Friday, November 15, 2013

Chiang Mai Temples and Floating Lanterns

Today, we had one mission: practice shooting floating lanterns in low light so we don't screw up tomorrow. We've read reviews of the Mae Jo Lantern Release for Yi Peng/Loi Krathong and it all happens at once and it's so fast and if you don't get it right the first time, you don't get a second chance. Ultimately, we want to get a picture that shows the person's face lit by the lantern, but not let the lantern be so bright that it's blown out. Kinda like this, one of our shots from this evening:

And do our best to not end up with shots like this...

...unless, of course, artistically that's what we were going for. :)

But before the sun went down and we could practice, we wanted to see as much of Chiang Mai as we could. Songthaews are ridiculously overpriced, so I convinced Isa that I knew how to drive a scooter in a third world country (which is true, I figured Thai street rules aren't much different than Mexican rules of the road). We found a friendly place not far from our hotel and we rented a scooter for 200 baht per day (about $6).

The scooter turned out to be the best idea ever. We were able to go wherever we wanted whenever we wanted. We took the map from our hotel and, after wandering hopelessly for a gas station which the two Thai people we asked pointed to a place on the map and said they're everywhere (they're not), we picked a few temples and went exploring.

First up, this temple wasn't even on our map. But we drove by and thought it looked cool, so we stopped in.

It also had a small, free museum next to it. The museum had some amazing lifelike sculptures (think, Museum of Natural History), but it wasn't well lit. We think they could really make something of the place and promote it to tourists, because it's so close to being cool and worth seeing, but not quite yet.

Our next stop was Wat Chedi Luang. We saw the temple and parked the moto on a side street, then wandered around the grounds for a while before we realized that this wasn't Wat. Chedi Luang. We were actually at Wat Pan Tao (which wasn't on our map either, but it was where Chedi Luang should have been, so we thought maybe our map was wrong).

We affectionately nicknamed this one, "Buddha Beach."

We ended up coming back here at night to take pictures of the lanterns then (more practice):

Next temple: Wat Chedi Luang

Turns out, Wat Chedi Luang is next door to Wat Pan Tao. So the map was right after all. This was a former resting spot of the Emerald Buddha that we just saw down in Bangkok. Back in the day, when Chiang Mai was the Capitol, it resided here to be close to the king. It was in this big stupa behind the wat.

And here's the wat:

It's got a big grand entrance with a gold statue out front too, so you know it's the right place. The inside of the wat was cool. They ran wires across the hall and had these banners hanging about 8 feet off the ground making a faux ceiling when you were under them (effectively hiding buddha from view when you're under them, but making an otherwise big space a little more intimate). I don't know if it's always like this or if this is for the holiday, but it looked cool.

Wat Phra Singh

We drove straight down the road and ran right into our next destination: 7-11. Just kidding. But we did go in for some a/c. Wat Phra Singh is cool. It's a pretty big complex and it looks like they had just painted (again, maybe they made it look extra nice for the holiday, but we'll take it).

This temple had a nice shady plaza around it with words of wisdom/proverbs on each of the trees. It was fun to go around and read them all.

Leaving Wat Phra Singh, we saw Sister Missionaries riding their bikes. As we were not sure where the church in Chiang Mai is, we quick jumped on the moto and took off in pursuit. We drove about 30 seconds and found the church! We went in to find the Sisters and we asked them about the Mae Jo lantern release tomorrow, but they had no idea what we were talking about. :/

Next up, we headed south outside the city walls to Wat Sri Suphan. The main temple was pretty cool. I don't think we've seen one with a 4-tiered roof yet.

But off to the side was a silver temple, which was super cool and unique - a big departure from the gold and reds used in everything we've seen thus far.

There was only one problem...

So I went in and took pictures so Isa could see it.

On the way back to the hotel, we drove along the outside of the moat around the city (random insight: the road along the outside of the moat is one-way clockwise, but the one on the inside of the moat is one-way counterclockwise, so plan accordingly or you'll have to loop back around like we did earlier today) and passed by this one, so we stopped in.

Wat Lok Molee

Then we decided to go up to Mae Jo and get a feel for how long it will take to get up there and also just to familiarize ourselves with the area and the roads. We don't want to have any mishaps tomorrow. It took about 45 minutes to drive up in the scooter from our hotel on the northeast corner of the old city. 

We got to Mae Jo University and security was pretty tight at the entrance. Fortunately, they stopped somebody else right in front of us so we got in around them. We explored the campus for a while, and although there were a couple open fields, nothing looked quite right. After about 30 minutes or so, we gave up and drove back to town. So after all the research we've done, we still needed to do more. If you want to read all of our research in one place, click here for the complete guide to Yi Peng in Chiang Mai.

As we were driving back into town, we spotted a line of floating lanterns going up from the same spot, so we drove there. It ended up being along the river bank. We parked the moto and went down to the water's edge. We practiced taking pictures and video from different angles and with various settings (messing with shutter speed and ISO mostly), and just enjoyed being in the middle of a lot of fun. 

People are SO happy here. Possibly because it's the holiday, but partly (I'm sure) because they're Thai and Thai people are just so smiley.

We also swung by some of the gates to the city, which are also lit up for Loi Krathong.

When checking out Tha Phae Gate on the east side of the city, we wandered through the food market just outside the walls. We ended up getting these egg rolls for 30 baht ($1US) which were fantastic! We love Thai food!

Isa also picked up some sweet sunglasses for $5 at the Chiang Mai night market (which sadly isn't as cool as we hoped it would be). The sunglasses were amazing though. The guy took a metal nail and tried to scratch the crap out of the lenses but they came out unscathed. Bought.

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