Searching for temple ruins in Wiang Kum Kam

Hunting for remnants of centuries old wats in the city of Wian Kum Kam

If you fancy yourself as an urban explorer, modern day Indiana Jones and you’re into “ancient ruins” you should check out Wiang Kum Kam if you’re ever in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I stumbled across this area quite by accident. I had just gotten back to my room after my afternoon dental appointment and needed to get my mind off the nagging discomfort. I had pretty much walked everywhere around the hotel and it was time I ventured further. A quick Google search of temple ruins (or something along those lines led me to Wiang Kum Kam.

With only the knowledge (from Google) that Wang Kum Kam was the previous capital of the Lanna Kingdom before being abandoned and moved to present day Chiang Mai due to adverse river conditions and war.  Then in the 1990’s ruins of temples were being discovered in the jungles and excavated from under mud deposits. So I booked a Grab taxi for $150 TBH and off I went to the Wat Chang Kam, I thought this was the only one of note that was excavated and preserved.

The taxi driver arrived at Wat Kan Thom, I got so excited because I saw ruins as well as newer structures so this must be the place, right? Well, kind of but at first glance the name is different.  The driver stopped the car and asked me to wait, he came back after speaking to someone and told me the Visitor’s Center was about 5 minutes away, sounds like an important place to go even though I really wanted to stay. The parking lot of the Visitor’s center was pretty big and there were plenty of horse carriages and really long, golf cart looking tour vehicles. Inside the Visitor’s office (this is the only structure you can walk into) I was met with surprise (I was the only non local person there). I was quickly given a map and ushered into a room where I watched a 5 minute video on the history of Chiang Mai / Wiang Kum Kam. The video was pretty interesting, a bit too short for a history “lesson” I thought. Anyways, when the video was done, I was ushered back outside and asked which mode of tour transport I preferred and I told them I preferred to walk. The look on their faces should have tipped me off there was an issue but since there was a language barrier, I just thanked them and left.

Statue of King Mangrai founder of Wiang Kum Kam and subsequently Chiang Mai

Free map of Wiang Kum Kam from the Visitor’s Center

In hindsight I should have taken one of the tour vehicles I can’t remember the cost but it wasn’t much. I just really preferred not to be rushed when looking at stuff. Do yourself a favor and take the ride. By walking, you will not be able to see everything, not by a long shot. I walked 3 hours (including photography time but excluding travel time to get to the first wat) and only found 3 wats/ruins each day (I actually didn’t know I was in Wiang Kum Kam twice until I was looking for photos for this post). I had Googled for old/ancient wats in Chiang Mai after my dental visits and took a Grab taxi to the nearest one that I hadn’t been to yet (as usual, I’m just winging it, haha).  Anyways, there are 29 dots on the map that I got from the visitors center! So even by cycling I don’t think you can get to all of them, they are quite far apart even though it doesn’t seem that way by looking at the map. Although I’m not the greatest map reader, I’m pretty sure I’m not that bad either but for some reason somethings just weren’t adding up. I found “extra” roads, couldn’t find some roads etc. Also, some wats have more than one name and the name on the map might not be the same as whats on Google maps so I couldn’t really use that either and thus making my adventure all the more fun. If uncertainty isn’t enough to make things interesting, how about a bit of danger? You’re walking around in a neighborhood you’ll find no sidewalks most of the time, forested/jungle areas, farms with horses, chickens and dogs. There are lots of dogs! Some friendly, some not so much. Some fenced in and some aren’t. On more than one occasion while walking I had to fend of some not so nice dogs with my 1/2 extended tripod. Those buggers followed me about a block before coming in closer for the bite. I’m relatively sure I would have gotten bitten if I didn’t swing my tripod at them (I didn’t hit the dogs but could have, they were that close). On other occasions while setting up my tripod for a selfie at one of the ruins, there were a couple dogs right next to my leg and I didn’t know until I stood up, ready to get into my shot. Even though some of the ruins weren’t much to look at (if you’re just looking) but for me, being there, seeing it and imagining what it was like, was pretty cool. Plus there are info signs for you to read at the site and some even have a QR code you can scan for more info.

If you’re not into wat’s and religious/cultural history then this excursion probably won’t be for you. But for me, I had a lot of fun. If I ever get back to Chiang Mai, I’ll definitely go back and take the tour ride and then find a way (most likely Grab taxi) to get to any wat/ruin I find more interesting.

Consider following me for updates to find not only my other travel bloopers, blunders and shenanigans but also photography related news/reviews and the occasional contest entry.

All the photos (unless otherwise noted in the post) were taken by me and are available for sale. If you’re interested in buying an image or three, 😃 please don’t hesitate to contact me for more details. Thanks in advance!

Comments & Critiques are always welcome, as are upvotes and resteems.

Thanks for viewing and best wishes!

PS. If you want to check out my other ‘works’, you can find them here:

Portfolio
Blog
Fine Art



Chedi Luang Chiang Mai’s largest Chedi

Chedi Luang Buddhist temple in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chedi Luang is second on my top 3 wat’s in Chiang Mai. The first being Doi Suthep, you can check out my post “Doi Suthep” for more info. If you’re ever in Chiang Mai, be sure to check this place out, their hours of operation are between 6am and 6pm and being near the centre of the walled city it’s walkable if you’re already in the ancient city. It’s free to enter and will take you at least 30 minutes just to walk around and see everything without stopping for photos or for closer looks. I took around two hours and still wasn’t quite satisfied with seeing everything but then again, I like to linger, soak in the atmosphere, feel the energy etc and look for a photo to make.

The modern day property that the Chedi sits on is a merger with two other wats (Wat Ho Tham and Wat Sukmin) so you can enjoy visiting them as well. When you walk onto the premises, the huge ornate prayer hall is quite impressive and houses a 14th century Buddha statue, I found the sheer golden-ness inside truly amazing. As per the norm at all the wats, if you want to go in and check out the interior, you have to take your foot wear off. Don’t worry they have shoe racks you can use though, just don’t forget which rack you put your shoes on, ha ha.

Chedi Luang Buddhist temple in Chiang Mai, Thailand

If you’re short on time, I suggest you walk around the prayer hall and check out the stupa first because it’s truly unique. Why is Chedi Luang so special? Construction began in 1391 so it’s old, withstood some natural disasters and is partially rebuilt. At one point in time, it was the largest structure in Chiang Mai and home to the highly revered, original Emerald Buddha. It’s by far the biggest Chedi/Stupa I’ve ever seen and I can only imagine and wonder how grand it was when it was fully intact. I’d recommend a sunrise or sunset visit for some additional color in the sky and you’d probably miss most of the tour crowd too.

After admiring all for sides of the Stupa, there are also a couple of structures housing statues and other religious pieces including the shrine for the “City Pillar” guarded by canons. Yup, I’ve never seen any religious structure guarded by canons before. I had to Google it, and found out that “City Pillars” are very highly revered pieces of architecture in ancient Thai culture. These pillars were erected at entrances of new cities or at major shrines for housing guardian spirits. Another structure that I found pretty cool was the huge golden Buddha lying down statue. Very detailed and I think covered with gold leaf. I didn’t get a chance to go inside the other two wats nor the smaller viharn so I definitely will need to revisit Chedi Luang, it’s so worth it!

Consider following me for updates to find not only my other travel bloopers, blunders and shenanigans but also photography related news/reviews and the occasional contest entry.

All the photos (unless otherwise noted in the post) were taken by me and are available for sale. If you’re interested in buying an image or three, 😃 please don’t hesitate to contact me for more details. Thanks in advance!

Comments & Critiques are always welcome, as are upvotes and resteems.

Thanks for viewing and best wishes!

PS. If you want to check out my other ‘works’, you can find them here:

Portfolio
Blog
Fine Art

 



Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, a jewel in Chiang Mai’s crown

Inside the Wat Phra That temple grounds on Doi Suthep

If you’re ever in Chiang Mai and can only choose one temple to visit, choose Wat Phra That on Doi Suthep. Doi Suthep is the mountain West of Chiang Mai, the smaller of the two in that area. The other being Doi Pui and together make up the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. Although I haven’t been to every single temple in Chiang Mai, I have been to several and what makes Wat Phra That so special? It’s reportedly the temple that has a Buddha Relic, a piece of his shoulder, if I heard correctly. Now I didn’t get to see the Relic but this wat, to me, has a tranquil/serene “feel” to it, more so than any of the other temples I’ve been to in the Chiang Mai region. I truly lack the words to describe that feeling. No, it’s not like a life changing OMG Hallelujah kinda feeling…it’s more like a peaceful at ease feeling. I imagine “resting in peace” would feel like this. I’m not particularly religious but I do believe in certain principles from different religions. Yes, I’m a “confused child” haha.

Back to the Doi Suthep and one of Chiang Mai’s crown jewels, Wat Phra That. I’ll just do what the locals do and refer to the area as Doi Suthep. So how can one get to Doi Suthep? There are a number of ways both public and private. If you choose the private way, have a read of my post “Did I get scammed in Chiang Mai” for my recounting on private hire fiasco/scam that was run on me whilst going to a different “must see” Chiang Mai crown jewel. The most convenient way is to take a red songthaew to Doi Suthep. It can be as easy as flagging one down anywhere around the old city. A songthaew is a pickup truck with the back converted to bench seating. They operate like a public bus/shared taxi but with negotiable fare. The way to get a ride is you flag one down (like flagging a taxi) or they will honk at you, in which case just wave back if you want them to stop. Before you hop in, you have to negotiate your fare. The price will depend on where you’re going, how many passengers already in the songthaew and probably the way you look. So the better dressed you are, the less they will be willing to drop the prices. The number of people already on board will help decrease the price as well and/or if there’s no one already on board, you can pay a bit more and the driver will not pick up anyone along the way to your destination. Trips within the old city are $30-$40 TBH (as told to me by the hotel staff and $30 TBH is written on all the red songthaews (I can’t read Thai so don’t know what the context is) but as soon as you get outside the walled city they will start at $100 TBH (at least that’s always been the starting point whenever I asked). There are also different marked songthaews, the markings will indicate which attraction they are going to, so you can look out for those as those may have people in them already going to the same place making it cheaper for you to tag along (or at least you won’t be “forced” to pay the full single rider fare). If you prefer to hire out a songthaew (have it all to yourself) you can probably negotiate a price for him/her to wait for you and give you a ride back. If not, there are a lot of songthaews waiting up there to give passengers rides back into town. The only drawback is that they will not leave until the songthaew is full with 8 passengers so if you’re first on, there may be a wait. For me, I was lucky, I was the 8th. As I was about to pay the driver, 1/2 the other passengers started to negotiate a lower fare but to no avail so ya that’s something to consider too. Just to give you an idea, hiring out a songthaew cost me $350 TBH, I needed to get there as fast as possible but coming back only cost $80 TBH. The other public way are guided tours. Your hotel lobby will have info and be able to help you out, or you can find tour agent kiosks everywhere, seriously you can’t walk a block without seeing one. These are convenient if have minimal time and need a guide to show you around and/or rush you plus you won’t have to worry about haggling prices everywhere, where to go to the ticket booth etc. The private vehicles are in the form of metered taxis although you have to specifically book one from somewhere as they are nowhere to to be found on the streets. The only time I saw any were at the airport and twice in town dropping guests at a hotel. I’m pretty sure they will be the most expensive private car option with Grab taxi being the second most expensive. The least expensive is the non grab, private hires which the hotel can arrange for you and the tuk tuk’s (they look like motorized rickshaws) which you can flag on the street. Note: if you get motion sickness then take some motion sickness pills if you plan on taking the songthaew or tuk tuk. Also try to get on a newer model vehicle or at least one that doesn’t look beat up as that will affect the bumpiness of your ride as well as the amount of exhaust (if any) you’ll be subjected to.

Stairs leading up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep adorned on either side with giant King of Nagas’

Local tribes girls on the stairs leading up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep adorned on either side with giant King of Nagas’

Local tribes girls on the stairs leading up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep adorned on either side with giant King of Nagas’

Local tribes girls on the stairs leading up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep adorned on either side with giant King of Nagas’

Stairs leading up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep adorned on either side with giant King of Nagas’

Stairs leading up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep adorned on either side with giant King of Nagas’

Now that transport is sorted out and you’re at the drop off point of Doi Suthep, there’s two routes you can take up to the temple but first, there are shops/markets by the road side you may want to check out. If not, make your way to either the steps with the big archway (the left most stair case as you’re facing the mountain) if you’re looking to walk up to the Wat. If walking up stairs is not your cup of tea, take the path on the right where you can see ticket booths. That’s where you can buy tickets to ride the gondola up. I didn’t take the gondola so I can’t comment on the fees nor the ride. Taking the stairs isn’t that bad. you go up a short flight of stairs and it opens up to a plaza of sorts with statues to see and more shops and restaurants. From this plaza you can see the flight of stairs leading up to the Wat, kind of steep but not scary steep. If you see adorable little kids dressed in (I’m guessing) traditional attire of their culture, it’s ok to take photos but be prepared to offer a donation. They won’t be shy in asking for it. Although I had sniped a few shots of them from afar, pretty much without them knowing, as they were busy posing for other photo’s, I still walked by and gave them each a tip. I couldn’t help but feel sad, I didn’t notice their parents around and they were just hanging out, walking around the stairs. When you reach the top of the stairs you’ll be at the entrance to the temple area (not the temple grounds itself) and you’ll have to detour to the right because that is where the ticket office is and a snacks shop in case you need to buy a drink. Entrance fee is $30 TBH. Having taken care of the entrance fee you can enter the premises of where the actual temple is, you can see the stairs into the Wat in the photo below. The premises is quite big with lots to see and you can walk around with your shoes on but if you want to enter the Wat grounds, you have to take off your shoes at the designated area about a hop, skip and a jump away from the Wat’s entrance. No big deal, it’s relatively clean, as in free from debris as you can kinda see in the photo below. There’s more than enough room for shoes on the racks but there’s shoe lockers behind the benches too, just don’t forget where you put your shoes.

Pavilion area provides shade and benches for rest and removal of shoes.

SO MUCH GOLD!!! Was my first reaction as stepped through the entrance into the wat. I don’t know if it was gold leaf, gold paint, gold plated or what but boy was it impressive. Pretty much in the center of the temple grounds is the gold stupa with the prayer path around it. There are flowers you can buy and hold as you walk and pray on this path and then offer them to an altar of your choice. This prayer path is in between the stupa and a stone fence that has opening at the corners for entering and exiting the prayer path. On top of this fence, on two of the sides, are various statues and religious relics. Lining the walls to the temple complex are altars, prayer halls, statues and other religious artifacts. There are monks walking around doing various duties as well from what I saw when I was there such as “monk chats,” blessing ceremonies, sweeping of the grounds, putting up decorations etc. Along the walls that define the Wat grounds are open air but sheltered corridors with religious statues and artifacts and enough space for visitors to pray in front of. These corridors are sometimes broken up by rooms housing religious statue(s) with all the prayer amenities like kneeling mats, incense pots etc. There is also a larger prayer hall which more detailed and ornate and is where the monk chats/blessing were held. If you want the on location tourist shot, look for the golden tree/umbrella statue. This is the designated spot where an “in house photographer” will take the “tourist shot” that all the marketing shots were taken. The spot features a golden umbrella (or maybe it’s a bamboo tree), under which you’ll stand with the golden stupa in the background and hopefully a blue sky with a fluffy cloud or two. There will be assistants walking around that area trying to drum up business. If you don’t want to engage their services you can just wait until the umbrella is vacant and go get your shot. Although I planned to photograph everything, I kinda forgot to or maybe just too “taken in” by beauty, splendor, calmness and serenity of this place I really don’t have the words so here’s a few shots:

Inside the Wat Phra That temple grounds on Doi Suthep

Inside the Wat Phra That temple grounds on Doi Suthep

Inside the Wat Phra That temple grounds on Doi Suthep

Inside the Wat Phra That temple grounds on Doi Suthep

Inside the Wat Phra That temple grounds on Doi Suthep

Inside the Wat Phra That temple grounds on Doi Suthep

Inside the Wat Phra That temple grounds on Doi Suthep

Inside the Wat Phra That temple grounds on Doi Suthep

When you’re done inside the Wat, have a look around the grounds. There’s a huge hall, gift shop (the usual items that you’d find in a temple’s gift shop are cheaper here than in any other place that I’ve been to), café type eatery, prayer bells, prayer halls, large statues, defunct museum (well that’s what it looked like to me) and a very ornate pavilion that over looks the valley. If you walk to the railing you will see the city of Chiang Mai and the airport, it’s quite a view if the weather is clear. I visited in early May and got ok weather, a bit too smoggy for detailed images but still a spectacular view. There were not many people so I was able to set up my tripod for some panoramic shots however I did get interrupted by a tourist who came right up next to me to shoot her panoramic shots, so I took some candid profile shots of her instead of landscape shots for a minute or so, lol. There also a very beautiful, colorful and well landscaped flower garden. It wasn’t until I was looking through the photos back at the hotel that I realized the flowers were fake.

Walking around Doi Suthep just outside Wat Phra That

Walking around Doi Suthep just outside Wat Phra That

Walking around Doi Suthep just outside Wat Phra That

Walking around Doi Suthep just outside Wat Phra That

Walking around Doi Suthep just outside Wat Phra That

Walking around Doi Suthep just outside Wat Phra That

I spent 3 hours at Doi Suthep not including travel time but could have easily spent hours more. I didn’t visit any of the markets or explore any of the areas not part of the temple grounds. I was there around dusk and the sunset sets behind the mountain but with the smog/haze/clouds it wasn’t that ‘wow’ Perhaps sunrise would be better as it would rise over the city when you’re viewing from the pavilion.

Consider following me for updates to find not only my other travel bloopers, blunders and shenanigans but also photography related news/reviews and the occasional contest entry.

All the photos (unless otherwise noted in the post) were taken by me and are available for sale. If you’re interested in buying an image or three, 😃 please don’t hesitate to contact me for more details. Thanks in advance!

Comments & Critiques are always welcome, as are upvotes and resteems.

Thanks for viewing and best wishes!

PS. If you want to check out my other ‘works’, you can find them here:

Portfolio
Blog
Fine Art



What’s so great about the Tha Phae Gate?

Traffic in front of Tha Phae Gate’s plaza at night.

Chiang Mai’s Old City is on UNESCO’s list for consideration as a Heritage City and the Tha Phae Gate is the main gate into Chiang Mai’s old city located on it’s Eastern wall. The old city is shaped in a roughly 1.6 km by 1.6 km square area that used to be surrounded by a wall and moat with a gate at each section of the wall. With exception of the southern wall which has 2 gates. Tip: the ‘h’ is silent in the Thai language, this landmark is pronounced Ta Pay gate. That should help when you’re trying to let the driver know where you want to go/get to. Many will eventually understand if you pronounce the ‘h’ though.

A defunct stone elephant fountain at the edge of the moat.

So what’s there to do here? At first glance, nothing much. The first impulse is to get a selfie right in front of the gate and right in front of the metal plaque embedded in the wall. With all the mention of the Tha Phae Gate in anything related to Chiang Mai, when you’re actually standing in front of it, it’s pretty underwhelming, in my opinion. The walls on either side of the opening are rebuilt using red clay bricks (which looks too new) and has been said to not have been rebuilt according to historic records. The walls also end where the moat begins which may be an indication that the gate is not exactly in it’s original location. The wooden door and wooden door frame is mostly faded gray and water stained, making it look older than the wall. A hose runs up the door frame and across the gate’s opening to spray mist on people as they pass through the gate, not to worry it’s only on the really hot days and is quite refreshing. The stairs leading up to wall (from within the old city) are blocked at the top so you can’t get on top of the wall, too bad, but safety first. So just what is it about this place? I urge you to fight off the initial urge to snap the usual selfie’s and continue on your way, especially if you like to people watch or take candid photos. You’ll get lots of ‘usual’ shots like:

Female tourists interacting with pigeons.

I spent a lot of time around the Tha Phae Gate. Why? because I found it very interesting. At all times of the day there’s always something going on. I didn’t feel this way originally though. The first time I visited this gate was late in the afternoon, right after I checked into my hotel and found the dental clinic I needed to be at the next day. My trip to Chiang Mai was solely for my sudden need for dental treatment which you can read in my post entitled, “Dental Holiday in Chiang Mai. Wait what? SERIOUSLY?!?! and the hotel I chose to stay in was The Signature Hotel @Thapae you can check out my review of it here. Both of these places were within 100 meters of the Tha Phae Gate, in a straight line and on the same side of the street. There is even a 3 story Starbucks, a 24 hour, 2 story McDonald’s and a Burger King within 50 meters of the gate. Consider going up to the top floors for different angle shots, especially at night if you want to get some light trail imagery (like in the first pic above) or try a sunset shot from the upper floors.

The sun setting on Tha Phae Gate.  Chiang Mai, Thailand

If you don’t have much time for sightseeing, I suppose 20 minutes tops and you’ll be done getting the usual selfies in front of the open gate as well as in front of the plaque and a few pigeon shots. If you budget 45 min to an hour, you may be able to get some of the locals to help you get even more dynamic images. Here’s how, find the locals that are either holding a sack (full of bird food), stick, hat or ball or a combination of those items. They may even be taking pics of other tourists (with phones and usually low to the ground) already or just throwing down food to attract the pigeons to one spot. You’re not looking for the locals selling little plastic bags of bird food, unless what you want is to just feed the birds, have them land on you etc. Once you find the local “tourist photographer” (as opposed to the local photographer taking candid/street shots with DSLR’s) you can approach them, if they haven’t come and approached you already. For an increased chance of them approaching you, stand close to the wall and try take selfies with the pigeons. I’m always too busy shooting to see how much people were paying but it can’t be that much, lotsa people were doing it and I mean lots! Don’t forget to bargain. So here’s how it works. Once you’ve agreed on the price and paid the person, you hand over your phone. They will guide you to a spot, throw down some bird food, and give you some general movement tips. There are three ‘poses’ that I’ve noticed that they use every time. One is the normal standing shot, stand however you like, another is a walking parallel to the wall shot and the last is you twirling on the spot. The photographer with your phone is sitting or lying down on his side and when he’s ready says something to an accomplice who then scares the pigeons, either by stomping, clapping or tossing an item in the air to get the birds to fly up. As a photographer I’d have to say that’s pretty clever and bordering on professional, they’re just missing the more detailed posing and maybe some dramatic lighting. After each shot you’ll be able to check your phone and do a retake if you’re not satisfied. From a distance I think I got some good shots, so I’m sure they did too. I chose to shoot from a distance because I was uneasy with all those well fed, startled pigeons flying around. Yes, there are that many pigeons especially on weekends when I’ve seen enough pigeons for 4 of these “photoshoots” going on at the same time against the walls on either side of the gate (on the plaza side). Note: the lighting is better on the right side when you’re standing in the plaza facing the gate. Also if you plan on doing the “photoshoot” consider exaggerating your arm swings when walking/twirling. The purpose is to create lines and/or angles which should add “tension” to your photos, it’ll look much better and natural than just letting your arms hang down at your sides.

Female tourists interacting with pigeons.

Female tourists interacting with pigeons.

Female tourists interacting with pigeons.

Female tourists interacting with pigeons.

Warning for the ladies…if you’re wearing a light, loose dress and stand near the wall, if there’s even a slight wind, it’ll hit the wall and lift your dress/skirt. Even the mass of pigeons taking off from around your legs is enough to lift your skirt. Trust me on this, I’ve never been flashed so many times in my life! Not only that, there are A LOT of photographers around. Could be tourists snapping selfies with the pigeons around you or taking pictures of the pigeons on you or the locals just hanging around some selling bird food, some looking out for the cops. Then there’s local photogs getting their street/candid photography fix, or tourist photogs like me, people watching, sniping shots when something happens. On the off chance that you get there and no one is feeding the birds, it’s because the cops just went by and confiscated all the food. There’s signage around to let you know that you’re not supposed to feed the birds. Just stick around for a bit, the locals will come back with more food.

Local police confiscate a big bag of bird feed from the locals.

Local police confiscate bird feed from the locals.

If that’s not interesting enough for you, there’s local ice cream sellers (coconut flavor), artists doing portraitures (I didn’t notice any caricature artists). Then there’s the odd trinket souvenir vendor walking around. Most of the vendor come out after sunset. I was fortunate enough to catch a tv commercial in the making complete with “fake family,” backdrops, shooting assistants and a model shooting water from a fire hose attached to the fire truck. I’ve also seen some kind of parade/procession start from the plaza and then proceed down the street. Most nights there is a musician or 10 sitting around playing tunes. If you’re lucky, like me, you might run into a protest. The one I saw was a cruelty to animals / don’t partake in the animal sanctuary attractions protest.

A family taking refuge under a big unbrella

A woman spraying water from a fire hose.

A tourists taking photos on the stairs going up the wall at the Tha Phae Gate.

Individuals wearing masks protest against animal cruelty.

To get the most out of your time, if you like taking photos and shopping, is on Sunday around dusk to try to catch the sunset a bit earlier if you’re into the tourists and pigeons schtick and later if you like light trails by traffic. You can sit upstairs in Starbucks or McDonald’s to get some traffic light trail shots. Other things to do at night would be wait for the hand crafted (mostly) vendors, toy sellers, ice cream vendor and occasional a snack vendor. If you’re here on a Sunday evening you’re already at the easiest starting point (from outside the old city) to the famous Sunday Night Market. Just walk on through the gate and you’re at one end of the main street of this market. Be careful though because the gate is actually part of an intersection although not many vehicles go through the gate, there are some once in a while. If you’re a morning person, you can also get a sunrise shot over the gate when you’re standing facing the gate from inside the old city.

A car driving through the Tha Phae Gate at night.

Nightly market at the Tha Phae Gate.

Local couple shop at the Sunday Night Market

Watching the sun rise over the Tha Phae Gate from within the old city of Chiang Mai.

Here’s a few more shots:

 

Sunset at Tha Phae Gate

A couple sneak a kiss while feeding pigeons.

A man decorates his motorcycle with colorful materials he finds on the street

Street artists selling his drawings in front of Tha Phae Gate in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Consider following me for updates to find not only my other travel bloopers, blunders and shenanigans but also photography related news/reviews and the occasional contest entry.

All the photos (unless otherwise noted in the post) were taken by me and are available for sale. If you’re interested in buying an image or three, 😃 please don’t hesitate to contact me for more details. Thanks in advance!

Comments & Critiques are always welcome, as are upvotes and resteems.

Thanks for viewing and best wishes!

PS. If you want to check out my other ‘works’, you can find them here:

Portfolio
Blog
Fine Art

[//]:# (!steemitworldmap 18.787572 lat 98.993479 long https://steemit.com/steempress/@rayshiuimages/whatssogreataboutthethaphaegate-xv55if7icy d3scr)



Did I get scammed in Chiang Mai?

Tourist posing in bikini in front of a waterfall

I think i did but you know what? I’m not mad because if it was a scam i think it was a really good scam! Plus, not that it shouldn’t matter, the actual amount was pretty small. Ready to laugh at my expense? Here goes…

I was told by the hotel staff that Doi Inthanon is a “must see, you can’t say you’ve been to Chiang Mai if you don’t go to Doi Inthanon.”  Well, if that’s the case, I better go or at least research it, right? Oh, in case you haven’t read my “Dental vacation, wait what? SERIOUSLY?!” post, the reason why I was in Chiang Mai without having done any research on things to do there was because of my last minute need to get some dental treatment. Have a read if you’re interested in dental vacationing.

Anyways, Doi Inthanon is a national park that is on one of the mountains at the tail end of the Himalayan mountain range. It’s the highest point in Thailand and a source of great pride, I’m guessing, from the way it was described to me by the hotel staff. On this mountain are hiking trails, waterfalls, a monument in which the remains of a King of Chiang Mai is entombed. There is also 2 stupa’s in a park dedicated to a king and his wife as well as a temple. The mountain is also home to tribal people who were poppy farmers (think opium) until a king seized it all and made them farm something else, like flowers. There are a few trails that you can hike with one of them being a mandatory guided one. You have to hire a local guide (member of one of the Hill Tribes) to guide you. This particular trail is not too difficult and will lead you to a more waterfalls. Yup, I wanna go.

So what are the options? At the time I was trying to get there (early May 2019) the options were $800 TBH to rent a car (You must have an international drivers license by law but a tour agent said as long as my drivers license is written in English it will be allowed), even though mine is, I didn’t chance it. I didn’t want to drive on the “other side” of the road and I didn’t want to get potentially scammed by the usual vehicular scams ie dents, damages etc. I also didn’t want to mess with getting gas and fiddling with insurance. Same applies to renting a motorcycle/moped (I don’t know how to operate one anyways) and it’s at least an hour and a half drive. So my only options were a tour which ranged from $800 to $1200 TBH but included a lot of stops like tribe’s markets and a hot springs, which according to reviews was just a hole in the ground and nothing else. According to the tour agent you’d get to spend at most 45 minutes at the top where all the good stuff is. That just won’t cut it for me and the exorbitant amount of time I take to make images. So what’s left was taxis and private guides with a car. The hotel offered to get me a taxi for $3500 TBH and the driver will take me wherever I wanted to go and wait at wherever I wanted to stop. Private guides with cars were upwards of $4000 TBH and a Grab driver tried to sell me on $4500 TBH when I told him it was way too expensive he told me $3200 TBH to get up to the Visitor Information Centre which was about 1/2 up the mountain. When I declined that he dropped the price to $2800 TBH, WTH?! Right? Lol. OH! Forgot to add, if you get a cheap price ask them if the price includes gas, because you don’t want to get waylaid after the fact OR you can offer to pay the gas at the gas station to ensure you pay the actual amount and not some inflated figure. Anyways, I really had no choice but to go with the taxi service that the hotel (The Signature Hotel @Thapae, click here if you want to read my review of it) offered to get me. When the front desk clerk got off the phone, she informed me that the price would be $3200 TBH. BONUS! The wait for the taxi was about 5 minutes and the clerk told me I needed to pay the driver upfront. I figured it should be ok, it’s arranged by the hotel, right? The clerk then, in Thai, spoke with the driver and informed me that she told him all the spots I wanted to go, another bonus! Even though the vehicle wasn’t one of those slick looking metered taxis, it looked well cared for.

So off we went, we chatted a bit which consisted mainly of him trying to get me to change my destination to one an additional 2 hours away! I declined and he proceeded to informed me that we would make a pit stop to put in gas and at that rest stop I should use the toilet and or get some snacks because there won’t be any from that point until the top of the mountain. Awesome, sounds like a plan. About 45 minutes into the drive, the driver woke me up because we were at the pit stop. Darn meds always get me, lol. So at the gas station, the driver gets out, to check the engine compartment with an attendant, while another attendant put in gas. He closes the hood and pays and we drive over to the parking area for our snack and toilet break.

Fifteen minutes later we were on our way and roughly 45 minutes later we reached the Doi Inthanon National Park check point where I had to get out and pay the entrance fee of $300 TBH (foreigner’s price). I got back into the car and off we went to the first waterfall and then he starts complaining that the weather is so hot. Well, ya but it’s supposed to get cooler the higher you go. After all, it’s recommend in all the brochures and tour info guides to bring a jacket because at the top is the only place in all of Thailand where there’s “snow” (actually frost). Anyways, we get to the parking area of the Sirithan waterfall and I get out to go check it out while he pops the hood to “cool” the car because the weather is too hot (it really is hot in Chiang Mai, hotter than Singapore). I haven’t realized anything is wrong yet at this point, I’m already heading down the trail. The trail is pretty short and down a slight, stepped incline with sturdy hand rails that ends in a platform quite far from the falls. There are paths to the falls but they have been closed (looks like for a while now since the paths were overgrown) and blocked with “Do Not Enter” signs. So you’ll have to settle for view of the falls from between the trees. Roughly thirty minutes go by and I’m done and back at the car and we’re off again. Driver carried on as if thre were no issues and I asked if the car was ok, and he replied yes, it’s just too hot and Mitsubishi cars aren’t made to go up mountains. No clue how or why he came up with that…

Sirithan Falls within Doi Inthanon National Park.

Sirithan Falls within Doi Inthanon National Park.

Sirithan Falls within Doi Inthanon National Park.

Sirithan Falls within Doi Inthanon National Park.

So just before the next tourist spot, Pha Dok Sieo Nature Trail, I can see white “smoke” coming from the under the hood and the driver complains again of the weather being too hot and we pull into the parking area just as the car stops. I thought the driver just stopped the car in the middle of the area to let me out since he was telling me to go see the waterfalls and that the car just needs to “cool down”. I headed towards the trail but was stopped by some people under a makeshift gazebo. Apparently I had to pay for a guide to take me on this trail ($300 TBH) and that it’ll take about an hour and a half to get to the end point and that’s where my driver will pick me up. Well, I didn’t think too highly of the hike so I turned around just in time to see the car’s hood popped up with lots of white “smoke” billowing up and my driver along with some tour bus drivers pushing the car to a better parking spot. I went to enquire about the car and was reassured that it was ok and that it only needed to cool down but for now just go on the hike. I saw some people handing him water as he tried to pour some into the radiator. Hmmm, something is off but well, what else could I do since I’m already there. I might as well go on the hike, better than sitting around watching him pour water. So I paid the fee and off I went with my guide leading the way. Since the tour group before me was already full and had left, I get a guide all to myself, but I’m pretty sure I paid more than the participants of the tour group, as I saw the stack of money left by the tour group. Maybe my math is wrong or there’s a group discount, lol. Along the way, you’ll be able to see some of the opium poppy farms that have been converted to flower farms and 3 water falls, one of which you can swim in the resulting pool of water at the base. As you come up to the flower farms, you’re actually right up at the edge of the property. Where we were, the plants closest to use weren’t in bloom so I asked if we can go in, the answer, from another guide (we caught up), was “no”. My guide was looking around (don’t know what he was looking for but I was looking around to find a better shot and when the other group left, my guide motioned me over to where he was and he took me further into the farm, bonus! My guide mentioned that it will probably change to marijuana farms when marijuana becomes legal in Thailand. Interesting. Along the way, if you’re thirsty, there’s water, if you dare to drink it. Someone stuck a bamboo tube to catch some run off water and there’s even a makeshift bamboo cup for you to use. From where the water came from, I couldn’t see but it looked awfully sketchy to me. As I had two bottles of Gatroade with me I declined a sip but my guide drank some so it’s gotta be safe, right? I have to say, I found these waterfalls quite impressive and by now, I’m totally over the car ordeal. The hike is all down hill and really steep in some parts but not that bad if you can handle stairs that can be described as ladders in some sections. I’m actually quite content with this hike, my guide wasn’t rushing me at all and was a good sport about me taking photos with him in them and including him in my selfies (he was reluctant but obliged). He even pointed out things along the way and tried to spot birds and animals. As we reached the end point I was taking pictures of the other tourists taking their photos as my guide went to talk to another guide. They both came up to me to inform me that my driver couldn’t or didn’t want to come down then go back up again to the summit so I had to hike back up the friggin’ mountain. I thought to myself, YES!!! I can still get to the top of the mountain to see the other stuff. Well, my enthusiasm quickly died as we hit the first of the very steep inclines. Truth be told, I had to stop 3 times to catch my breath and at one point I felt light headed, my guide was cool about it and not laboured at all. I asked him how many times he hikes this trail he said 3 and I said something like, lucky he doesn’t have to walk back up each time like now and he replied, “no no no walk down, walk up is one time. Every day three times”. Well damn! No wonder he’s not fazed! I feel I need to also note that, as you can see in the photo’s, he’s wearing slippers! What you don’t see in the photos is my backpack with camera gear/tripod, and my waist pouch with 2 DSLR + attached lenses.

Local guides for the Pha Dok Sieo Nature Trail on Doi Inthanon, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Flower farms on the Pha Dok Sieo Nature Trail on Doi Inthanon, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Have a drink of this “clean” run off water on the Pha Dok Sieo Nature Trail on Doi Inthanon, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Tourists enjoying a swim and the view at one of the waterfalls on the Pha Dok Sieo Nature Trail on Doi Inthanon, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Me and my guide in front of a waterfall on the Pha Dok Sieo Nature Trail on Doi Inthanon, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Nearing the end of the Pha Dok Sieo Nature Trail on Doi Inthanon, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Parts of the Pha Dok Sieo Nature Trail on Doi Inthanon, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Parts of the Pha Dok Sieo Nature Trail on Doi Inthanon, Chiang Mai, Thailand

By the time we got back to the car, a little more than 3 hours had passed and I was drenched, head to toe from sweat. Lucky I brought a hotel hand towel. My hiking shirt was so drenched I could wring water out! Not as quick dry as I believed it to be, haha . The car’s hood was down and I asked about the condition and again, driver said it’s ok, so off we went. Not even 10 minutes later we see smoke again and this time my driver gives up and finally admits we can’t make it to the top but on the way down he’ll take me to see some “more beautiful” places. With no choices and getting frustrated, I said “fine”. He makes a U-turn and drive a ways before finding a spot to stop the car. So now that I can’t get to the top, I’m getting mad and worried about being stuck in a busted car with no view. Flashbacks of my first car, a 1979 Mustang, and all the engine problems it came with didn’t help. But I thought, if this car can still run and all that it needed was water then the issue wasn’t that bad and the smoke wasn’t smoke, just steam. I guess my face showed my unhappiness as he started to apologize profusely while blaming the weather and Mitsubishi (for making crappy cars) and insisting that the places he was going to show me were “really beautiful.” Now I’m thinking i was lucky I didn’t let him persuade me to go to the other place or I would have seen nothing! So all the way down the mountain, every time the over heating light came on, we had to stop, sometimes he put in some water and we’d continue. Before we reached the bottom of the mountain he did take me to see another waterfall.

To get to the Wachirathan Waterfall you drive down this, what looked to me, like a one way path but you can just barely fit two cars, something to note if you’re driving. The area around the waterfall is nice. There are gift shops and a coffee shop where you can get some food and drinks. There’s also a short trail you can follow to see where the water pools and get closer to the falls. Apparently you can play in the water further along the stream even though there are signs posted saying “no Swimming”. After almost an hour, I make my way back to the parking lot and the car isn’t where it was parked when I got out. Great. So I whip out my phone as I walk towards the souvenir shops at the lower half of the parking lot to buy a drink, thinking I’d just call the hotel to send out another car hopefully cheaper than it would cost to get a Grab taxi. At the lower half of the parking lot is where I see my driver waving at me. So I skipped the drink and got into the car, thankful I didn’t have to spend anymore money for transport on this excursion.

Wachirathan Falls within Doi Ithanon National Park

Wachirathan Falls within Doi Ithanon National Park

As soon as we reached the bottom of the mountain, lots of steam billowed out and we had to stop. Luckily, I guess, it was in front of a residential type area where at least I can get out of the car and walk around and find something to drink (I finished the 2 bottles of Gatorade on the hike back up the mountain). Plus my driver was out of water and had to go look for some. I thought nothing of it until he came back and told me he found some water at a public restroom just across the street. As he was gathering his empty water bottles, he turned to me then said “oh there’s a police station beside the restrooms”. I wondered why he mentioned that, not like I could steal his busted car, right? Or did I look like I was gonna hurt him? Anyways, he came back with the water for his car and I told him I was gonna find something to drink and he quickly volunteered to go buy some, his treat. Well, that’s nice. When he came back I watched him pour the water into the radiator(attempting to anyways because the steam just kept pushing the water away). Took him awhile to figure it out or maybe he got tired of refilling his water bottles so he waited until we couldn’t see the steam coming out the radiator before attempting to pour anymore water in. It was during this time that he brought out a cloth and started wiping the engine compartment and I realized that the car was spotless inside and out and so was the engine compartment. There shouldn’t be any engine issues if someone is this meticulous with his car, right? At this point I started taking pictures and looking for the radiator cap because I remember not being able to touch the cap due to the extreme heat when I had engine problems in my Mustang, so how did he get the cap off so quickly? I couldn’t find the cap. Having filled the radiator, we continued on. A little ways into the drive, I was taking pictures out the window of the sunset (better than nothing, I had try to get some shots) I was vaguely aware that the driver was reaching around the front compartments. A few minutes later he exclaimed something along the lines of “I found it” and showed me the radiator cap! What The @$#%@^@! As soon as he could, he stopped to put it on. After that, all the while driving he kept complaining that the weather was too hot and that the cap didn’t solve the problem because the over heating light came back on. About 45 minutes away from the hotel we stopped one last time in front of some houses along the highway and he went into the yard of one of them and came out with a big bucket of water. I don’t know if kept the radiator cap on or not after that, I just gave up caring.

Taxi with overheating issues

Taxi with overheating issues

Taxi with overheating issues

Taxi with overheating issues

Back at the hotel, he wouldn’t discount the fee with the excuse that he took me to additional “beautiful places”. I reminded him that he took me to one other place, his response was continued apologizing. Quick math…if I had paid for going up 1/2 way it would have cost me about $2800 TBH according to the Grab driver I spoke with days ago, so this driver now is only ripping me off $500 TBH which is about $22 SGD. I’m just too tired to fight over $22. So I walked away and into the hotel. The front desk clerk, the same one who got me the taxi asked me how it went and when I told her of the car problems she tried to go outside to argue with the driver but he had already left. She apologized for my troubles and making an effort to call someone, I didn’t stick around to find out, I was tired and hungry.

So if you book a cab and the car + driver shown in the above pictures show up, don’t take it. Unless you think my ordeal is just a series of unfortunate events. For me, the icing on the cake was the strategic use of aircon in the car. Now this was a good scam, totally didn’t see this one coming, a $22 “life lesson”, cheap right? LOL.

Consider following me for updates to find not only my other travel bloopers, blunders and shenanigans but also photography related news/reviews and the occasional contest entry.

All the photos (unless otherwise noted in the post) were taken by me and are available for sale. If you’re interested in buying an image or three, 😃 please don’t hesitate to contact me for more details. Thanks in advance!

Comments & Critiques are always welcome, as are upvotes and resteems.

Thanks for viewing and best wishes!

PS. If you want to check out my other ‘works’, you can find them here:

Portfolio
Blog
Fine Art