Jump on the back seat and lets scooter up from Chiang Mai
Visiting Asia without whizzing around on a scooter is strictly forbidden. It should be. It not advisable. Fine! Its completely acceptable, but, but, dont do it, or you will miss a big chunk of fun and excitement. Its one thing to ride a bike on the streets of some western city, where you are a lonely strange fellow, the target of angry drivers in a hurry to somewhere very important. Its completely different when you are part of a whole storm of buzzing wheels, where you are the norm, not the exception and even though erratic, the traffic is mellow and devoid of middle fingers waving in the air around you.
Welcome to Chiang Mai, that back seat is free, hold on.
At every stop, we on two wheels, make our way from the sides or through the middle, or both, of the stopping cars and line up in the front. Now, this part itself is a source of a lot of adrenalin for a novice scooter driver like me, just hold on tighter and say a prayer. Feel the anticipation and the sudden burst of motorbikes flying forward as soon as the green light comes.
Cars and songthews stop everywhere, so this is no leisurely ride. Traffic lights are long though and the smoke filled air is warmed even further by the buzzing motors waiting around with us.
Then, like a magic wand had been waved in front and the scent of green fills the senses followed by a sudden escape from the grey business of the streets behind. Riding here is another thing altogether. Its not long before the cool of the jungle brings up the hairs on our skin, the speed is faster and the corners require a sometimes still uncomfortable lean into them. The air passing by is so loud, reminds me of a jet engine, and still, the sounds behind the green around cannot be drowned.
It is an exhilarating experience, well worth the $5 rent for the wheels underneath, making it possible.
Say hello to Chiang Mai, a smoggy favorite for expats with a bit of left over Thai charm mixed in amongst the way too many western bars and hangouts.
But we need to go higher, all the way to the top of the Doi Suthep hill we have been enjoying to reach Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. The temple can be seen glistening between the trees from the city and its an important Buddhist site. To reach it we have to park and then walk up the 309 stairs guarded by the longest dragons I have ever seen.
$1 entry fee and a few rules later, its time to savour the atmosphere.
I like watching the people in the temples. For us they are easily just beautiful buildings and lavishly decorated candy for our touristy eyes. For locals, these places are sacred, full of meaning and depth way beyond what we could see.
The chedi in the middle is the holiest part of the temple.
A walk outside reveals more views through the lush forest.
Then its time to walk down those stairs and jump on the awaiting scooter for the ride back.
The temple was beautiful, but the real thrill is in getting there and away. Dont you agree?
The chill in the air is really pleasant now, the best air-conditioning out there, coming from the deep green lushness around. I am afraid I might crash, as I keep on looking sideways.
Dont worry, all is good.
I think its much more dangerous when I take pictures while going downhill. Dont you agree?
I cannot hear you back there?
By the time we reach the city, this is the state of the sky,
And right after this shot, the sky opens and pours its contents on us.
I am trying to cover the camera with the bag that is flopping on my shoulder and attempting not to laugh and keep the scooter on the street, which has by now transformed into a wild river. The downpour is so bad that I am having trouble seeing. Needless to say, there is nothing dry on me and I feel like I need to keep an eye on the possibility of having to swim back to the guesthouse. It is so incredibly fun! If I didnt have to keep the bag over the camera, this would have been one perfect ending to a great ride up the Doi Suthep hill.
I parked and spish-sploshed back to the room with a huge grin on my face. Wanna go again?