Every guide book says it. Every web site says it, too. And every person who’s ever been there insists that when visiting Chiang Mai, you must absolutely visit Wat Doi Suthep. So on my last full day in Chiang Mai I decided I had to make the effort, regardless of the fact that it was still raining.
The full name of this temple is Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep Rajvoravihara and it is located atop the mountain that overlooks Chiang Mai, some 17 kilometers from the town. The few Tuk-Tuk drivers I’d talked to all wanted between 400 and 600 baht ($12-18 dollars) for the round trip, which is an exorbitant amount. Instead, I’d discovered that you could take a taxi to Chiang Mai University on the outskirts of town for about 40 baht. In front of the University is a taxi stand where people gather to go up to Doi Suthep. When eight people have collected, the taxi makes the trip up for 40 baht and comes back down again for 30 baht.
In Chiang Mai the taxis are red pickup trucks that have been converted to contain two long benches on either side of the truck bed with an awning overhead. They tool around town, beeping at anyone they believe could be a potential customer. You just hail one traveling in the general direction you want to go, tell the driver your destination, negotiate a fare, and off you go. I’m not a bad negotiator but being a ‘farang’ (white foreigner) puts me at a distinct disadvantage, so I felt pretty good when I negotiated a fare of 50 baht to get to the University. Once there I had to wait about 40 minutes for enough people to arrive to make it worth the driver’s time – he finally assented to go when we had six people and we all agreed to pay him 50 baht instead of 40.
The road up the mountain is narrow and especially curvy and our driver was a madman. With each curve I was thrown against the person next to me. I made the mistake of looking out the open back of the taxi as it made its way up the mountain and in no time I was motion sick. Closing my eyes and gritting my teeth Continue reading