Save the best for last? I went up to Doi Suthep today to see Wat Phra Tat and Buphing Palace. There are several agencies that offer this for 500 THB but I decided to do this on my own. Luckily the “terminal” for songthaews going to Doi Suthep was near my guesthouse in front of the Northern Chang Phuak Gate. Going to and from Doi Suthep costs 50 THB one way and the songthaew leaves when it gets full.
Once at the base of Wat Phra Tat, you can either walk up the naga staircase or take the cable car to the right of the gate. Entrance is 30 THB for foreigners. At the top you see the golden temple in all its glory and you have a view of Chiang Mai, which failed to impress me. I liked walking through its streets more than looking at it from above.
Going to Buphing Palace, you can again take a songthaew for 30 THB one way with the driver waiting while you go around the gardens. Entrance for foreigners is 50 THB although the person at the ticket booth initially gave me the 20 THB ticket for Thais. (yes,Filipinos look like Thais and if you are so inclined, you could take advantage of this by keeping your mouth shut).
After seeing the Buphing Palace, the driver offered to bring us all the way to Chiang Mai University for an additional 40 THB so I decided to take that offer. However, for those who want to be brought near the old quarters, I suggest going back to Wat Phra Tat since the University is still quite a distance from the center.
Being a biologist, I had to visit the main branch of the Museum of Insects and Natural Wonders located outside the walked section of Chiang Mai (200 THB). They have an amazing collection of.. well the name says it all. If you’re interested in these things definitely drop by. The owners are experts in mosquitos (wife) and malaria (husband), both being employed by the Smithsonian at one point. I was able to talk with the wife, who published the taxonomic key to mosquitos in Thailand and she is so sharp and easy to talk to. Definitely an amazing pairing of minds.
I dropped by the guesthouse again to wait for the pickup for the bus to Bangkok. I was hoping for another sleeper bus since it’s an 11 hour trip, unfortunately, when we pulled over in the back of a gas station, I knew this was not the case. So much for VIP. Hopefully, this trip doesn’t suffer the same fate as that taken by a couple I met who traveled from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Their bus suffered a busted tire yet the driver kept going for another 2 hours (bus tilted) followed by engine breakdown. Their trip lasted sixteen hours.