Tweety Birds on a Chiang Rai Hillside

A caveat to any amateur (or pro) ornithologist reading this blog. This is neither an entry about my search for a new species of aviary mystique in the jungles of Northeast Thailand, nor is it an essay about Warner Brothers’ influence on Thai culture. No, the tweety birds to which I am referring were the ones I saw above my melon after being knocked flat on my butt at Wat Phra That Doi Tung. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

In April of 2004, I spent two weeks in and around Chiang Rai. I would either drive Pon’s father’s motorbike (a risky endeavor, I admit), take the bus, or ride with her uncle in his rickety Toyota pickup (he was the only person in the very entended family who had a car).

On one of my last days in Chiang Rai, Pon and I, along with about eight of her relatives (I kid you not) loaded up into this old pickup for a ride into the surrounding hills. One does not need to be a member of Mensa to realize that five or six people would be riding in the bed of said truck. I happened to be one of those windblown unfortunates. Suffice to say, at the end of that day, my milky-white skin ended up a beautiful BBQ’d red, not unlike moo daang! This in spite of using sunscreen. April in Thailand? Are you kidding?

Chiang Rai Countryside
The view from Wat Phra That Doi Tung

After a long ride, we ended up at Doi Thung Mae Fah Luang Flower Garden. These beatifully manicured grounds sit around the “chalet” that was home to the King’s mother in her later years. She had it built to look exactly like a Swiss chalet, to remind her of the years she spent in Switzerland when her children attended school in that country. The gardens were beautiful, and I took several photos. Pictures were not allowed during a tour of the interior of the chalet, so I am sorry that I cannot show how it looked. It was very beautiful. I don’t think anyone lives in the residence now. Most of the rooms are roped off and left as they were when the King’s mother passed away in 1995.

Doi Thung Mae Fah Luang Flower Garden
Some of the garden park

Not far from this chalet and garden park, sits Wat Phra That Doi Tung. One of the more interesting aspects of this wat is that it has Buddha’s left collar bone enshrined in a chedi that is draped with a saffron-colored cloth.

Buddha's Collarbone
Here’s the chedi housing Buddha’s collarbone

Another interesting aspect of this wat, is the walking path leading up to it from one of the lower parking lots. This steep ascent is lined on both sides by large bells. Hundreds of them going all the way to the summit. People going in both directions will retrieve sticks from the thick foliage, and bang each bell as they pass. The walk is anything but a time for introspective meditation in aesthetically-pleasing surroundings.

Upon reaching the summit, the climber is afforded gorgeous views of the countryside. So…I was walking around these grounds taking in everything. I spotted a beautiful vantage point from which to take of picture of the distant haze-covered hills. I knelt down by a bench to steady my view. “click” I took a couple of snapshots. Then I stood up..”BONG!!” right into a bell that was hanging next to the bench!

I don’t think that I was knocked out, but it took a moment to get my wits gathered back into my ringing noggin’. My sunglasses were sitting sideways on my sunburnt face. Embarrassment turning my already red face an even darker hue of scarlet. I was flat on my back, my legs splayed akimbo. A nice purple knot appeared almost immediately above one eye.

I sat up amidst the flashing stars and looked around; my eyewear still draped precariously off of one ear and part of my nose. Such a sight I must’ve been. Bystanders’ concerns for my well-being were quickly dispelled as I sat up. This concern was replaced by the urge to chuckle at the clumsy pink-faced Farang sitting on the flagstones, blinking slowly and surveying his surroundings. I had to laugh myself as I stood up and brushed pine needles off my keister. A truly memorable day for me this the Wat of the Tweety Bird.

He looks like how I feel
Oh, my aching head!

9 responses to “Tweety Birds on a Chiang Rai Hillside

  1. LOL good one. I can just picture it from your description; legs, glasses et al strewed akimbo 😉

    Good thing you laughed it off so it didn’t ruin a nice time in what looked to be a very beautiful place. Thanks for the visit to Wat Tweety Bird 😉


  2. Ah! Instant illumination on the density of Buddhist bells !-hope you have recovered now, EJ
    Interesting you should write about the Late Queen Mother’s home on Doi Tung as I was thinking only yesterday of re-visiting it when next in Thailand. I knew little about Her then and would like to visit again now knowing a lot more.
    I visited last in 1996. There was a huge hoarding outside with her photograph on, which was draped with black material. I seem to remember entrance to the house was not permitted then.
    A week or so later I was in Bangkok visiting Wat Bo on a Sunday in early February, prior to flying back to the UK that night. I heard a lot of noise from outside and went to look. It was the dress rehearsal for Her State Funeral which took place later that week.

  3. Good blog EJ. I enjoyed reading it. I’ve not been up north but I really intend to go see the hillsides. The view from Wat Phra That Doi Tung looks great, thanks for sharing some nice pictures especially the last one, LOL

  4. I plan to drive around ChiangRai & ChiangMai in Oct 05. The information here will be handy, thanks. I heard there is another interesting place to visit, Mae Fah Luang university. The Chinese Government donated a Chinese garden there, I read in Bangkok Post.
    Thanks EJ.

  5. Nice blog, well written complimented by good pictures.

    Im sure the readers would love to read more stuff along similar lines.

  6. Khun Chin – Also another gem of the Chiang Mai/Chiang Rai route: Wang Kum Kam. It’s an ancient city, if I remember the story right, that Poh Khun Mungrai founded before Chiang Mai. The Ping river changed courses during that time, the city was constantly flooded, and eventually abandoned for a better location. All the temples and palaces in the area are being restored and dug up as we speak. They wanted to make it World’s treasure, but that means townsfolks have to leave their homes so there you go on the trolley through neighborhood. Ancient temple lies next to some old guy’s hut. It was extremely fascinating.

    I have some photos on my Flickr album, linked through my personal blog.

  7. I has more information about Doi Tung, Chiang Rai.If you want to came back again just throw the coin in to hole of Tung (Lanna flag).

  8. Great Blog, Khun Hoya. I visited in 1996, soon after the Queen mother’s death. Visitors were not allowed in the Villa at that time. I hope to visit again next year.

  9. one best place for traveller, is near by the city of chiangrai.