Motorbike ride to a mountain top golden temple at the crack of dawn.

Doi Sutep is a mountain, but to almost all tourists in Chiang Mai, the name stands for the temple on top of the mountain, Wat Phra That Doi Sutep. I actually visited the place several years ago as part of a tour, but I decided to go again, this time renting a little motorbike so I could go at the crack of dawn.

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Pre-sunrise view of Chiang Mai, on the way to the top.

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The famous 309 step dragon stair case. When I first visited, the dragons were impressive, but grey and dull. Evidently, they have since been restored. The oldest parts of the temple date back to the late 14th century, so about as old as Chiang Mai itself. Maybe even a little bit older.

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If you zoom in, you will see the sign requiring tourists to buy a ticket for upkeep (~$1). This is unusual in Thai temples, but in any case I couldn’t pay because the counter was not opened yet! I actually went after my visit, paid and said I didn’t need the ticket. Not sure the clerk understood what I was up to. He probably pocketed the money!

Although I was the only western tourist as far as I could tell, there were lots of locals, as I think a festival of some kind was about to begin. I think a  man tried to express this as I was having a cup of tea in a street side shop afterwards. Unfortunately, his good intentions were much better than his English, so I politely nodded and smiled a lot.

There were also a lot of people going up the mountain on high tech, expensive looking bicycles, dressed in very fancy looking sports gear. Since such things are beyond the means of the average Thai, I assumed they might be Japanese tourists, who visit such sites a lot. But my prejudice was misguided; they were all well-off Thais.

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The golden stupa as the first sun rays hit it. Absolutely worth getting up at the crack of dawn.

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Of couse, it is also beautiful at noon, but nothing like this.

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Although Thai temples are usually fairly busy with worshippers, there did seem to be more religious activities going on. The festival theory became more probable.

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But there were still lots of locals and some Asian tourists mainly interested in the sunrise.

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Tripods and fancy gear; a telltale sign there are Japanese tourists nearby (although these days, I see more and more Chinese tourists travelling with pro or near-pro camera gear).

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Roof tiles for an expansion project, with various messages written on them.

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I’m sure I don’t have to explain how this works.

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On the way back to Chiang Mai, I saw a restaurant on the side of the highway that seemed quite busy. A good occasion to eat outside the tourist zone. No menu, no English, pointed at someone’s soup, got something completely different. Fish balls, greens, noodles and some sort of crispy thing. Very good and not bad for ~US$1. And then, after several days of delicious Thai food, it hit me: change was immediately needed.

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Bang! Lunch.

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Bang! Dinner. An unimpressive pizza, but an amazing burger, in a self-described biker bar, served by a waitress who, if this had been in the Southern US, would have called me “honey”.

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And finally some bad ideas. Obviously, this doesn’t look especially safe. Now trust me on this one, he is currently working on the 3rd floor! Really not safe, an unfortunate for the guy.

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Now this is also not safe, but funny. I can’t really think of a worse combination of businesses. The important question is: who, between the tattooer and the tattooee, is doing most of the drinking? Neither seem like a very good idea!

Tomorrow, tigers!

#Thailand

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