Yesterday, I visited Doi Suthep, also known as Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, about 5500 ft up a mountain to the west. A very popular tourist destination, both Thai and foreign. Also very beautiful, opulent, larger than anything in the city. And naturally, upon arrival, along with about twenty other tour vehicles, I encounter the shopping experience.
The temple is accessed either by climbing a long stairway about 100 ft up or by cable car. I took the lift. Foreigners are charged 20 baht more than Thais, to assure our contribution to the maintenance of the facility. At the top, a multi-level, sprawling complex, complete with sales of religious jewelry, malas, silver and jade bracelets, CDs (CDs??), waffle and tea shop, oriented around a central spire and altars. Stunning beauty everywhere.
Carved wooden pillars on a viewing platform overlooking the city. Haze/smog too thick to see anything.
I wandered downhill, past monks quarters, past ongoing construction, finding the meditation hall. I sat for awhile.
Up on the central main plaza: gold and inlaid artifacts, altars, niches, the main pagoda.
I circumambulated. It’s a little difficult to reconcile the opulence with the centuries of devotion expressed here. It’s a different practice than I am familiar with, or used to. But there are surely some of the most beautiful creations to be found anywhere in the Buddhist world.
The walkway down. At the bottom, a strangely incongruous plethora of Nepali vendors selling Nepalese-made buddhist art and clothing (they do get around), along with a great deal of Chinese-made schlock. And your intrepid traveler (how’s that for a selfie?!)