With a 4 pm flight out of Chiang Mai, Heather and I had the morning to explore Chiang Mai and we easily decided on Doi Suthep. Unsure of how we were going to reach the famous Buddhist temple (16 km outside of town), we headed toward downtown Chiang Mai where we figured we’d find a willing taxi driver.
We arrived downtown Saturday morning at 7 a.m. and the marketplace was sleepy. We popped into Starbucks (yes, Starbucks), one of the only open businesses to order tea and reassess. The woman making our tea spoke English well and for some reason I said to her, “We’re trying to reach Doi Suthep today.” At the moment she exclaimed, “Hold on!” and swung open the coffee house door to call out to someone across the street in Thai.
Turns out his name is Ben. After a teence of haggling, this lovely life timer of Chiang Mai agreed to drive us to the temple, wait for the duration of our visit (up to 3 or 4 hours) and the return us to the destination of our choice, all for $16 USD. We hopped in his Volvo toward Doi Suthep. Driving up the misty mountain took my breath away and I felt a true sense of being elevated.
According to Wikipedia, Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep (Thai: วัดพระธาตุดอยสุเทพ) was built in 1383 and the road to the temple was constructed in 1935. The temple is often referred to as Doi Suthep although this is actually the name of the mountain it is located on.
After reaching the top of the mountain, temple visitors must climb over two hundred steps to reach the sacred Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. At the bottom of these steps two impressive dragons welcome visitors and their intricate tails span the length of the staircase as banisters. The journey up is far worth the effort though for those in need, an escalator ramp is available.
Reaching the top is satisfying but stepping barefoot into the temple changed me. The thousands of years of intention, prayer, history and art that comprise Doi Suthep moved me to tears. This temple exudes peace and the lightness.
At Doi Suthep we receiving good-luck blessings from a Buddhist Monk at the temple as he tied a cotton string bracelet around each of our left wrists and spoke wellness to us in Thai. Good health, good luck, prosperity, love. After the string falls off, his impact will remain.
We shopped in the markets below the temple after leaving and felt prepared to head down the mountain. Until of course, Ben directed us into the Orchid Jade Factory- a quite magical place.
We were served fresh tea upon entry and shown a quick video about the production of true Jade, considered the stone of heaven in many Asian cultures. Little did I know, Jade comes in every color. Notice this carving of Buddha under the Bodhi tree. When held up to light, it becomes lavender. I inquired about the worth of this beautiful carving, $5,400 USD.
Without even looking, I found my engagement ring at the Orchid Jade factory at sacred Doi Suthep, or perhaps it found me. I am not one for fancy jewels but from the corner of my eye, this ring called to me. (Frodo! Janedo!) I felt stunned and moved at the site of this Jade orb and thought immediately of my Grandma Millie. I imagined the ring could not fit or be affordable, but something moved me to try it on. In both cases, I was wrong!
The woman helping me insisted I take it home but I could not make this decision without consulting my partner, who unlike me, tends to make decisions slowly. After photographing the ring, communicating with Ben by phone and email, and sitting with it for a few days, we both decided the ring felt right. It’s just our quirky style to get engaged over Skype while Ben was in Hong Kong and for me to find the perfect ring at a misty temple in Northern Thailand (directed into the shop by a guide named Ben). I figured, if this is meant to be, it will be.
Someone from the Jade factory met me in Bangkok the last night of our trip to bring me the ring. It was ours! Ben Lanza put his warmth and energy in to the ring since I’ve been home and it will always contain the energy of Doi Suthep.