Wat Doi Suthep
Going back in time a bit, I wanted to make sure to show you all some pictures from my visit to Wat Prathat Doi Suthep, the mountaintop monastery near Chiang Mai, in northwest Thailand. I visited with Bim, Bundit and Nun on our sampling trip of the Chao Phraya river and tributaries about two weeks ago. We drove a tortuous road high into the mountains, then climbed the 300 steps of the longest Naga staircase in Thailand (you can see Bim and Nun at the bottom) to reach the open-air temple at the mountaintop. It's said that a bone of the Buddha was carried there by an elephant, who died upon reaching the top, and this was taken as a sign to build the monastery there. The building was begun in 1383 but took many years to complete, and is absolutely stunning, with gold leaf spangling everywhere, bells sounding in the wind, and many of the walking surfaces covered in water droplets from the frequent rains at the top of the mountain. There's also an amazing view of the city of Chiang Mai, the "capital of the north," from the top (you can see Nun, Bim and me, a bit out of focus...). As we descended the staircase a cool afternoon rain began.