Hidden Hike in Chiang Mai to Wat Palad วัดผาลาด

Hidden Hike in Chiang Mai to Wat Palad วัดผาลาด

Chiang Mai is a little city with plenty to do. One of the things I love, even after living here for over 2 years, is that there are still hidden gems. Last week I found one of them: the hike to วัดผาลาด.

Though I am an avid hiker, in Thailand I rarely go. This is mainly due to the heat, and the mosquitoes and snakes don’t help any. Lately it’s been cool to cold in Chiang Mai (10C – that’s 50F) especially in the mornings. This is the perfect weather for a hike.

My friend Lauren asked me to come along. It wasn't a long hike, but it was beautiful.

My friend Lauren asked me to come along. It wasn’t a long hike, but it was beautiful.

It, like many places in Thailand, had a sign that made no sense...

It, like many places in Thailand, had a sign that made no sense…

Nowhere near a car park. What did they mean? No short skirts?

Nowhere near a car park. What did they mean? No short skirts?

After a fairy short hike we arrive at Wat Palad. Nagas and waterfalls.

After a fairly short hike we arrive at Wat Palad. Nagas and waterfalls.

Buddhas blessing each step.

Buddhas blessing each step.

When I got to this point, I had to stop and take in the beauty of the whole wat grounds in the forest. The soft sound of water rushing by, the elegance and the serenity of if all really wowed me. After having been to so many wats in this city, it’s nice to know there are still lovely surprises to be had.

Looking down at a hazy Chiang Mai

Looking down at a hazy Chiang Mai

The beginning of the Wat in the forest.

The beginning of the Wat in the forest.

Decorative door with Thai astrological animals on the sides.

Decorative door with Thai astrological animals on the sides.

Door detail

Door detail

Reminiscent of the Bayon temple at Ankor Wat

Reminiscent of the Bayon temple at Ankor Wat

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Amazing Ganesh door

Amazing Ganesh door

Another effeminate looking Ganesh

Another effeminate looking Ganesh

A gentle reminder to keep a...

A gentle reminder to keep one of these

Seeing this guy meditate there felt so serene. It made me want to do another meditation retreat...maybe here if women can

Seeing this guy meditate here felt so peaceful. It made me want to do another meditation retreat…maybe even at this wat if women are allowed. It was a very special place indeed.

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Window twin details

Window twin details

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Interesting ideas

Interesting ideas

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Looking down the nagas

Looking down the nagas

Nagas on the hillside

Nagas on the hillside

Hiking back down amongst the blessed trees.

Hiking back down amongst the blessed trees.

The whole place was so spiritual, even Lauren wanted to meditate...for about 3 seconds.

The whole place was so spiritual, even Lauren wanted to meditate…for about 3 seconds.

Bamboo forest

I will most certainly go on this hike to Wat Palad again.

If you look closely, you can see the spider inside.

If you look closely, you can see the spider inside.

So often it looks like autumn in Chiang Mai

So often it looks like autumn in Chiang Mai

Here's a map, if you can read it.

Here’s a map, if you can read it.

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Cycling Around Rural Chiang Mai

Cycling Around Rural Chiang Mai

The beginning of April is not the best time to be in Chiang Mai. It’s scorching hot, and the fields and mountainsides are being burned so smoke fills the valley. My friend Rahul happened to be visiting at that time so we decided to get up a bit higher into the mountains where it was marginally cooler.

cycling in the Chiang Mai countryside

hot and smoky in April

We ended up cycling around in the heat of the day. We were joined by a woman named Erin who thought it would be a good idea to have a hat. She was correct. We got our custom fitted Thai gardener style hats.

Making adjustments so the hat could fit my head

New hats with their makers

Thai garden hat modeling…it was a short-lived career

My plan was to go to a cotton weaving village…

…but we ended up in a hill tribe village instead. The sellers were eager.

…and young, “Hello 10 baht.”

Even though we ended up in the wrong place, and the added 10 or so kilometers made us extremely sweaty, it was a nice little detour. There are several different hill tribes up in this region.

bag wrapped mango trees

After cycling in the heat of the day, a cave was a logical cool off spot.

The next morning it was time to climb to the wat on the hill in Chiang Dao.

On the way up to the wat on the hill

The smoky view heading up….

…with some good Buddhist advice along the way

view down, temple in Chiang Dao

We ended up at this woman’s orchid garden

Even though it was sweltering, the hot springs were right beside the river. Heat up and cool down.

Although I adore Chiang Mai city, it’s a refreshing change to get out to the Chiang Mai province countryside.

Tourist in Your Own City

Tourist in Your Own City

Chiang Mai is full of tourists. I know I live here now, but there is something beautiful about the juxtaposition of a bustling market right outside of a 700 year old wat that makes me feel like a tourist.

Ch Ch Ch Changes

Ch Ch Ch Changes

Yes, it’s true, things change all the time. As much as we like it or don’t like it, things change, places change, and people change.

I am back in an ancient city that has been modernized. Tourism is not new to Thailand, so as where many developing nations change dramatically from year to year, although Thailand changes, there are some things that stay more or less the same.

Wats (temples) are one of those things that stay more or less the same. Chiang Mai is a city full of ancient temples. It is somehow soothing to visit the wats and have them look just the same as they did years ago, regardless of how dramatically the city has changed around them.

I remember my first day in Chiang Mai back in 2000, stumbling across Wat Chiang Man, and thinking, “Wow, this is Thailand and this wat is a spiritual place.” I didn’t have my camera with me then and I forgot the name, forgot about that temple, and forgot all about that experience…until yesterday. Memories came flooding in like waves at high tide. There is something sacred about an ancient building with elephants and buddhas. I walked into the grounds of Wat Chiang Man and, like in so many temple grounds, suddenly I felt as if I’d been transported out of the city and into a holy place. It gets very quiet and serene.

Wat Chiang Man

Wat Chiang Man

At this temple if you come inappropriately dressed to enter, you can rent a sarong. That is something I appreciate so much about Thai culture: if you are about to make a fool of yourself by committing a cultural taboo, you will gently be shown the right way. This contrasts to Japan where I knew I must be making plenty of cultural mistakes, but no one would ever tell me as for me to ‘save face’. It seems to me the Thai way saves a lot more face in the long run.

In Chiang Mai the slogan is “The most splendid city of culture” The slogan fits. It also reminds me that I should use the word splendid more often because, well, it’s a splendid word.

Wat Chedi Luang

Wat Chedi Luang

On grounds of Wat Chedi Luang

Wat Chedi Luang holds a special place in my heart. In these ancient temple grounds, I celebrated my 30th birthday.

Monk in front of Wat Chedi Luang

For my 30th birthday my friend Andrew bought me a large (about 1 meter by half meter) paper lantern used for the loi krathong festival. I remember him standing near the wat, lighting the lantern at 2 am and then watching it float to the sky. We watched rise so high that it eventually was indistinguishable from the stars.

Example (not my picture) of the lantern

Again, not my picture. This is Loi Krathong, where the lanterns look like stars.

I stood in the exact place today, closed my eyes, gave some love to the memory, and then, like the lantern, let it go.

I am here again now, and so very grateful that I am.

It’s nice to know that despite all the changes, and no matter how old we get, that certain places still retain their magic. Chiang Mai is one of them.

Thailand, I Love Your Beauty

Thailand, I Love Your Beauty

This title sounds like a bad pick up line, but it’s true – I unabashedly love Thailand. Where else in the world can you stay in a nice clean room with a bathtub in the center of the city, but on a quiet street for $8, have a lovely vegetarian Thai dinner in a restaurant for $1.85, then get an hour long massage for $4.80? It’s ridiculously good here in Chiang Mai.

Sometimes it’s the little artful ways things are presented. The beautiful textiles to tropical plants hanging, and tiny fish swimming in a bowl. Here are a few pictures to give you an idea:

Beautiful Thai silk

Flower arrangement in a bowl

This is a store in Chiang Mai

Then, there is simple and artful food presentation. The dishes pictured here cost between $0.60 – $1.25.

Fried tofu with corriander and spices in a completely biodegradable leaf bowl.

Vegetarian green curry with rice

Spring rolls being made

There are always the little elegant touches all around the city of Chiang Mai:

Elephant door knocker

Flower market

Golden wat and mountain view from a guesthouse in Chiang Mai old city

What makes Thailand such a special place is the people. Thai people are some of the warmest, gentlest people on the planet. Trying to speak a little Thai goes a long way. I am still a complete beginner, but I try to speak a little bit each day.

The little girl who was intrigued with me while I was eating breakfast.

The funny and friendly Jara, and Kapoon his dog, from Kavil Guesthouse. This is Kapoon doing the wai guesture (putting hands, or in this case paws, together in a prayer position when saying hello and thank you) Sawadee Khaa! Khap khun khaa! (Kapoon is a girl dog).

Then there is Yaya. She and I have had loads of fun together. She invited me to participate in this Buddhist celebration at Wat Sumpow and the lunch afterward.

Thailand is one of those places that surprises me everyday with just how warm and beautiful it is.

Suay maak!

A What? A Wat.

Huge Reclining Buddha at Wat Po

A What? A Wat.

A wat is a Buddhist temple in Thailand. Wats are everywhere…and they’re beautiful.

Here is a sampling of wats in Bangkok alone. The thing is, it doesn’t matter how small the town, you’ll find a wat in  almost every town in Thailand.

This is the first wat I saw near Khaosan Rd. in Bangkok.

another view, same wat

A closer view of the wat

Gathering offerings

Prayer and OffBuddha

Then I moved on to Wat Po

Wat Po

…And more Wat Po

Huge Reclining Buddha and his big ol' feet at Wat Po

More Wat Po

Wat Po