Admittedly our first few days in the city were spent relaxing, and getting over the hangover I sustained on our first night (boy was I hit hard!), but after a while we got off our arses and went out in search of some culture!
High in the hills above Chiang Mai, Wat Phra That is probably one of my favourite temples so far, which is fortunate because it is a little challenging to get to!
We had read that we could take a public songthaew (a bit like a bus) to the temple for 50bhat, but the internet seemed a little unsure as to where we should get the songthaew from..
For anyone reading this because they actually want to go there, leave the old city by the Chuang Puak gate, cross the road at the Zebra crossing to your left, and there should be a row of Songthaews infront of you - outside the 7eleven.
You will have to wait untill there are 10 people so its not the fastest way to travel, (and our driver got bored, so said he would take the seven of us that were waiting for 100bhat each, meaning we probably didn't even save that much money, but it was worth a try..)
Once we had managed to find our Songthaew, we then actually had to make the journey!! A half and hour ride on some of the windiest roads I have ever had the misfortune to experience!! And then, once you finally reach the drop off point, you have 304 stairs to contend with before you can enter the temple complex.
Thankfully this place was very much worth it!
Constructed in 1383, on the whims of a wandering elephant*, this temple could not be further from the red bricked ruins of central Thailand.
Everywhere you look there is colour and vibrant stencil work, and gold. I've never seen so much gold. And all of it framed against the bluest sky we'd seen since we got to Thailand.
The complex was smaller than some that we saw in Bangkok, but it was filled nonetheless with a huge numbers of shrines, chedis, viharns (prayer halls), bells, and Buddha statues. And flowers; eveywhere you turned there were flowers blossoming in an array of colours.
This temple does also provide excellent views over the city. But sadly on the day of our visit, the city was shrouded in smog, so we were a little underwhelmed . I have heard though that its a pretty spectacular place to watch the sun set. :)
The view 😞
Somg asside, Wat Phra That was spectacular, and I would highly reccomend it to anyone who is spending any time in Chiang Mai.
*In 1368, a piece of the Buddha's shoulderbone, which had been discovered by a monk from Sukhothai, and promised to King Nu Naone, of the Lanna Kingdom (northern thailamd) arived in Chiang Mai.
In Sukhothai the bone had displayed no magical properties, so the people didn't really want it, but on its arrival in the North, it supposedly split into two parts, perfectly replicating itself. The King then commanded one bone to be preserved at Suandok, and the other was placed onto the back of an white elephant, who was freed to rome the mountains as he pleased.
Local legend states that he climbed to the top of Doi Sutep, trumpteded three times, and died. Which the local people took to be a sign of relegious importance, and so Wat Phra That was began, with a huge golden chedi at its center to hold the bone of the Buddha.
Since then, the complex has been expanded and rebuilt many times to create the temple we recognise today, and eventually in the 1930's the various local villages came together to construct a road. Each village was expected to lay their own 1,300 foot section of road, which perhaps explains the poorly planned, wiggly journey..