living in the past.  If you are anxious you are living in the future.  If you are at peace you are living in the present.”  Not surprisingly I have found out this is a quote from Lao Tzu, who was the author of the Dao De Jing.  And wouldn’t you know that as I was deciding which of my philosophy books to keep and potentially bring on this trip with me, it was the Dao De Jing.  I did not end up brining it along with me, but clearly it is staying with me.

IMG_0827           IMG_0829            IMG_0824Friday we ventured out to Wat Umong, a wat in the forest, that I really wanted to visit.  It was much more secluded than the other temples I had visited and there were only a few other tourists there.  There was one area where we could go into tunnels to pray at buddha statues.  There was also a place where there were numerous old buddhas, many whose heads were cut off and poorly reattached.


For the remainder of the day, we ate at Dada Kafe which had avocados and cheese!  It was great to have the luxury of these flavors.  Then John and Ansel rented scooters.  After some practice runs, Ansel took me on the back of his and we all went off to find food in the markets.  We came across the flower market, Ton Lamyai, along the river.


The sights and scents of stalls upon stalls of flowers was marvelous.  Of course I was specifically drawn to checking out all the orchids.  They are everywhere in Thailand.  That night we went to a local Reggie bar with Annie who works at Mojito Garden 2.  She is a lot of fun and we danced the night away together.

Jemima and Nathan arrived early Saturday morning and after some rest and negotiating, we all agreed to venture out to find an old quarry that is perfect for cliff jumping.  We heard it was not well known by tourists and somewhere off the beaten path.  Chris and Kamila, a couple we met the night before, came with us.  On three motorbikes, off we went to follow some general directions to Nam Phrae.  Luckily Annie gave us a piece of paper with the quarry’s name written down in Thai and it was a lifesaver after some off-roading through mud puddles and dirt trails.  IMG_0891 IMG_0885Finally after getting the help of some locals, we pulled up to this red mud quarry with preistene green-blue water.  The cliffs were perfect for jumping, but I psyched myself out.  I was okay with that because I had jumped at the waterfall.  I still enjoyed the tranquility of swimming and relaxing in the warm water under the hot sun.DSC_917920131005_142101

Saturday night we went to the Saturday Market Street.  It was insane.  The street was filled on either side, elbow-to-elbow, with Thai people.  It was a nice change of pace to be in a market geared towards Thai people rather than tourists, but it was also very claustrophobic at times.  Sunday was my last full day in Chiang Mai and I was so glad to have Chris and Kamila.  They wanted to go to the highest point in Thailand, just as I did, and so we rented a car.  Chris drove and off we went to Doi Inthanon National Park.  It was a long drive and I snuck in a nap, but it was completely worth it.  We stopped off at Siribhum Waterfall and with some encouragement from Chris, Kamila and I went in the water.  It was quite slippery and not exactly a calm pool to swim in, but the view looking up into the waterfall was one of a kind.DSC_9192

After some photos, splashing around, and getting thoroughly cold we piled back into the car.  After another 45 minutes we were at the summit of Doi Inthanon.  Due to the clouds and mist, we could not see the amazing view of Chiang Mai we had heard about.  So reaching the highest point in Thailand was not as exciting as I thought it might be, but now I can at least say I did it.


On the way down, we stopped at two wats.  They had stunning architecture, beautiful gardens, and large buddha statues.  Here we were also able to catch a few glimpses of the city below.

I really enjoyed my time in Chiang Mai.  I appreciated it for it’s history and also for it’s vibrant community of young farangs.  It was a great transition between Hua Hin with my XploreAsia crew and the solo journey I was about to embark on into Laos. DSC_9237

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