Welcome back travel buddies! We woke up early from the alarm on one of our cell phones, which was set to wake us up at 6AM. Sadly, the phone wasn’t adjusted to Thailand’s time, an hour behind the Philippines. So yes, it was still 5AM in Thailand (LOL). Regardless of which, both of us started preparing, packed our Osprey’s Meridian day trip bag, took a bath, ate breakfast and just chilled on the cozy lobby of the hotel.
Our tuktuk arrived 30 minutes earlier than the said pick-up time. We renegotiated with the driver, rather than just having a temple tour around Chiang Mai, we decided to check out Wat Phra That in Doi Suthep-Pui National Park plus two additional temples for a price of 1,200 Baht (way cheaper from travel agencies). Upon our agreement, he told us that we need to change vehicle since there are lots of steep portions in going to Doi Suthep (Mountain Suthep). We went to his home and transferred to his car, a Toyota Vios (insert the make-up guru Say Tatioco Artillero’s favorite expression, “BONGGGA!”). Both of us were amazed seing a tuktuk driver, who lives in a condo-type apartment and have two-parking slots, were able to afford a vehicle. Two-thumbs up for our driver, not only for the price of our tour but also because he and his family get by.
After an hour of traveling through lots of winding road, we were dropped off at the base of the temple, near the parking lot. The temperature is somewhat relative to the temperature we experience in Tagaytay, so loose and summer outfit would still do in visiting the area, however local says that the temperature in Doi Suthep can sometimes reach to 6 degrees Celsius during the months of February. 309 steps later, we reached Wat Phra That. Foreign tourists need to pay a small amount for entering it; like always, shoes are left outside.
It was a Thai holiday during our visit, so the whole area was packed with tourists and worshippers. Despite the posted signs which says “Keep Silent”, it was actually noisy in the premise, worshippers keep on glancing on tourists and are very distracted while praying. Some tour photographers are consistently shouting for instructions. Hopefully, future tourists can manage themselves more adequately.
Anyway, after about 40 minutes of roaming, we decided to head back. Other than visiting the main attraction, Wat Phra That, tourists can enjoy various activities in Doi Suthep. They can do hiking to check out the various waterfalls in the area, cycling uphill and downhill for the adrenaline junkies, or they can check out the summit and enjoy the majestic view of Chiang Mai City. Bhubing Palace, the official royal winter residence of the royal family, which have a grand view over Chiang Mai, is open from 8.30AM to 4.15PM for the public. Though, the palace is usually closed for public viewing whenever the royal family is staying.
Upon reaching Chiang Mai, we headed out for two more popular temples. The Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Pra Signh are both wonderful temples. Every temple in Thailand has their own unique beauty, and the fun thing in Chiang Mai is that there actually tons of temples which tourists can definitely visit. During our visit in Wat Chedi Luang, one of its original building is about to undergo a full renovation. They also got a monk interaction area, where in tourists can have a one-on-one discussion about their religion. After our temple tour, we head back to our hotel to freshen and ready up to go to the much awaited Lantern Festival.
At around 3.30PM we went to the meeting point of CM Stay, our travel coordinator in Chiang Mai, they also were the one who got our tickets for the event. Our tickets, which somewhat resembles a lantern, were also accompanied with souvenir and various snack coupons. Upon arrival, it was obvious that the event was packed with tourists due to the sheer number of tourist vans in the car park.
Upon entering the shaded part of the event’s ground, where the food booths were located, the committee started giving out the souvenirs in a form of a canvas bag and within it is an elephant neck pillow and a bottle of water. They were also prepping to start the program. They talked about history of the festival and explained that the event would not be that festive enough due to the demise of their king.
The snacks served in various booths were all local cuisines, mostly the sweet kind, different varieties of rice cakes, ice cream, some Pad Thai and other Thai food. We weren’t that hungry and just used up a minimal number of food coupons.
After a few hours, the committee announced that the ceremony would soon begin and suggested for the participants to take a sit on their respected sits. During the praying ceremony, which was quite long, non-event goers who were idling outside the events ground started to have their mass release of the lanterns. Which was quite distract full for the ceremony. Actual release of our lanterns were at around 8.30PM. The event was actually quite disappointing on some part: firstly, we were expecting to have our own lanterns, they should have done one lantern per ticket, not three persons per ticket; secondly, there were lots of fake ticket holders, we had an incident where in another set of people approached our sits claiming that our sits were theirs, unlucky for them we have the actual real tickets and not just a print out of some promotional letter.
Despite the unpreparedness of the organizers on those things, we still somewhat enjoyed our day. Our van left the event ground at around 9.30PM and reached the drop off point at around 10.30PM. The whole Chiang Mai were still alive during that time. Near the Tapae Gate we saw some non-locals prepping to have their own kind of mass lantern release, however some government personnel told them that there was an appropriate location for doing that and told them to go to that area. We just followed them in order for us to have a drone footage of the actual lantern release. Drone flying in such a huge crowd was actually quite hard. Sudden drop in the remote signal were frequent.
After getting some drone footage, we head back towards our hotel. Lucky for us, while on our way back to our hotel, we saw a market stall who sells lanterns stealthily. We bought one for 100 Baht and just released that lantern on a quiet corner of a nearby street. End up reaching our hotel at around 12am. Was really tired for the whole packed-full activities.