After scouting the map, I headed out on a 40 mile road trip through the Doi Suthep mountains on my scooter. My first stop was the hill-top temple Wat Phra That Doi Kham (Temple of the Golden Mountain, specifically housing relics of Buddha). Built in 687 A.D, it boasts a giant 360-step staircase, decorative sculptures and a lovely view of the Chiang Mai valley. A 55-foot white and golden Buddha sits behind the temple, surrounded by local craftsmen and women.
A few miles around the curvy mountain roads, funny signs of elephant crossings warn drivers. Sadly, no elephants crossed my path. Instead, locals stared, maybe surprised, as a white girl on a scooter is headed down the roads of their mountain villages. Tourists must not make it this far. A smile is all it took for these men to discard the look of wonder. It worked repeatedly. Which gives Thailand its good name. The people here are friendly.
Another temple, Doi Suthep, a tourist favorite and too busy to warrant a stop, sits high above Chiang Mai. I carried on up, close to the top, narrow roads carried on the the national Doi Suthep Park, where you can camp in the woods. In the opposite direction, down the side of the mountain, a hill-tribe Hmong village of Doi Pui greets tourists and passers by.
I was greeted with invitations to try a expensive green tea, women and children dressed in traditional Hmong dresses and head decorations. Stands with traditional jewelry, clothes and hand stitched purses lined the village’s narrow paths. Children played in the pathway of tourists, laughing joyfully and undisturbed by their audience.
Stopping for several vista views and pano photos during my drive, I ended at the Queen’s Botanical Gardens before heading back into town.