Photo of the day: Orange robes marking the Monk’s Trail. Photo credit: Aaron.
Today we are going to hike up Doi Suthep. Many have heard of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep but not many heard of hiking up the mountain to see it. The usual transportation method is to take a Song Thaew up, but since we did not sign up for any trekking during our stay in Chiang Mai, we thought why not? I still have a cold so our plans weren’t really confirmed until this morning. We were off to a late start and I was starting to worry that it will be too hot to be hiking. So we loaded our bag with lots of water, tissues and some snacks and loaded ourselves with sunscreen and military-grade DEET cream, then were on our way.
First, we needed some fuel for our hike. We stopped at Smoothie Blues for a good, nutritious breakfast. I had their avocado breakfast sandwich and Aaron had the roast chicken avocado sandwich. I preferred the roast chicken avocado sandwich, with the tasty gravy and perfect toast. Their smoothies are also very healthy tasting, not too sweet.
We caught an Uber to bring us to the end of Doi Suthep Road. From our readings, the trails are not obviously marked so we will have to rely on other blogs with photos of useful landmarks. We referenced mainly this blog, but did review a few others as well. I immediately recognized the end of the road with the many signs posted, so asked to get off.
We continued walking up the road for another 5-10 minutes, passing the back entrance (Entrance #2) of the Chiang Mai Zoo and found the map and park rules board signifying the beginning of the Monk’s Trail. Interestingly, the map now has English writing on it, compared to the blogs we’ve read written by previous hikers. It was still not too helpful though. Aaron used a hiking app (Maps 3D Pro), which was actually very helpful in keeping us on track, since we did veer off the trail maybe once or twice. There weren’t as many orange monk robes markings on the trees as I was hoping for to guide the way. They mainly were at the end of the trail, near the first temple – Wat Pha Lat. We did not see anyone else hiking up the trail, although, we did see a few hiking down. It was a gentle hike with alternating ascending and flat sections. Apparently, monks would do this hike in sandals, so it couldn’t be too bad!
It took us around 40 minutes to reach this first temple, which was not bad considering we took lots of water and nose-blowing breaks. The temple was very peaceful, with only a few visitors. It overlooking a mostly dried waterfall at this time of year, which is marked by a set of white double dragon staircase. We spent maybe 30 minutes there, including a washroom break, as well as a Thai Milk Tea break, then headed on the road again.
The next part is a little tricky, as we now we had to find the entrance to the next part of the trail, which was across the road. We actually were a little off at first and noticed we were on a not very well-groomed trail before we realized this is probably not the right trail. It wasn’t long before we were able to find the right entrance with the help of Aaron’s app and reviewing the blogs. This next part of the trail was supposed to be the most difficult with the greatest inclining up the clay steps. After 45 minutes or so, we have reached the road again! We knew we were near the top! Overall, I would say the hike was probably intermediate. Those of you who have done Vancouver’s Grouse Grind or Stawamus Chief would probably be able to complete this hike easily.
To avoid the aggressive dogs and also to not disturb the monks in their residences, we took the main road up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. What a contrast it is to see the sea of people in the market place just outside the temple compared to the rest of our day so far. I once again put on some long pants over my shorts and entered the temple. It wasn’t easy choosing the attire for today’s hike. I had to be cautious of overheating, but at the same time, needed to be respectful. I ended up wearing a racer back tank top under a t-shirt, so I had the option to wear just a tank top if it got too hot, which I never ended up needing to do. I also decided to wear shorts today and brought my tourist pants to cover up my knees on the temple grounds. There were sarongs available to borrow at at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep but not at Wat Pha Lat. Because it wasn’t summer here, the temperatures were actually bearable, even though we were hiking during the hottest part of the day.
The hiking was not over yet, as we needed to walk up another 309 steps to the temple. The entrance fee (for foreigners) was very reasonable at 30 THB. This temple was definitely very beautiful with the central golden chedi as well as the unbelievably gorgeous view of the city. The atmosphere was very different than Wat Pha Lat, though, due to the large number of visitors. There were silence signs everywhere but people did not obey these signs. I saw a few monks who were sitting and doing some reading as well as some people trying to pay their respects and I really felt sorry for them.
After grabbing a taro ice cream bar to cool down, we walked back to the entrance to catch a Song Thaew back to the city. It was pretty organized, ran like a taxi-stand with posted prices, so there was really no haggling. Even though there was a row of Song Thaews ready to pick up passengers, they really tried to fill one up before starting on the next. We ended up squishing in the passenger seat up front with the driver. They even tried to fit another lady in at the back but she refused. I was a little disappointed at first that I did not get to ride in the back to fully get the Song Thaew experience, although I already got that experience the other day in the back of Art’s truck to the cooking class. It was probably a blessing in disguise, since it was probably less nauseating up front, going down the windy road. He made a few stops and ended up dropping us off a couple blocks away from our condo, so I guess the Song Thaew acts more like a bus than a taxi.
Surprisingly, we were not too hungry, so we showered and rested a little before going out for dinner. We went to เกียรตินำ, restaurant close by, with high ratings on Foursquare as well as cute decor. It wasn’t too busy when we arrived at 6pm but got busier as the night progressed. We ordered the “grilled fish”,chicken with cashew nuts and some rice. I really enjoyed the chicken with cashew nuts I made the other day, so I wanted to try it again. To my disappointment, it wasn’t as good here. The “grilled fish” was also not grilled, but deep fried. It was good but not what we were hoping for. Overall, we were not overly impressed with our meal here. Perhaps we did not order the right dishes.
After dinner, we went to Guu Fusion & Roti for some roti-based desserts. We chose the banana-milo roti, but instead we think we got the banana-chocolate roti. It was all good because it was delicious anyway! I mean, how can you go wrong with banana and chocolate? It was still a nice way to end our adventurous day.