To the West of Chiang Mai inside Doi Suthep Pui National Park is Wat Phra. We could see it from the plane on the way in. The plan was to go to the park and check out Wat Phra, go to the top of Doi Suthep mountain, and check out a waterfall. Getting into the park is simple to do. You can take a tuk tuk or cab (scarce) but your best bet is to take a songthaew, which is a pickup truck with the bed converted. They are usually red or white. This is the cheapest way to get to the main attractions. The downside is that the driver will wait for more passengers so he can maximize his profits. I didn’t mind this but if you are in a rush and it is not a busy location you could be waiting awhile. Also make sure you go to the right place! Some of them have flyers in the windows or are painted indicating where they go.
Going up the mountain road was windy and humid. My brother and I talked about how it would be a good ride up to the top and a crazy fast descent. When I win the lottery I will go riding in these places… The whole journey took about half an hour. No to bad and the trucks are comfortable for what they are. I would not want to sit in traffic in one of those, worse than a tuk tuk with the fumes engulfing the bed of the truck.
The temple is not free for foreigners which is reoccurring theme in Thailand. Everything seems to cost something. Our admittance fee certainly did not go to maintenance. There is quite a bit of garbage throughout the grounds. For such a “holy” place people seem to not care about its appearance.
The temples themselves are beautiful. The architecture is unique and the attention to detail is impressive. Every inch of the interior and exterior are covered with intricate carvings, paintings, or sculptures. It is also hard to take a bad picture when everything is covered in gold paint.
After wandering the temples for an hour or two, we made our way back down long stairway from the temple and grabbed some lunch on the hill. There are a lot of vendors to choose from pick from all offering local food. The plan for the day was to see the temple and make our way to the peak. There was a lot of confusion as to where some of the waterfalls were because of the crappy map we had. We walked uphill for a bit and eventually turned back to check out a different area. The songthews (red trucks) are insanely overpriced once you reach the temple. It would probably be a better idea to get one that goes directly to the peak from town.
We wandered for quite a while eventually finding the path located near the bathroom at the temple. We ended up in some kind of eco-tourism lodging area and some people were telling us that there was not water flowing over the waterfall. We continued anyways looking for a trail to get our jungle exploring fix. We found the trail head and barely 200m into the jungle there is a sign that says you must register, and have a guide… The map listed the distance as 2.5km for the trail, Adam and I were keen to go but the girls weren’t having it. Maybe next time.
We sat in a red truck for 30 minutes while we waited for it to fill up and decided to give another waterfall a chance and hopefully just hike around before it got dark. We got dropped off right at the bottom of the mountain just before the zoo. We found Huai Kaeo Waterfall and sat there for a bit, Sara climbed to the top of it and noticed a path so we followed it. If you go to the waterfall definitely hike up the river and enjoy the view.
After our busy day we walked back to the city center (quite far) and had dinner. Thai food is the best. Inexpensive and delicious.