Early in our stay in Chiang Mai was an auspicious event, Visakha (Vesak, Vesakha) Bucha day. The day is celebrated as the birth, enlightenment, & death of Gautama Buddha. On the eve of Visakha Bucha, the Buddhist pilgrims hike to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep for special activities to show respect to Buddha.
Our hike started early evening (before the crowds) just past the Chiang Mai Zoo at Kruba Srivichai Monument. The hike is approximately 13 km (8 miles) up the mountain on curvy roads overlooking Chiang Mai. Along the route, local people & businesses set up water and snack stations along the way. Because our party left early to avoid the crowds, we had a van that would drive along with us for refreshments.
I’ll admit, close to the top I wanted to give up and jump in the van for the last mile or so, but glad I didn’t, to get the full cultural experience. Once at the top, I learned there were two routes to the temple, the easy way via tram or the hard way, another 309 steps.
After reaching the top of the stairs and catching my breath, I proceeded to walk around the stupa with my Thai Buddy. He also brought us the Buddhist Fortune Sticks. To do this, there are sticks with numbers on them that you shake while kneeling in front of an altar. The stick that falls out while you are shaking has a number that corresponds to your fortune. There are pieces of paper in files with that number on a wall, grab the number in which your stick states and read your fortune.
After partaking in the ceremonies, I walked over to the amazing view of Chiang Mai as the darkness settled in the sky. This was truly one of the most amazing experiences I had in Thailand, and it was only the second week in Chiang Mai.