Into the mountains
Jonno and I had found a driver on our way home from buying the SIM cards. Santi spoke reasonable English and was proud of his "new" car (which we decided meant that it was new for him as it had already done 120,000 km). He met us as arranged at 7am so that we could visit Doi Suthep ahead of the reputed Saturday crowds.
The roads were reasonably quiet as we drove out of Chiang Mai. I had asked to stop first at Wat Pha Lat. Santi pulled over beside a shrine and we all got out. I was a bit confused as I couldn't see any wat. The shrine was quite interesting with a number of people making offerings and praying. We watched for a few minutes then headed off to find the Huay Keaw waterfall which though small was very scenic. It turned out that Wat Pha Lat was a few kilometres up the hill. We had stopped at the Kruba Srivichai monument.
Offerings at the shrine
Huay Keaw waterfall
Next stop was Wat Phra That Doi Suthep which is of great significance as it contains half of Buddha's shoulder bone. It was a steep road up with lots of cyclists. I was more than happy to drive the mountain in a car! It was very quiet when we arrived as most of the stalls had yet to open. The nagas lining the stairs were most impressive as we climbed the 309 steps to the entrance to the pagodas.
Bottom of the 309 steps
We removed our shoes and wandered through the temple admiring the different buddhas and places to make offerings. There were many monks visiting which added to the atmosphere. One was carrying a most impressive SLR camera. There were also a number of Thais but no westerners. The views over Chiang Mai were stunning though slightly marred by haze.
Even monks can take selfies
Looking down onto hazy Chiang Mai
We enjoyed a coffee in the grounds of the temple then made our way back to the car, noting that there were now lots more people and heaps more cars. Santi was quick to collect us and we headed off to the Bhubing Palace, the winter residence for the Royal family when they visit northern Thailand. Whilst none of the buildings were open to the public, we enjoyed our wander through the beautiful gardens full of roses in bloom. The Shan Suwaree rose garden was particularly gorgeous set high up on a hill and close to the lovely Hor Phra shrine.
The road deteriorated once we left the palace and was quite rough and narrow in parts as we drove to Doi Pui Hmong Village. We made our way past the many stalls to the Doi Pui coffee, an Hmong family run business that grow and roast their own coffee. It overlooked the village and mountain range. The coffee was excellent as were the pineapple shakes enjoyed by Jonno and Georgia. We then visited the waterfall garden but passed up the opportunity to dress up in Hmong costume.
Hmong Coffee time
Georgia bought some elephant key rings on our way to visit the little Hill tribe museum. Located in a single room with a dirt floor it provided lots of interesting information on story boards with photos and English text. On our way out we watched some Hmong children at play and bought some strawberries that were small but delicious.
Next stop was lunch back at the palace parking area. Three of us had the local speciality Khao Soi, a chicken leg in a noodle curry sauce. It was delicious. Simon ordered pad Thai which he pronounced as good, though not as substantial as the one from the night market.
We decided our final stop would be the Chiang Mai City Arts and Cultural Centre in the old city. The drive down was slow due to traffic and we passed an accident where a tourist had come of a motorbike. Someone was performing CPR and we soon passed two ambulances racing to the scene. Very sobering and we hoped for a good outcome for the poor biker.
The traffic passing the zoo was appalling as it was children's Day and kids got in free. The tailback went for a long way and we were glad to be driving in the opposite direction.
The museum was very well done, providing insights into the history of Chiang Mai through a range of media. Santi had never been there before so he had a look as well. That was our last stop and we were home around 3:30. Simon and I headed straight to the supermarket to pick up bread and milk for breakfast. Unfortunately we couldn't buy beer as you are not allowed to purchase alcohol between 2pm - 5pm.
Boat on Ping River
Dinner was at the nearby Lemongrass restaurant where we ordered some of our favourites from home Including fishcakes, spring rolls, drunken noodles, massaman beef and a chicken in red curry. They were all better than anything we had eaten at home except that the beef was a bit tough. We debated heading on for coconut ice cream but Jonno decided he needed to digest his main meal first so we walked the 200 metres home again. Not sure we will be venturing out again tonight....