HIGHER LIFE: Riding the road to enlightenment on a scooter in Chiang Mai

Enlightenment comes in many forms including Banana chips, spicy noodle soup and copious amounts of Pad Thai.

Enlightenment comes in many forms including Banana chips, spicy noodle soup and copious amounts of Pad Thai.

What a surreal moment it was embarking on a pilgrimage to the top of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, the most sacred Buddhist temple in the Chiang Mai Province, Northern Thailand.

The festival is called Vishakha Bucha and is a celebration of the birth, death and enlightenment of Buddha.




For me it all started when I set off to visit a Buddhist temple in Chiang Mai, to learn and ask questions about the practices of Buddhism.

There Sion, a 22-year-old Buddhist Monk who had been living at the monastery for the past few years, greeted me.

He was raised in Saigon, and in his late teen years Sion made the decision to practice Buddhism. He moved away from his family in Vietnam and into the monastery in Chiang Mai to follow the principles of Buddhism, with the aim of developing strong awareness of his mind through meditation.

Sion invited me to join him on the pilgrimage up to the top of Wat Doi Suthep Mountain for Vishakha Bucha, the Buddhist celebration that takes place only one day per year.




Just getting there is half the fun…

So here I was in Chiang Mai, arriving from Bangkok two days prior to the sacred pilgrimage with no idea this was taking place. Talk about being in the right place at the right time.

After a zippy ride out of Chiang Mai, it was around 6.30pm when we parked the scooters at the bottom of the mountain alongside thousands of other scooters and began the walk upwards.

With each new step, an exotic Thai Cuisine was thrown into our hands, from banana chips to spicy noodle soup and copious amounts of Phad Thai.

Each stride brought a static level of excitement, and the vibrations of every Buddhist filled the air creating a mass flood of positivity. It was like nothing I have ever experienced. 

With each meander in the road came the high pitch sound of a whistle blowing, a horn honking and vast variations of live music filled the air. Families, couples, friends and children on shoulders swarmed like bees up the winding mountain.




11 kilometres later we reached the top of the mountain, with the Golden temple glowing under the stars. The bright lights of the city glistened like fireflies far below us and 309 steps were waiting patiently for us at the grand entrance of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple.

Thousands of Buddhist Monks calmly poured through the entrance. To my amazement there was not one push or shove, instead a contagious wave of smiles spread throughout the temple.

The Pilgrimage to Doi Suthep is one I would highly recommend to anyone visiting Chiang Mai and takes place in May.

As Buddha once said:

“There is no path to happiness, happiness is the path”

Have you been to Chiang Mai before? Share your thoughts below.