There is no shortage of temples in Chiang Mai, and you can feel duty-bound to visit them all. Mainly, they look the same – pagoda roofs, dragons, Buddhas – but each one has its own distinct features. They are interesting until they’re not, and at that point, you call it a day and go for a beer. To save you, dear reader, I’ll just include some highlights – quirks and observations, and spare you pointless identification and details that you’re not likely interested in anyway. To begin, a massive gold chedi:
A long line of people, both Thai and foreign, who with flowers and prayers in hand, walk the circumference of the chedi. For tourists, it can be a rite of passage; for the observant, it is deeply moving and solemn.
Young girls in costume position themselves on the stairs leading up to this mountaintop temple. People take photos, the girls run over to their parents with the cash, and then resume position. We had no idea what the significance of the costume is, but found the whole thing upsetting.
This almost life-sized elephant offered a quiet spot for a couple of the local dogs.
While most of the temples are golden and jewel-encrusted (well, coloured-glass
encrusted), we found this pretty little teak temple that outwardly, was far more modest.
Inside, another story. A donation box the size of a bank safe was prominently situated.
On the opposite side of the temple was a line-up of donation slots, according to the day of our birth. The sign promised that a donation would ensure a better life and fate. Naturally, the Mother Goose rhyme “Monday’s child” lodged itself in my brain. (I’m Saturday – “Works hard for a living”, and Stephen is Thursday – “Has far to go”).
We marvelled at the wealth of the temples in contrast to the poverty of the faithful, and how the constant outreached hand for donations, alms, flowers, candles, incense and monk support must put a financial burden on the country’s neediest inhabitants.
The temples do provide a serene and contemplative setting, even for the tourists who simply want to admire their surroundings, and find a break from the street.
This magnificent carved structure held a command post overlooking the whole city. Each column was carved in great detail and we noticed the symbols of the Thai zodiac, which is similar to Chinese. An interesting observation – the Thai (or Buddhist) calendar is different from ours – we noticed that with a hotel receipt, the year was marked 2560!
There have been so many unusual signs at the temples – sometimes a case of lost in translation, like the one below:
This sign was actually bearing itself out as we entered the grounds. We could hear a dog barking rather fiercely, and then giving a couple of final little “woofs”, as dogs are wont to do, before circling back and lying in the shade – his guard duties complete. Presumably, he has given chase in the past.
And finally – the no-go zone for women – monk territory.
Often, we notice locals wearing T-shirts with messages that are either inappropriate or so Western that the connection can’t possibly mean anything. We loved this one, and so did its owner -he proudly posed for me. Whether he is being deliberately ironic or is simply the recipient of a nice shirt, we have no idea.
A couple of days ago, we were walking through a museum just behind a very scholarly-looking young Chinese couple. The girl had on a shirt that read, “Rollin’ with my Homies”. It didn’t quite seem to fit her personality and style, but – one should never judge.
This sign, outside a Thai (non-western) restaurant, is missing a verb. Very clever – it got our attention.
Last night, the main street just down the road from our hotel, transformed into a pedestrian-only night market. We ignored the advice of the hotel owner, who advised us to go early because of the crowds, but crowds and all it was a lot of fun. First, we ate:
Then, we shopped around – there was some really lovely stuff. I bought a blouse and dress that are suited to this climate – light cotton – about $11 for both. Many other things were calling out, but we had to walk by.
This little girl took great care to stack and present her soaps properly.
The evening’s excitement proved to be a bit much for this lady.
Musicians and entertainers were everywhere. This group of (mainly) farangs swung by in their robes, chanting “Hare Krishna. Hare Krishna.” It took me back about 40 years, and then suddenly this lovely young woman swung toward me, (feeling my energy, I’m sure). For one awful moment, I thought she was going to pull me in, but they moved on.
We stopped to listen to these musicians – Eastern instruments, Western fedoras.
We have had a really wonderful time in Chiang Mai – it has been a highlight so far. Tomorrow we head up north to Pai, now billed as being Full Moon Party central, without the beach. We’ll see how we do! We know we want to investigate some hill trekking, and some caving, and enjoy the time in the mountains.
Stephen has been chomping at the bit to ride a motorbike (or scooter), and so far I’ve resisted, since the city traffic is so scary. Up north, we may just go for it. I’ll leave you with a final photo of Stephen checking out the merchandise.