Visakha Bucha Day – 2017
When: Wednesday, May 10th
Where: Nationwide / National Public Holiday
On the full moon of the sixth lunar month according to the Thai Lunar calender is Visakha Bucha Day. Thousands descend on Chiang Mai for an 11 kilometer pilgrimage to the temple atop Doi Suthep to pay tribute to Buddha. This is one of the three most holy days of the year for Buddhist followers as they celebrate the birth, enlightenment, and entry into nirvana of the Buddha.
The Day Before!
Remember, the walk up the mountain comes one day before Visakha Bucha Day. So, if it’s your intention is to hike up the mountain with everyone else, arrive in Chiang Mai no later than May 9th.
In the Beginning
It was a typically hot and sunny day in Chiang Mai during last years Visakha Bucha Day march. I along with my friend Anne, decided to join the throngs of believers on there quest to the temple near the top of Doi Suthep. Anne was smart to bring a few brow wiping cloths as it was hot as the surface of the sun on that particular day. Seriously, don’t take the heat lightly in the tropics, even if you decide to head north into the mountains, the intensity of the sun and the heat it produces should not be underestimated. That said, cloths in hands, we moved along with the crowd as they headed up from the base of the mountain. Only 11 kilometers to go, piece of cake, right?
As young and old put one foot in front of the other, I didn’t take into account just how much I would need to refuel on a trip that I considered moderate on the scale of difficultly. Well, the organizers knew better as they had plenty of free water and food available to all who needed it, and that was pretty much everyone. Did I mention how hot it was on that particular day? There was also a spirit among the volunteers, as they handed out the refreshments and support, they had this knowing smile on there faces; “yeah, this is tougher than you thought.” Most of them having made this pilgrimage at least one time in there lives also showed an appreciation to me and Anne for participating in one of there top holy events of the year.
At the Top
Ok, you made it to the steps, you’ll only have another 309 steps to go before you enter the temple walls of Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. Once inside it’ll be time to decide if you’re going to be an observer or a participant. Yeah, why not just join in. You’ll start the ritual by rounding the pagoda three times with candle, incense and flowers in-hand before kneeling in prayer. Offer your flowers to Buddha, light the candle and incense and your future will be roses! Plus now it’s official, you’ve converted to Buddhism! Don’t tell your parents! Just kidding. Participate, it’s more enjoyable if you get involved. And if you really want to go the extra mile, stay overnight along with the many Thai followers that choose to do so to bring in Visakha Bucha Day atop Doi Suthep and watch the sunrise.
It was impressive, the sheer number of Sungtow’s (also known as Redcar’s, similar to covered pickup trucks with bench-seats bolted into the bed of the trucks) that drove past us, up and down the mountain, filled with believers who decided not to make the trip on foot. They never stopped coming the entire time we were on the mountain. Add the endless number of believers on foot, I couldn’t even venture a guess at the number of people who made this trip to the top. When we left the mountain it was around 1am and they just kept on coming!