After several solid hours of walking in near solitude, with the exception of a varied stream of cars roaring past us, it was almost a shock to get to the top of Doi Suthep. Suddenly, people were all around us, milling and fluffing about the way the tourists usually are. I’m not sure I’ll ever understand the mindset that most people get into when they become a tourist. It’s like they throw all common sense out the window. In many instances they just blunder about, seemingly trying to blend right in, and obviously accomplishing the exact opposite.
At the top of the road there are stairs, and on all sides of us a market of sorts surrounds us with different smells. I know for sure there were the usual tourist bits – tshirts, singlets and those billowing parachute pants – but it is the food that so holds my attention. I realise, perhaps a little overdue, that I’m starving.
But we’re on the way up with Doi Suthep on our minds, so we keep climbing.
Next is the Naga Staircase, and my demise.
Dean can’t understand this, but I can walk a seemingly endless distance uphill, literally for hours, but if you put me at the foot of a tall staircase I’m a wreck. I have to stop for rest breaks, my legs hurt, I get seriously out of breath. I can’t explain it, stairs really are beyond my capacity. They’re entirely evil in their construction, and there’s nothing to be done about them. Luckily, although these stairs look formidable from the bottom, they’re much more easily conquered than they appear. We pay our entrance fee, change into longer pants, and enter Doi Suthep Temple.
I like it immediately. Even with the crowd there’s a kind of magic about this temple on top of the mountain, similar to what I was looking for in all the temples at ground level in Chiang Mai. It’s just got a vibe about it that appeals instantly.
The roofs of Doi Suthep are spindly and pointed, the tiles glow in the midday sun, and little golden bells hand all over the eaves and along the bell poles. The views from the top might be amazing at sunset, but now they’re just pale blue and burning, with Chiang Mai shrouded in mist (or smog) below. We spend more time wandering the grounds, trying to gleam meaning based on our multitude of temple visits over the last few weeks.
Inside the sanctum of the temple, a striking golden stupa sits at the centre of the action. It’s blinding in the sun, reflecting gold shadows and light onto surfaces all around us. A steady stream of people circle it, offering prayers and blessings, with incense and lotus buds cupped in their hands. It’s almost hypnotic to watch, but that could just be the heat.
I can feel myself starting to flag, but I push onwards, wanting to stay in this mountain-top refuge just a little longer. After all, it was a long walk to get here, and there’s still the way down to look forward to.
This post originally appeared on BarefootBeachBlonde.com, the pre-evolved version of Maps And Mandalas. I’ve republished it here with its original date because I love it that much.