Just a bit outside the city of Chiang Mai is a mountain known as Doi Suthep. This mountain is home to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, which is one of the most sacred sites in Thailand dating back to the 14th century. It also features numerous hill tribe villages and stunning natural beauty.
I began my day early, planning on being gone for a good portion of it. I fueled up my scooter, bought some water and M&Ms, and I was ready to take off.
My ride for the day.
The first leg of the trip up the mountain is relatively easy, the temple is only 9 miles from the city center. There are plenty of broad turns, gentle slopes, and plenty of rest stops along the way. Dealing with all the other traffic can prove a bit tricky, but I kept a sharp eye out, and all went well.
I arrived at the Wat fairly quickly. After parking I snacked on my M&Ms and took a bit of a breather before beginning the ascent up the 309 steps leading to the temple. For those not wanting to make the hike there is also a tram that will take you up, but in reality 309 steps sounds much worse than it actually is.
The 309 steps
Once at the temple I took a bit to walk around. It was a gorgeous temple that offered some impressive views of the city as well. I took a moment to sit and after giving alms I received my blessing from one of the local monks. As a practicing Buddhist this experience was very rewarding for me, one that I appreciate deeply. After a bit more looking around I was ready to continue my journey further up the mountain.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Once you get passed the temple the crowds begin to thin (as does the air!). I took another break a bit further up to enjoy the view and some well-deserved ice cream. The ride itself was pleasant enough, but even at the high altitude, as the sun continued to creep up, it was beginning to get very hot.
As you can see here, the smoke made the views a bit hazy.
After several more miles I came to for the Doi Suthep-Pui National park (actually the entire mountain is part of the park, but this was the “official” entrance). I took the opportunity to enjoy the forest’s shade and the view. Sadly I visited during the burning season in Chiang Mai, which is when the farmers burn their fields to prepare for the next season of crops. This means that the air is very smoky and obscures much of the view (as you’ll see in the pictures).
After leaving my scenic overview, I continued even further up the mountain. I was determined to make it to the top. The roads were beginning to become even more difficult – full of potholes, twists, and sharp curves. After several more taxing miles I eventually reached the summit (or at least as far as I could go). The road ends at the top of the mountain, where a quant hill tribe village lies. Those with off-road vehicles can continue even further, but my scooter certainly wasn’t cut out for that.
Hill Tribe Village
The village was especially lovely. I wondered around for a bit, enjoying a totally different type of lifestyle than I had ever been exposed to. Chickens and livestock ran wild, children were fast to approach with greetings, and the people were incredibly friendly and laid back. I had a cup of coffee and some fresh fruit and enjoyed my surroundings for quite a while. After my coffee I was ready to make my descent back down.
Heading back down!
I had spent my day riding through some of the most incredible landscape I have ever had the pleasure to see. It was a much needed break from the hustle and bustle of the city, it provided peace and quiet and allowed me to clear my mind for the first time since arriving in Thailand. If you ever find yourself in Chiang Mai, I highly recommend making the trip up Doi Suthep.