Once again – another month has absolutely flown by. We loved our time in Chiang Mai and fully understand why so many ex-pats and retirees flock to this beautiful city. It’s so rich in history and culture, not to mention full of great food – it’s not hard to fall in love with this place.
There were two last “must-sees” on our list before we left this mountain side beauty of a city: Sticky Waterfalls and Doi Suthep Temple. In fact, these two places should be on everyone’s to-do list if they ever find themselves in Chiang Mai.
Wat Doi Suthep
Chiang Mai sits in a valley nestled up against the mountains and on top of one of the mountain peaks lies the temple of Doi Suthep. Doi Suthep is actually the name of the mountain peak but people often refer to the temple by this same name. It’s by far one of the biggest tourist attractions in Chiang Mai and it’s not hard to understand why.
From our apartment, which looks to the mountains, we could see the tip of the temple from our balcony. It wasn’t until our last week that we finally ventured up for a visit. Just a short walk from our apartment we could catch a songthaew (basically a Thai taxi…a step up from a tuk tuk) to the peak.
The road is super windy up to the top and although it’s only about a 10km ride from the base – it was a bit of a stomach churner. Kile and I were the last to board the songthaew which meant that we were in the very back. Songthaews have open backs so if you’re the last to get in – you’re either holding on to the back or making sure you don’t fall out the entire time. During each hairpin turn – Kile and I were holding on to make sure we didn’t go falling onto the street.
On the brink of getting car sick – we finally arrived to the top. At the entrance to the temple there are tons of vendors and little restaurants to cater to all the tourists. And good news for them – there were lots and lots of tourists. But we knew what we were getting into.
Before climbing up the stairs to the main temple you’re greeted by a golden statue of a monk before continuing to the entrance stairway of Wat Doi Suthep.
The entrance stairway has dragons as the rails and little girls dressed in traditional Thai ceremonial clothing. The little girls are adorable; they’ll gladly sing and take a picture with you for some money. They are quite the little saleswomen and very hard to resist.
Sweating and out of breath – we reached the top of the stairs. Tons of tourists are wandering around the grounds and little trinket stands are scattered everywhere. But again – it’s not hard to see why so many people visit this temple. It. Is. Gorgeous.
Once taking off your shoes and entering the main temple area you’re immediately taken aback at how much gold you’re surrounded by. The entire temple is just covered in gold. It’s unbelievable. And the best part? Since it’s a temple…people were actually kind of quiet. It was a super cool experience.
Thai temples are always amazing to see – they’re ornate, they’re intricate, they have a ton of history and they’re peaceful. But the best part of this temple was the view. We were at the peak of Doi Suthep and looking down onto the entire city of Chiang Mai. We could even see our apartment from up there!
It’s pretty obvious why this is the number one “thing to do” in Chiang Mai. It’s close by, it’s cheap and it’s beautiful. It was worth the sweat and the slightly terrifying songthaew ride for sure.
Bua Thong Waterfalls aka Sticky Waterfalls
Our very last day in Chiang Mai was spent exploring a very special waterfall. We had heard about Bua Thong waterfalls through other blogs and some people we’ve met along the way and we knew it was something we had to see for ourselves.
The waterfall is about an hour’s drive outside the city so it’s a bit of a trek – but totally worth it. The water flows down limestone that is at a very low angle. Since the earth beneath the water is limestone it’s not slippery at all. Your feet or shoes can grip, no problem – this means you can walk straight up the waterfall. How cool is that?
We weren’t sure how to get to Bua Thong since it was a bit far and we didn’t want to rent a scooter (we were a bit sketched out by some of the rules) – but then we found out that Uber just arrived in Chiang Mai. So we called an Uber and told him where we wanted to go. At first he was looking at us like “are you crazy? that’s so far!” But then we told him that we’d pay for a round trip as well as the time he spent waiting for us at the falls and he was in.
While we were driving to the falls our driver told us he’d never been here before (and we was a local!) so he was going to check it out too – then he cranked up some Red Hot Chili Peppers and we made our way.
Sticky Waterfalls is slowly becoming more and more well-known to tourists so when we arrived there were about 20 or so people already there. Not a ton but a bit more than we were expecting. When you arrive, you actually start at the top of the falls. This is where you can get a good look at the falls and see the gorgeous limestone with water flowing down. It’s incredibly unique.
From the top, there’s a stairway leading down to the bottom of the falls. This is where the fun begins. You just start climbing your way back up! There are ropes to help you along the way but you really don’t need them. The angle is easy enough to climb up without any need for them and it’s not slippery at all. It’s a bit of a mind-trick because it looks extremely slippery but it’s not at all. Such a cool experience.
After casually climbing up a waterfall (no big deal) we explored around the top of the falls. There’s a trail that leads to a fresh water spring just 100 meters or so from the waterfall – obviously we had to check it out.
It’s called Rainbow Spring and it’s freaking MIND-BLOWING when you see it in person. It’s the clearest most beautiful water ever. Supposedly it has magical healing powers. It’s surrounded by a wood railing so no one can get in but there are buckets attached to long bamboo poles so you can reach in to get a scoop and rub on your hands and face. Of course, we did.
Thanks for Everything, Chiang Mai!
Our month in Chiang Mai was awesome. We saw some incredible sites, took part in a beautiful festival and even met some new friends along the way. Although we don’t have any plans to come back to Chiang Mai anytime soon – we wouldn’t hesitate to return.