What is worth seeing in Chiang Mai area?
On the second day in Chiang Mai I decided to rent a bicycle and explore the nearby mountain having two peaks – Doi Suthep and Doi Poi. On those peaks there are the temple of Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep (usually just called Doi Suthep) and a village called Doi Poi. I did as I’ve decided and after breakfast, I set off the road. Reaching the base of the mountain took me about an hour, but I’ve decided to give it a try and drive uphill on a rented bicycle, which was in a pretty bad shape, though I was able to ride on it. After a few minutes of cycling I’ve finally got to the first stop – Huay Kaew waterfall.
After enjoying time spent at the waterfall I’ve jumped on the bike and continued the slow rude up the mountain. I was riding as fast as galloping tortoise, so I’ve decided to leave a bike and continue my journey on foot. I left the bike next to the guardhouse and started walking up the hill and after few minutes happiness smiled to me. Some Thai guy on a scooter stopped and asked if I need a lift. Few minutes later we stopped at the viewpoint from which we could see the panorama of the whole area including the city, which was much bigger than i thought.
Temple of Doi Suthep
We jumped on the scooter and rushed up the hill again to reach the temple of Doi Suthep few minutes later. As I found out later, my new Thai friends’ name was Ohm and he recently moved to Chiang Mai to open a restaurant. Since today he had a day off, he decided to go and see Doi Suthep – pray and relax here, so after all I was really lucky I met him. We’ve decided to visit Doi Suthep and Doi Poi together, starting with the first one.
Legend of the White Elephant
According to a legend, a monk Sumanathera from Sukhothai had a dream. In that dream he was told to go to Pang Cha and find the relic. Sumanathera decided to travel to Pang Cha, where he found the bone, which as it is said, was the bone of the shoulder of the Buddha. The relic had some magical powers – it shone, it was able to disappear, and appear in different places and replicate. Sumanathera decided to take the relict to Dharmmaraja, the king who reigned in Sukhothai.
When Sumanathera came to Sukhothai, Dharmmaraja offered sacrifices and arranged the ceremony, but the relic didn’t show any unusual activity, so the king doubted it is authentic and told Sumanathera that he can keep the relic for himself.
Meanwhile King Nu Naon of Lanna heard about the relic and offered the monk to bring the relic to his kingdom. In 1368 with the permission of Dharmmaraja, monk Sumanathera took the relic to the place nowadays known as Lamphun, in the northern Thailand. While travel the relic duplicated into two parts – one was the same size as the original, and the other was smaller. A smaller part of the relic was placed in a temple in Suandok. While the other part was placed by the King on the back of a white elephant, which was then set free into the wild in the jungle. As legend says, the elephant climbed up to Doi Suthep, which was then known as Aoy Doi Chang (Sugar Elephant Mountain). When the elephant reached the top he blew his trumpet three times and died. This event has been interpreted as a sign and King Nu Naon build a temple in this place, known nowadays as Doi Suthep.
After visiting the temple we jumped on the scooter and rushed up towards Doi Poi. After about 20 minutes we reached a point of information and decided to ask for directions, it turned out that we missed a turn to the native Hmong village, so we turned back, and this time we decided to look for the turn more closely. In the end, we managed to reach the village. As I learned in a local museum – these areas are inhabited by many tribes, who had fled from neighboring countries in search of a better place to live. In the village we had a chance to try a traditional local tea and we ate a lunch there.
There are definitely at least two places worth seeing in Chiang Mai – Doi Suthep and Doi Poi. If you like treking you can just walk up the mountain instead of taking a tuk-tuk taxi or renting a scooter. You will most likely love the Old Town area of Chiang Mai. and at the base of Doi Suthep there are other attractions – for example a ZOO, which is a great atraction if you travel with kids.