Today I planned a Wat walking tour for myself. The old city of Chiang Mai is only 3sqkm so this wasn’t going to be a big endeavor, but the little streets that weave in and out can be confusing and play with my internal GPS. Armed with my guidebooks and Google maps I took to the streets. I hit the major wats; Wat Chiang Man, Wat Pan Tao, Wat Chedi Luang, and Wat Phra Singh, as well as a few lesser in between.
It seems no matter where I travel there’s always something that requires notes; referencing where I was, what that’s a picture of, why I took it… It’s usually churches. In Ireland it was dolmans, standing stones, etc. In Egypt it was pyramids. No matter, If I don’t make notes… clueless later on. There are a LOT of wats in Chiang Mai’s old city. Not knowing the intricacies of Buddhism there doesn’t seem to be sweeping differences from one to the next, but then, I’m sure they say that about churches.
I decided to end the day with the piece de resistance, Wat Prathat Doi Suthep. The most revered wat in Chiang Mai and for most Thais. The 309 step climb is supposed to meditative. I was certainly concentrating. The complex is massive and uber-ornate compared to the others. I am snapping photos at every turn. There must be thousands of Buddha statues in just the main prayer area alone.
The sky is darkening and it makes for some very moody shots. Cool. I can hear the low rumble of thunder off in the distance and it adds to the scene as I watch those praying light their candles, bow their heads, offer their flower.
The rumbles grow louder. No doubt there’s a storm coming this way. There is just something about mixing an intense thunderstorm with religion that makes the experience a bit more fatalistic. Maybe I’m being dramatic, but Doi Suthep is on a mountain. Almost the highest point in Chiang Mai city. The rain is just starting. The lightning brightens the evening sky and a heart stopping crack of thunder inspires a shout as if my team just scored. Thunderstorms wind me up. A quick inventory of my wits and I remember that I am surrounded by metal spires, domes, and statues. It’s time to descend.