Doi Suthep rose almost 1,700 metres above the nearby city of Chiang Mai and it had taken an hour from the hotel to follow the road through heavy traffic just to reach the foot of these stairs. He could have paid the additional 20 baht to ride the funicular but he needed to assess the major route personally, both in and out of the site. Halfway up he realised he could have ridden the funicular up and then completed his survey on the way down but now it was too late – quick in and out was the objective.
Because he had not managed the whole process himself he had a nagging feeling of doubt about the exercise; after all Dom had organised it. Will thought that Dom appeared to be increasingly accident-prone; being followed into the South American retreat had been just one of the more recent issues. Perhaps he was losing it? Maybe it was time for Will to step up?
This target was in a pretty remote location with only one route out. What if Dom had not thought it through properly, or worse, what if he had deliberately set him up?
One of Will’s concerns was the proximity of a major Thai royal residence where the ruling family escaped the heat, noise and pollution of the current capital. But he had asked around and established that no royal was currently in residence. Security in the area would therefore hopefully be light, any response likely to be slow and pretty cursory.
This extremely ornate temple on the mountain top was one of the most important to the Thais, forming the focus for huge pilgrimages. But today at this high point of the rainy season, the humidity feeling close to 100%, the temperature certainly at a sapping 36 degrees C, the visitor numbers were understandably light.
Surely this was going to be a complete waste of time? The legend that brought him here told of a monk named Sumanathera who in the 14th century had a dream that led him to Pang Cha to look for a relic which, rather too fortuitously for Will’s taste, he duly found . He claimed that this relic was the shoulder bone of the Lord Buddha. Will’s first question was, if it was such a significant item, why was it just left hanging around there for him to find? Pretty implausible stuff!
Then this monk claimed it had magical powers; it could glow or vanish and it could transport itself. He took it to a king who had been delighted, celebrating its discovery with a ceremony and offerings, but it was found to exhibit none of its claimed special powers. After this the king, quite understandably, told the monk what he might do with his relic. Will fully appreciated the king’s reaction. If it had been his call then he would have said the monk could keep it too.