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There’s a reason why Chiang Mai is somewhere most visitors to Thailand head to at some point.
And that reason is, because it’s a wonderful city.
Whether passing through, chilling out, or getting some work done with the people in the #digitalnomad community, there’s something for everyone.
However, as nice as the city is, a lot of Chiang Mai’s highlights aren’t in the city at all.
Take Wat Phra Doi Suthep, for example.
A temple (Wat Phra), sitting on a hill (Doi Suthep), overlooking Chiang Mai. When in town, getting up there is a must-do.
You could go by songthaew.
But it’s much more fun going by scooter.
Renting a scooter in Chiang Mai
Thanks to the number of places with bikes available and the number of tourists who hire one every day, renting a scooter in Chiang Mai to ride up Doi Suthep isn’t difficult.
However, some companies are better than others.
Prices can vary, even for daily rentals, but that really shouldn’t be your biggest concern.
My tips would be as follows.
Always check the condition of the scooter before renting. Take a little test ride up and down the road if possible to check the brakes, at the very least.
Ask about the arrangements for paying for any damage you may cause to the scooter.
Wings and fairings are generally cheap to replace should you drop the bike, although the actual amount you’ll be charged might depend on how much money the rental place wants to make on the side.
Check the contract carefully before signing.
Always get a helmet.
And don’t feel like you have to leave your passport as a deposit. The better places will only ask for a copy (and cash of course).
Above all, go with your gut on whether the company and person feels trustworthy.
My honest advice would be to head straight to (or call) Mango Bikes and see if they have anything available.
Riding a Scooter up Doi Suthep
As you can see from the top picture in this post, I took a scooter up Doi Suthep myself.
I actually did it on more than one occasion, and loved it each time.
Although the road throws a lot of bends at you as it snakes its way up the hill, it’s not too challenging if you’ve ridden a scooter before.
And like most things in Thailand, there’s no rush to get there anyway.
Take your time.
Enjoy the view.
Especially at the look-out point you’ll come to around three-quarters of the way up.
Photography at Wat Phra Doi Suthep
The temple at the top of Doi Suthep (the hill) is known as Wat Phra Doi Suthep, and is about a 15-kilometre ride from the city.
Legend has it that the temple was founded in 1383, on the spot where an elephant set loose carrying a piece of the Buddha’s shoulder bone dropped dead.
The people of the time took this as a sign, and Wat Phra Doi Suthep was built.
The first road to the temple was constructed some time after… in 1935.
Today, it’s one of the most visited spots in Chiang Mai. Don’t let that put you off though. It’s still beautiful.
The day I went, I took my little old F.Zuiko 38mm f1.8 and my Sony Alpha mirrorless camera, which is a great choice for shooting your own travel photography, with or without classic lenses.
If you’re in the market for a new camera, check them on Amazon here.
The shots I got were then processed with a Vintage Film preset.
A mixture of temple architecture, artifacts and future-arhats, they give a glimpse of what to expect when you visit Wat Phra Doi Suthep for yourself one day.
Renting a scooter in Chiang Mai and heading up Doi Suthep is something I’d recommend to anyone confident enough to take the ride.
If you don’t want to ride a scooter, and many don’t, Wat Phra Doi Suthep is still well worth visiting by songthaew.
But the combination of the ride up and the temple when you arrive is something special.
In two minds?
Do it, I say.
Every photograph in this post was shot with the wonderful F.Zuiko 38mm f1.8 on a mirrorless Sony camera.
Check out my review of this vintage lens for more information, or just get your own set-up today! You’ll need:
- one F.Zuiko 38mm f1.8 (find yours on eBay here)
- one Sony Alpha mirrorless camera (find yours on Amazon here)
- one PenF-NEX adapter (find yours on Amazon here)
… p.s. if you found this post on riding a scooter up Doi Suthep useful and think others will too, why not share or pin it?