Most things to do in Chiang Mai include temples, shopping and a whole lot of outdoor activities. Jesse and I have been fortunate enough to find some spots to go to that are more popular with Thai locals than with tourists.
We decided to check out Sankampaeng Hot Springs, only about 35 minutes outside of the city. The drive there was beautiful, heading up in the mountains, feeling the air get cooler and being surrounded by lush, green rice fields. At the hot springs, they have a beautiful landscape with gardens, walkways, stone paths and a restaurant tucked away overlooking the gardens. They have two geysers and the water gets pumped from there into this stream they have running through the grounds. The stream is surrounded by stone bridges and and you can sit on the edge with your lunch or snacks and dip your feet into the (very) hot water! After lounging for a bit we walked through the flower gardens that had hundreds of butterflies and got some lunch.
A few days later we made our way up Doi Suthep. There’s a temple atop the mountain that we have a view of from our apartment. I’ve been waiting for a clear, sunny day to venture up there. However, that day I was tricked into going…it was clear in the morning and by the time we got there the clouds rolled in! No matter though, there were still tons of people, the markets still open, and the weather was cool and breezy. It’s a gorgeous temple and the grounds were fun to wander around. There’s a platform with a great view (probably greater without the clouds!) of the city and its surroundings.
My favorite part was the inner sanctum that has the golden stupa! There was so much activity going on in this small square area. When we first walked in I noticed people, both Thai and tourist, walking clockwise around the stupa with lotus flowers. More and more people joined the short pilgrimage until it was barely moving. At each face of the stupa there were numbers of Buddha statues with people offering candles, incense, flowers and money. As we walked around I noticed a small room where a monk was blessing a group of people. Afterwards I came back and sat in the room as the monk chanted and sprinkled water on our heads. After the blessing we were given white ropes to wear around our wrist as a token of “happy and good luck”! Then around the corner there were people lining up along this row of lotus shaped metal containers…each container had a candle in the middle and oil all around it, with a pool of oil underneath. You were supposed to scoop up oil into each of the lotuses as you went down the line. I feel that there are a lot of Thai rituals I’m only beginning to pick up on and understand, but as a Buddhist country I know a lot of what they do is to gain merit and for good luck.