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.

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Kyoto & Nara was awesome!

Next up on our whirlwind vacation to Japan is Kyoto and Nara, in a day!

For this portion of our itinerary, we tried to get a local guide from Triple Lights but no one was available so they recommended a very nice gentleman instead. He agreed to come get us at our airbnb at 8am and take us around until 5pm. We felt pretty confident that we could do this and that at least we won’t waste any time trying to find our own way via bus and train as we did during our day in Osaka. So off we went, first up, Nara.

Nara is famous for the free roaming and somewhat wild Sika Deer, in Nara Park. What is so special about this? Well, you can buy special crackers from vendors and shops all around to feed these deer and let me tell ya, they aren’t shy! Many will come up and bow to you! Then you’re supposed to feed it a cracker. Or you can instigate and bow first, in which case they will bow as well. Really very cute. These deer go all over the place..in the streets, on the sidewalks and even inside the shops that don’t close their doors!

For the most part the deer are pretty tame, some are persistent and will tug on loose clothing. In my experience when they get a bit of leg, they won’t bite down. Most won’t stand still to be pet maybe just a quick touch of the head you can get away with. The male deer have antlers but the vast majority of them have their antlers cut off.

We all loved it and needed to buy lots more crackers. We also had to be warned multiple times by our guide that we needed to get moving as there were lots to see and many many more deer all around. Ya it was that fun, the novelty of bowing deer. Oh and just wait til you see the baby ones, guaranteed you’ll stop and try to feed it!

Within Nara Park are a few temples/shrines, shop house and nature and well….stuff like stone ornamental sculptures and statues. Here’s Kasuga Taishi Shrine,

Here’s Todaiji Temple. With it’s HUGE pillars and statues. Todaiji Temple houses the world’s largest bronze Buddha statue! If you’re into this sort of thing (architecture, wood work, history etc) you gotta see this massive piece of history!

Remnants of history, a golden spire from the top of a pagoda destroyed by fire:

Moving further up the hill (lotsa stairs), I saw this view…it felt so serene and surreal to me so I captured it in infrared to preserve that moment for myself:

I could easily spend an entire day in this park. There’s just so much to see! Unfortunately and reluctantly, we had to move on. Our guide asked if I was interested in seeing a real samurai sword…hello, who wouldn’t, am I right? lol. So he took us to Kikuichi Cutlery. They “engage in the manufacture and sale of hand-forged uchihamono cutlery.” This was such a treat! Being the cook in the house, naturally I had to buy a knife. Hands down, it’s the sharpest knife I’ve ever used! Engraved on the blade is the Imperial mark and they engraved my surname on it too! There’s a restaurant/bakery/tea house type setup inside as well so we took a tea break and had some deer shaped cakes! They were so good that we bought a box to take home, they didn’t even last back to the airbnb. Kikuichi has such a rich history, if you have time, go check them out!

It was at this point that we were feeling the pinch of time (gone was the confidence that we visit all the places on our list) and we resorted to riding taxis from here on out. Plus we requested for more of our guide’s time and he graciously agreed. Kyoto here we come.

First stop, Golden Pavilion. Wow, the gold you see on this pavilion is covered in gold foil. A shogun had it built for his personal place of worship! It’s really a sight to see! No one is allowed in now, I think I heard the guide say. I was too busy looking at all the stuff around.

And right around the bend is this huge bonsai tree:

Now it’s getting dark and it looks like it’s gonna rain so off to the Fushimi Inari Shrine (Vermillion Gates). Yup we got there and it’s raining (lucky we had umbrellas) and dark but wow what an atmosphere walking up the barely lit trail underneath the reddish orange torii gates the occasional stone ornaments off to the sides. You would think that it would feel scary but surprisingly it wasn’t, not even for my kids (maybe its because they’re teenagers?). In fact they found it had a “peaceful feeling”.

Well, the weather and the time put a damper on our spirits (plus all the walking, lol) so we called it a day and bid farewell to our guide. Although we missed going to our last stop, Gion. We were all feeling satisfied with our day and everything we got to see and experience.

If you can’t tell already, I highly recommend going to Japan and visiting these places here in Kyoto and Nara but also Osaka too! I’m hoping to make it back one day and spend as much time in each place that I need.

If you want to see more, please follow me as I still have Tokyo to document on this trip. Here’s my Osaka post.😃

Oh, all the images (unless otherwise noted in the post) are my images 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, if you like what you see.

Thanks for viewing and best wishes,

Ray

PS. If you wanna see my other ‘works’, you can find them here:

http://rayshiuimages.com
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*** This post was originally posted on my Steemit Blog.



Transcend Card Reader Firmware Update

Hey y’all if you’re suddenly having issues with your Transcend TS-RDF8 not reading CF cards but read SD Cards just fine, you may want to try updating the firmware. I just did and it worked. Here’s Transcends site to get the firmware update:

https://www.transcend-info.com/Support/No-331



“Powerful Shots” book by gurushots.com, yay, I’m in it!

Check out the awesome images in this book! I have an image selected 8-), it’s on p.60 if you want to see it. Feeling honored and grateful for the inclusion.

If you want to get in on the “game” check out gurushots.com There’s an android app too!