Could I just interject with a statement; to clear up any confusion and/or uncertainty which may yet persist in re this important matter? FUCKING MOTORCYCLES ARE FUCKING ÆVIL, MAN. Okay, that off my chest, let’s continue.
[dc]C[/dc]oupla fine day-trips have cemented my fondness for Chiang Rai and environs. First off, on Wednesday, I endeavoured to follow the itinerary of a guy who lived here for a couple of years not-so-long ago. The tour would loop around to the other side of the river, heading down south for a time, then crossing the river and heading back up; visiting three mountain temples/caves along the way.
After crossing the bridge and soaking in some fine scenery…
It was time to stop at Wat Tham Tupu. The cave was okay; definitely, as advertised, plenty o’ bats on the wing.
But in point of fact, I preferred to its interior the views of and from the cave.
Best of all, though, this wonderful cliff-side figure.
Shortly hereafter, it was, as the sign doth say, The Buddha Cave Temple.
On the way up the steps into the cave…is that a swine? Have seen some paintings of porkers before now; but not, I don’t think, any sculptings.
Inside the cave were some pretty neat shrines and stuff.
Outside the cave, a trail leads along between the mountain and the river for a while, a white Buddha overlooking the latter.
But it’s the view down along the former which really sizzles.
Indeed, winding merrily along down the river, the scenery was magnificent, and the motorcycles few in number!
Big goings-on at this village temple along the way. Some kind of community weaving project, I guess.
Depicted on the temple walls: even more wholesome fun-good times for the entire family.
Do I never tire of taking the piss out of organised religion? Hang on, lemme have a think … No, I never tire of taking the piss out of organised religion!
Kept seeing from different stages this one white Buddha away off over yonder…
But the route never did bring it very close. Instead, it was back ‘cross the river, past the stoney lonesome and whatnot, and thence a visit to Wat Kong Khao.
The temple and its surroundings here were excellently beautiful.
Too bad it weren’t, during my visit, open for business; as I could only glimpse through the window Lord Buddha all decked out in purple. Not seen that before!
This cave was by far and away the most compelling of the three. Peaceful enough to mollify a troubled soul, surreal enough to warm the cockles…and spooky enough to keep ya honest.
The first shrine: kinda goofy.
The cave stretched on back a fairly long way, small Buddhae by their dozens placed in nooks and crannies all around. See the spider there in the second pic? I’ve nothing to say about it.
Illumination provided by candlelight. Not sure how frequently the candles are changed out, but I was kind of obsessed with snazzy patterns formed by the melted wax upon the ground.
Plus, the candles they were a-using were just cool.
All the way at the back of the cave is a traditional enough shrine.
But in this one sunken chamber area, down where the monks are collecting dripping water in cisterns…
…is that the Buddha? Looks more like J.C.!
While down here, I stopped for a while to fart around with the camera’s night-time settings.
A way fun spelunking, this was! Was struck, upon exiting, by just how superbly the cave, even just inside the entrance, blocks sounds from the outside world. But, y’know, them Durian don’t grow in caves, so no chance to just stay inside forever enjoying the quiet. I do somewhat envy the monks residing here, however.
Back outside, a, like, sylvan theatre in the woods; here, I’m guessing, Buddhism combines with satanics and druidry on certain nights of the year (full moons, no doubt) to deliver the wildest parties in all of Asia. But to-day: just me and him, alone in the woods.
Okay, then there’s a staircase leading up the side of the mountain. Not as well-maintained as the itinerary’s author had made out that it would be. In fact, “maintained for shit” would be the more accurate terminology. I didn’t even go all the way up, as it was just beginning to seem too treacherous after a while.
When I’d got back down, all I had to show for my labours was a t-shirt soaked through with sweat, a broken lace on my Lunas (don’t know how I’m going to be able to replace this while abroad), a cut toe, and a few dozen mosquito bites. But, yes, the view from way up there was pretty great.
Heading back up into town is the public beach, and, sort of, hangout-down-by-the-river area. From here, one can look directly back across the river to the big white river-guarding Buddha from the second temple.
[dc]T[/dc]o-day, then, Friday, it was off to Doi Khao Kwai, AKA “Buffalo-Horn Hill”; which is noted as providing the best view of the area.
Had wanted, in point of fact, to visit the other day, after leaving the beach. But noticing that the clouds were looking as menacing as they had done on the previous day, and that it was getting to the part of the afternoon/evening in which the rains typically begin (if they’re going to), I elected to hold off.
When I got back into town, the winds began kicking up really good one. That’s usually a sign that you’ve got about ten minutes to batten the hatches and notify next of kin (and so forth). But this time…zilch. Never rained a drop! Oh, well.
So, I figured I’d get a bike to-day and head on up there; then maybe see what other mischief I could get up to so long as I’d a set of wheels. But at the last moment, I decided to just walk instead; saving meself 80 Baht, and getting in a nice long walk (about four-and-one-half miles each way).
Thought, “Oh, I’ll just take some back roads and sois and avoid the traffic.” And, guess what? I only got lost once! Pretty good for me. Problem was, though, that while the traffic was less than it’d have been taking mains roads, it was still enough to be annoying as He. Then, the last mile or so, it was triply annoying, with an endless stream of big trucks carrying rocks and dirt hauling on by. Come to find out, the fucking Somsak Concrete Factory is right on the very road I’d chosen! Just brutally idiotic luck, what?
But, finally arrived to the base of the mountain, and climbed on up the drive. A bit longer/steeper than I’d been expecting. Sheeyit, if you thought my shirt had got all soaked through the other day, you shoulda seen me this time ‘round! Even my shorts were beginning to soak through.
So, I had that going for me. Also, this:
They might send pickup trucks up and down the steps (or at the very least down)?? What a weird world in which we live!
Anyhow, so the view certainly didn’t disappoint.
Hung my shirt out in the sun to see if it might dry at all, and lingered for a while to enjoy the sights. Finally, it was time to visit the Temple.
I must very declare, the stupa here is the most beautiful I’ve yet had the pleasure to witness. Totally bedecked in mirrors, it is.
I was initially disappointed in the chapel, as it was kind of a clutterfuck in there – almost like a storage back in the rear; and the stuff fronting the main shrine seemed kind of kitschy and all.
The shrine itself is nothing special.
And, apart from the obligatory treescape backing the shrine, there’s only one small mural (though it is a pretty nice one).
But then, once you begins to look around a little more closely, the place rather casts its hooks into you.
For one thing, this seemingly randomly-placed ungulate-skull glued onto a papier mache model of the missing body. Weird…but kinda cool!
Better still, this mythical wolverine creature whose (according to local lore) “excrement, incredibly, was gold!”
Even better than that, there are for some reason all these beehives hanging down. Coupla them are strikingly gorgeous.
Also, some of the figurines front of the shrine were pretty neat. This is maybe kind of awesome. I used a flash for this shot, just to see how it would look like. But with Lord Buddha’s hand placed the way it is, it appears as though he’s trying to ward off the blinding light!
But buckle your goddam seatbelts, kids; ‘cause you ain’t yet seen jack shit like what I’m about to show you. Well, see if you agree; but me, just my own god damned self personally? I think this is one of the most beautiful sights I’ve yet seen in all of my Asian travels.
Fuck! Am I just crazy, or what is it? Before answering, look at some more.
I mean, fuckin’-A, man; does that just knock you right on your ass? Some more!
You’re impressed right? Well, I’m frickin’ impressed. And besides! Just outside the door, there’s this dude.
Yeah, so maybe he is a hippie…but he’s also a badass.
Some beautiful leavery up here, too.
On the way back down, I passed by these two very nice ladies sweeping the drive…
The one on the right there kept grilling me (with some intensity) with all manner of questions. In Thai, of course; so her friend there would, seeing the confusion set in, relay her friend’s questions to me via pantomime.
They wanted to know where was my motorcycle? And where were my shoes? And, basically (I think), what kind of crazy dumb-assed farang goes day-tripping up to Buffalo Horn Hill without either of these? Anyways, as I say, they were really nice ladies.
Decided, now, to return to town via the more direct route; though it’d mean having to suffer even more annoying traffic noise than during the outward leg. Which, it was true, I did so suffer. But, factually, the scenery along this route was much more the nicer than had been the other’s.
Then a pretty crazy thing just up and happened. You know: like all unbidden, and shit. Just walking along next to these-here bushes…
…and suddenly felt the strongest desire that around that bend would be a sprawling patch of blackberries! I’ve not seen ever a one blackberry in all of Asia; but in that moment, there was nothing I more desired. The hopes were dashed; so cruel.
Between that and the traffic, I was just about feeling that the World had got it in for me. But then!: Mr. Buddha, he done put in front of mine eyes a little-old pick-me-up.
This put the hop back inna my step! Ravenous, stopped by the market to load up on Longkongs. And scarcely one-half of one hour after mine having returned to the guest house and settlin’ down to “pig out”, the skies opened up and the rain did pour down. Whew! Lucky thing I’d taken the more direct route back.
By the way, I have seen Strawberries in Asia; street-vendors in Bangkok sell ‘em. Imported from China, I think. But I don’t even like strawberries.