03 May 2012

Wat Doi Suthep

We left Chiang Mai and drove up the hairpin turns to the top of the mountain. It had started to sprinkle about halfway up the mountain but by the time we got to the top, it was really raining. We were supposed to go to the temple then the Orchid Jade Factory but decided to do it the other way around.

At the jade factory we saw a brief video about the 2 different types of jade and all the different colors that jade comes in...violet, black, white, red and, of course, green. Then we went back into the factory area where they were shaping jade into different things...mostly Buddha statues. There was a gallery of incredibly intricate jade carvings.

Out front, there was all the jewelry; not just jade but also ruby and sapphire. It was beautiful, high quality stuff and many of us got something. I didn't. Not that it wasn't gorgeous, I just don't wear much in the way of jewelry.

By the time we were done there, it had mostly stopped raining so we went back to the temple area. There are about 300 steps you have to climb to get to the temple; the steps rise between elaborate and huge snake handrails.

At the top, Ken walked us through the Ramayana story murals in the gallery ringing the temple. Then we wandered a bit on our own. There were dozens of Buddha statues around the central temple and a number of people were walking three times around it with a lotus flower held vertically between their palms. It's kind of like a mini-pilgrimage and a way for Buddhists to make merit.

After the inside of the temple, I walked around the outside. From the back side of the temple there is an incredible, panoramic view of Chiang Mai. It was a little hazy from the rain but still an impressive view.

I walked back down the steps and toward the bottom were lots of vendors selling fuit, food, scarves, clothes, etc. I went in with 2 of the girls to get a pashmina scarf...with 3 you get a discount. I also bought some rambutans, mangosteen and rose apple.

At the very bottom of the temple stair area, I met up with others in our group who were waiting for the others. There were also vendors here as well. There was a fruit vendor that had watermelon which was very popular with our group. I got some guava and something I'd never seen before. Urt said it was santee...or something like that. It was faintly pinkish colored and the fruit part was soft, like a mango but curved around a large, gellatinous pulp covered pit. Urt said not to eat the pulpy part, just the pinkish part. I didn't think it was bad but the others in the group who tried it pretty much universally spit it out. They thought the rambutan was ok and the mangosteen was yummy.