This is another Chiang Mai topic as I had to make a trip there for a dental appointment – my last procedure until mid-November- yay.
I had seen a photograph of a place called Doi Inthanon on a previous trip to Chiang Mai and it looked quite spectacular and well worth a visit. However, being a couple of hours out of town on the opposite side to Chiang Rai the trip there and back needed a full day with an overnight stay otherwise it would have been on top of a further three hours drive back to Chiang Rai.
The dentist was over on Thursday so Friday was free for being a tourist.
Friday morning started with a visit to the Chiang Mai Expats Club, which meets once a month for a morning breakfast at the River Market restaurant luckily only a ten minute walk from our guesthouse. There must have been at least 100 people there so a reasonable turnout.
One of the benefits for a foreigner living in Chiang Mai is that there is a big expat community here, estimated to be around 27,000 and growing, so the facilities and support geared towards foreigners living here is pretty good. The Expats Club summarises its activities on their website as:
Chiang Mai Expats Club aims to help expats expand friendships and improve their quality of life here. We try to serve the community of foreigners by making it easier to understand the laws, language and lifestyle needs of our members and guests. Through the actions of our members and committees, with meetings each month, we strive to ease you into Chiang Mai culture by liaising with immigration and law enforcement officials, medical and insurance providers, business and property services and more.
The breakfast was very useful as I was able to meet one of the committee members and arrange another get together with him as he’s visiting Chiang Rai this Friday. Richard is their new member person and can take people through the process to open a bank account, find accommodation, set up medical insurance etc etc.
I also met a English guy with Pom, his Thai wife, an appropriate name for the wife of an English bloke! Pom is from Isaan like Gaun. Mark is over here for 12 months to study Thai at the Chiang Mai university and assess Chiang Mai as a longer term retirement option. His wife is heading back to England in two weeks, she has dual nationality. We exchanged contact details and will be arranging to catch-up next time we’re in Chiang Mai.
We even got our photo in a local on-line Expat newspaper! Outside you can just make out the one-way iron bridge on the left that cross the Ping river at this point.
After the meeting we drove to the car detailing place close to the airport so that the car could have its fortnightly clean-up and then headed out of Chiang Mai towards the South West on highway 108.
The temple Doi Inthanon is in a national park of the same name and by the time you get through the Chiang Mai traffic onto clear freeway allow for a two hour drive. The road out is mostly dual carriageway and a pretty clear fast driving before you turn right onto the local road that takes you to the park.
Entry to the Doi Inthanon National Park will cost you 200 TBH ($7.20) as a foreigner. Thais pay 70 TBH, a dual pricing system I have discussed before. It’s about another 30 minute drive to get to the summit and Doi Inthanon temple itself. The road winds through pretty country mostly trees but broken up with some farming and minor settlements.
If you have the time, and we didn’t having started late, there are several waterfalls that can be visited on the way although the water we saw was a deep muddy brown so not the most attractive photo opportunity. Maybe it clears at other times of the year.
The climb towards the end is reasonably steep rising to 2,565 meters above sea level and a real struggle for my rental car. It’s which is fine once it gets going on the flat but anything like a real hill had it doing the “I think I can” mantra.
Entry to the actual Doi (temple) will cost you another 40 TBH per person, no matter what your nationality! We arrived to an almost empty carpark although it was now around 3.00 pm so maybe too late for day trippers. Also the distance from Chiang Mai and the fact that I doubt big buses would make it up the climb to the Doi would be a factor.
When we stopped to pay for entrance to the park Gaun bought six white flowers from a lady who chatted to her while I was paying. I wondered at the time why she was buying flowers as we still had a day to go before getting back home when we could get them in water. Ah the foreign thought process – wrong! Doi Inthanon is split into three separate structures, two major and one very small. If you want to make offerings at all three you need to buy three flowers – get it!
The first thing that makes an impression once you arrive is the spectacular flower displays leading from the carpark and flowing into the larger garden that surrounds the right hand structure.
The left hand temple has a more masculine botanical statement:
From the carpark there is a set of stairs that split left and right leading to two large cone shaped buildings (stupas). The one on the left represents the male the one on the right the female. The correct order for visiting the temples is male, female and then daughter, a small shrine in the middle at the top of the steps from the carpark – on the level where the second photo below was taken.
BTW the sky looks washed out in most of these photos not through my photographic incompetence but because we are sitting just under and sometimes in the cloud layer.
The rather modernistic structure on the left in the above photo, and shown in more detail in the one below, are escalators which if they were working would assist the unfit, lazy and elderly get up to the top. Maybe you need to ring ahead to have them switched on. It reminds me of the huge wind turbine on a hill in Phuket, which I never saw actually turning. It’s the thought rather than the action that counts over here sometimes.
Apart from the temples what makes this place so impressive to visit are the incredibly colourful flower gardens that flow from each temple, especially the female or right hand side stupa.
So there you have Doi Inthanon. Very much recommended for a day out when visiting Chiang Mai.
UPDATE 7 October 2014.
This post was publish mid-September and the flowers were magnificent as you can see. We took some visitors there over the Christmas period in 2013 and the gardens were almost bare. If you are into gardens then check for the best time to visit but I suspect it is September. We are going there mid-October 2014 and I will report back on how it’s looking.
Thanks for reading.