DayTripping Hidden Delights: Samoeng – Ban Pong – Mae Wang
16th September 2019. I planned to take a few hours out for a quick ride/explore in the Samoeng area of Chiang Mai province, but I was enjoying myself so much that it turned into a 9 hour ride/explore. I had an absolutely brilliant day of looking around, including finding a hidden Vietnamese temple in Samoeng Neau valley. With the Rainy Season weather being so hot and humid it was also a good opportunity to test out the new Inuteq cooling vest I was sent and also see how well the new Kusari waxed jeans hold up in high heat.
*ROUGH* Full trip: (Google Map)
(this Google Map link really just shows the main section I rode, but Google map has broken parts up or doesn’t recognise some roads etc. So its the best I can do.)
Starting off on my bike just before 8am, I headed north with the plan of doing some kind of anti-clockwise loop.
..and of course the obligatory cows on the road ^^
The morning then took an amazing turn, due to this incredible hidden temple in the Samoeng Neua valley….
Cực Lạc Cảnh Giới Tự / Wat Pa Sukawadee I took a video of the whole area, which I think is worth a watch. It’s eerily beautiful!
Easy to miss the entranceway (and in fact I’ve ridden past it many times over the years and had no idea it was there!)
Riding through the entrance gates to this hidden delight felt a little like walking through a Narnia wardrobe into a forgotten time and place!
Dotted all around were solar panel lights and speakers, and many of the lights done in beautiful and interesting ways (such as cherry blossom flowers and lotus leaves in the water – shown in the video above).
I imagine come sun down this area will look really beautiful with soft lighting (and I am thinking to go see how it looks when that happens). The speakers were quietly incanting chants in Vietnamese, which made for a surreal experience.
(I found this image from this Vietnamese website of how the temple looks lit up. Hopefully the lights still work well enough to re-create this beautiful scene.)
I tried to find more information about the temple after my ride via google, and the best source I came up with is this fantastic video from 9 years ago. The video shows the temple buildings (but without the statues), and also the reason why it was built (as a meditation and training place for monks).
The statues were built later on, but areas have been left unfinished and it would seem its been that way for some time (possibly many years). The whole area is quite overgrown and full of slippery moss.
According to a friend (who translated some of the Vietnamese in one website) the temple originally began construction in 2005 with a budget of 3 million USD! That is quite a budget!
..but first it was time to buy some cool water to fill up my Inutiq cooling vest. It was only around 10am, but already heating up fast. It was the perfect time to put the cooling vest to the test. I stopped at a local shop to buy some cold water and a small snack.
On the way to get my morning coffee, I saw this interesting new temple stairway being built. Location HERE.
I stopped for coffee at one of my favorite coffee shops in the area.
As an aside, around this area is a great off-road track, leading to Wat Luang Khun Win and out to Mae Wang. I decided not to redo this track on this day for a few reasons. First off it is Rainy Season (mud) and I am not a strong off-road rider, and second I was in lighter gear. I wanted just a leisurely ride in my new items, so I decided the off-road ride will be for another time, although it is a great direct route to where I planned to head next (Wat Doi Sapphanyu in Mae Wang). The dirt track info is HERE
After coffee I had a bit an explore around for a few hours.
For lunch I stopped in at the Royal Train Garden Resort.
After lunch I rode onwards to Mae Wang (via back routes), to visit the huge four standing Buddhas at Wat Doi Sapphanyu.
En route this happened. Grr :/
As for Wat Doi Sapphanyu, it was stunning!
Should be safer now being at the bottom of the steps.
It was a great day out, and I made this compilation video of the highlights, which I think is a pretty good edit and shows the best bits of just one day of riding:
Hope you enjoyed this trip report. 😀
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