Temples, umbrellas, tuk tuks and dance
May 18, 2016
|Up early again and make our way to the back of the hotel. Offering bowls had been set out and after a few minutes three Buddhist monks appeared and collected the offerings of food, drink, and flowers. Buddhist monks don't work so they depend on offerings to survive. At the end they chanted their thanks. While they were chanting we poured water into a bowl and when they left we poured the water on a tree to share the blessing.
After that we had another nice breakfast. Then board the bus for another day on the go. We drive out of town and up a windy mountain road. The roadside was decorated in many colored flags and people setting up stalls because tomorrow is an important festival. The woods around the road were dry and there seemed to be many dead trees. Not much rain at all for some time.
At the top of the mountain we arrived at Wat Doi Suthep which overlooks Chiang Mai. The temple was built in 1383 by the Lanna Kingdom when a white elephant of the king wandered away and climbed the mountain, circled three times then died. That became the basis for the location of the temple.
The area surrounding the entry was packed with stalls selling various souvenirs, and on the steps prayer bells were the item for sale. Not all that pushy but they asked everyone several times. We got tickets to the cable car and road up to the temple.
The temple was constructed in layers – with the bottom layer housing many images of the Buddha and various stalls and trees and other relics and memorials. The next level was more of the same but directly surrounding the main pagoda it was more solemn. The highest level was immediately around the main pagoda, and was only a narrow path.
We got a lotus flower and candle from the first level (for a donation) then placed them at statues of the Buddha on the second level. There was a large crowd of who we guessed were volunteers who were cleaning the whole temple area – washing everything, scraping wax off the ground, cleaning the fencing and pretty much everything. There was also a small stall selling souvenirs and posters.
I poured jasmine water over a replica of the temple then walked around the inner level. After a few more pictures we headed down the steps which were quite long – and on both sides a colorful rendition of Naga, a serpent spirit who guards the temple. We visited the various stalls at the bottom and got several wonderful items. Well, stuff.
Once the group got together again we boarded the bus and headed for the cooperative at Samphampaeng, a paper factory started by the queen of Thailand in the 1950s when the rice fields dried up and the women turned to prostitution to support their families. The place now makes paper goods – from the basic paper itself to umbrellas and fans and many other paper products. We saw the whole process, which took about ten minutes, then we entered the hall of artists – actually just on the other side of the demonstration area – and many folks had them paint items for a small fee. Alice had her phone case painted. Then we spent about 45 minutes in the gift shop.
When done we drove off to a local country club for a buffet lunch. Nice place but the lake was very low and showed lots of mud – part of the drought they had been going through. Food was OK – even the traditional French fries. There was some very nice egg noodle soup. Tried the local beer – Singh – which tasted like Budweiser.
Back to the hotel where we had a quick shower and nap – then off again at 5:00. We took a ride on the local Tuk Tuks – three wheeled open taxis – to the local “night market.” It’s called the night market because it runs from about 5:30 to 11:00 at night – a mile of booths and shops. We went looking for a variety of goods – and bargained for every one. Alice got some nice stuff and I got some Aloe and snail face cream!
The bus picked us up after and we went to the a traditional Khanatoke dinner, harkening back to the Lanna culture. We sat at low tables on cushions with our feet in a depression under the table. They brought soup and a round tray of various foods – fried chicken, pork rinds, beef in sauce, pork in chili sauce, and had fruits for dessert.
The cultural show was a bunch of costumed dancers performing what they said were traditional dances, but they seemed to be rather bland, nice costumes and some fun things, but not great. Rather uncomfortable as well. But maybe I was just grumpy and tired…
Anyway, back to the hotel by about 9:30 and to bed. Early morning tomorrow.