Finding life’s answers at Doi Sutep Temple, Chiang Mai

Over my New Year trip to Chiang Mai, I wanted to see a few temples as it is something that I haven’t really explored in Thailand at all and the big golden works of art are everywhere. I also really wanted to capture their magnificent beauty with my camera. I have fallen in love with what my macro lens can do. I want to start taking more photographs and that is one of the promises I made myself for the New Year.

We decided to go and see the famous Doi Sutep temple. Its full name is Wat Phra That Doi Sutep. The temple is mostly known as Doi Sutep but this is actually the name of the mountain that it sits on. It is a very sacred site to many Thai people and the temple offers some very impressive views of Chiang Mai.

The impressive views of Chiang Mai
The impressive views of Chiang Mai

We took one of the many red taxis that you see driving around Chiang Mai every day, to the top of the mountain or at least as far as we could go. In traditional Thailand style, the traffic was ridiculous, gridlocked all the way up the mountain. We had only made it a few metres before the driver gave up and went back down. Turns out, he would take us up the mountain on a back road, along rocky, dusty roads. We were all clinging onto the poles in the back of the truck as there were no doors on the back nor seatbelts  (Don’t worry there’s no sense of simple health and safety here either)but its ok as we were all squished in the back like sardines. Anyone who has visited any country in Asia will know that public transport will not leave until you can not physically fit anyone else in. There is NO concept of personal space here.

After the rockiest ride ever, we hit the main road again where the traffic was just as bad. I guess you can so far, without being hit by the thing you were trying to avoid in the first place. Motorbikes swaying in and out of the stranded cars. In my opinion, I feel like the motorbikes/mopeds slow the traffic down even more. We eventually made it through the traffic, around the spiral roads to the entrance. We got out of the car and followed the mass crowds of tourists towards the start of the 309 steps up to the temple. You can get a cable car up to the top for 50Baht (£1) but save yourself the money and get some exercise, it’s all apart of the experience. I was personally surprised at how well I took the steps.

The crowds and the 309 steps up to the top
The crowds and the 309 steps up to the top
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Traditional Hill Tribe Children at Doi Sutep (A huge tourist trap, trying to get money out of you for a picture)

I paid the 30Baht entry fee. Locals go free of course like many places in Thailand.

One of the rules is to take off your shoes before entering the temple, in fact any temple in Thailand. Feet are seen as the dirtiest part of the body in Thailand. My students even take their shoes off before entering the classroom. There were thousands of different pairs of shoes all over the ground. All different types of colours, shapes and sizes. I was worried that I wouldn’t find mine again, but then I thought to myself who would want a pair of old, dirty TOMS with holes in them.

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My awful feet and my terrible shoe tan marks
My awful feet and my terrible shoe tan marks

I started to snap away at all the Buddha statues and the details of the temple. I walked inside and slowly walked through the crowds trying to not get my toes trampled on.

Just some of the many Buddhist statues
Just some of the many Buddhist statues

We decided to get blessed by a Buddhist Monk. The whole process or ritual, if you will, was surreal, we entered the room with our heads bowed lower than the Buddha (statues included) and kneeled before the Monk, head just about touching the ground as he scattered some sort of water over us whilst chanting something in Thai (I wish I knew what he was saying). After that, we got presented with a white piece of string (‘Sai Sin Bracelet’) to tie around our wrists. The Monk himself would tie it around the male’s wrist but not the females as they are forbidden to touch a female. We had to go to a volunteer of the temple to be given our string. The bracelet is supposed to bring luck and fortune.

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inside-doi-sutep

After that, we continued to walk around and we came across an area where people were shaking a cup full of sticks. I was curious of course. Apparently, they were asking the Buddha for some guidance in life. It is called ‘Kua Cim’. That appealed to me, so I decided to give it a go. You had to kneel down in front of the Buddha and ask in your mind a question or hope that you want help with in life. You are to ask 3 times, holding the cup. Each stick has a number on you, you have to shake the cup until one stick falls out. It took me 3 tries for me to get one stick to fall out because several kept falling out at the same time. Once a stick falls out, you must find your number and get your answer from the wall where there are little pieces of paper, which all have numbers on. If you like the answer that the Buddha has given you, then you should keep it. If you don’t like the answer you should give it back to the Buddha.

I liked my answer ALOT. I was somewhat ‘freaked out’ by how accurate and direct it was to what I had asked the Buddha. It gave me some sort of clarity on life. It was strange.

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buddhas

I left Doi Sutep, wanting to know more about Buddhism and finding some sort of inner peace. I guess living in a Buddhist country does have some sort of effect on you and really makes you think about the religion. I admire how Buddhists believe in living in the present. It has always been something that I have wondered about; being content in life and my surroundings. Since leaving Chiang Mai, I have found myself exploring Buddhism and meditation more.

I always said if I could choose any religion, I would choose Buddhism. Now it all makes sense to me.

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