Saturday, 22 December 2012

To feel the wind on my face a plume of black smoke clouds the view in front of me as it billows out of the truck a cars length ahead, and as the inevitable fate would have it, we soar right through the middle. Ah the sweet joys of a motorbike taxi in Chiang Mai.

After a nice air conditioned five and a half hour bus ride costing a mere 237baht ($7.50), I suddenly forgot about the nice peace and quiet I had experienced from the lone bus ride as soon as I stepped off the bus in Chaing Mai. I could barley get my backpack out of the compartment in the bus as the hoards of Tuk Tuk drivers and Taxi drivers rushed over as if we were a freshly caught basket of fish for the seagulls to chow down. "My friend, Tuk Tuk?" "Where you go?" "I 'av air conditioned taxi, best price!" I've made a lot of friends already on my trip.

A kind motorbike taxi driver came up to me and asked where I was going. I told him, he gave me his best price of 70 baht, so I strapped my backpack to my back and he put my little back between his legs and off we went. I don't think I've ever held on so tightly to a piece of plastic handle as we rushed in and out of the traffic. I definitely looked like a 'Farang' or Foreigner on the back simply because I was holding on with white knuckles. As families would pass by on their mopeds/motorbikes, the wife would be on the back texting in one hand, holding the groceries in the other hand while her legs dangled off of the side - the kid? Oh they would be between the mom and dad laughing away. With that being said, I made it safe and sound to the hostel after nearly being hit, twice.

If that wasn't enough, a day later I heard about a temple on a hill about an hour drive from Chiang Mai. I convinced three others to join me, and we decided to each rent a moped to do the journey.

My Moped.
After navigating throughout the traffic in which I have to drive literally a meter away from another car, even when the cars are stopped at a red light I must keep driving to get to the very front of the line through a little narrow gap they, the cars, left me between them and the sidewalk, we made out of the city. The hostel owner drew us a map of the road leading up to the temple, and I don't think he put enough curves in his map. The road up there was phenomenal. In the spots where the sun could pierce through the think forested landscape I felt the true Thai heat, but in the shade it was refreshingly cool. The road up had turnoffs where one could stop for a dip in a waterfall, or pray kneeling down, feet away to the Buddha.  I can honestly say that after driving through the traffic here, I'm confident about driving anywhere.

Temple at the top.

300+ steps to the top.

At the temple I walked into a room where the Buddha statue towered over me, and a monk sat cross legged on his chair. I sat down, pointed my feet away from the Buddha and smiled politely at the monk. Soon after, a few Thai locals joined me in sitting and praying and then the monk dipped some straw tool into holy water and said blessings as he splashed the water over us.

The pictures below are at the temple half way up the hill - we had the place all to ourselves minus the monks.

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