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Wat Doi Suthep, Chang Mai - A Not So Spiritual Journey

The Buddhist Temples in Thailand are simply impressive. This is particularly true of Wat Doi Suthep, the mountain temple outside Chang Mai.

Wat Doi Suthep

More or less located on the top of Suthep Mountain, Wat Doi Suthep is a day trip from the city. You’ll notice I didn’t write an “easy” day trip. When the Thais build a mountain temple, they’re serious about the mountain aspect.

Suthep Mountain is large as is the road winding up it. I had planned to rent a mountain bike and ride up to it early in the morning. While sitting in a beverage establishment the previous evening, the bartender had to take a minute to himself to stop laughing after revealed my plans. I wasn’t sure if this was because I was actually in the establishment or because of the road up the mountain.

The next morning I was a little less enthusiastic about my riding plans, so much so I rented a moped. Off I went and, after a few wrong turns, I was headed up the mountain. I felt a bit guilty as I passed a few people riding bikes up the hill. As I putted up the hill, I thought the exercise would have done me well. Up I went enjoying the view. And up I went and went and went. If there had been any turns off the road, I would’ve sworn I had taken a wrong turn.

It turns out the ride from Chang Mai to the Wat was something like 22 miles. All of it up hill at a grade that would get a whimper out of Tour de France rider. The people riding up the hill were definitely not professional riders. It was like watching a progression of misery. The higher you went, the more unhappy the looked.

Pulling into the parking lot for the Wat was like pulling into a disaster zone. Twenty or so bikers were sprawled out on the ground in various states of agony. Some appeared to have ridden to a soft looking spot and just fallen over. Most were saying things like, “Never again.”

I spend an hour up at Wat Doi Suthep overlooking the valley below. It is definitely worth a day trip from Chang Mai. Just don’t try to mountain bike to it. I never saw any of the wounded in the parking lot actually come into the Wat!

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