I’ve got a taste for long rides now. My first venture outside of cruising along the roads of Bali was to ride from Canggu to Ubud. I was cautious at first, i’d never ridden outside of the area I was staying before, but the idea of getting from one spot of Bali with just a scooter and a backpack appealed too much. Like easy rider but on scooters. Even easier rider.
When I targeted Chiang Mai as the next place I wanted to visit, one of the draws was the huge amount of natural mountains and parks which surrounded the area. Mountains meant mountain roads, and that meant twists, turns and empty stretches broken up with beautiful views, all surrounded by fantastic scenery.
People when visiting Chiang Mai choose to ride to Pai, a three-is hour journey starting out at Chiang Mai, then up through the mountains and eventually ending in a little town called Pai. However, my travel preferences mean time on the mats and time spent being creative with clients, this would of been a long ride with no rolling at the end.
Luckily, I came across something information about the national park around the Doi Suthep Wat. Lush environments, a mountain side Wat (temple), all at the top of a 40 minute or so ride out of the city and through the mountain roads.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
Here we have the best of everything. No overnight stay so I’d be back on the mats tomorrow, but still a fun scooter cruise and some beautiful environments too.
I plugged the location in to my maps and set off. The bends and the views on these roads make for an amazing ride, and one thing I hadn’t considered but really enjoyed was that the air gets cooler and cleaner the higher you go. It really bought home for me how polluted the city air is in a lot of Asia, and how much I miss the crisp air of home. This was maybe the second time in months that I’ve actually felt a little cold. There’s view points on the way up where you can grab a landscape photo of Chiang Mai. The old town with the fort walls is easily visible here, cutting through the city you can see a square and as with all great stopping points in Thailand, there’s an abundance of meat on a stick.
The real magic of this route though isn’t on a stick, it’s at the Wat.
At the end of the ride i’m at the gate for the Doi Suthep Wat. After the usual shops and stalls I spot the stairs. There’s no elevator to this temple, and it’s high up. I’m glad yesterday wasn’t leg day as I begin the climb. Just before I enter I remove my now well worn shoes (one pair for the whole trip so far) and I’m surrounded by gold.
I wasn’t expecting to be entranced by this temple, but the pure amount of gold statues and monuments creates an amazing glow all around you. Today was cloudy and the sun wasn’t bright, but what little there was reflected off everything around me and the whole place was illuminating. When you combine it with the peaceful setting of being high up in the mountains and people respecting the silence around you, it really does feel spiritual. It’s calming to walk around it, you can really take it in and reflect. Sure there’s a hundred other people doing the same, but it doesn’t take away from the environment.
Just look up.