The temples of Chiang Mai
On my recent trip to Thailand, we spent a couple of days up north in Chiang Mai. One afternoon we visited some of the temples of Chiang Mai. There are over 2,000 temples (Wat) in the Chiang Mai province. Obviously you have to pick some that you want to see and stick with it.
We chose to walk to most of the temples since it was only about 80 degrees during our winter visit. If it’s really hot, I’d recommend renting a tuk tuk for the day. It would be worth it to have them take you to each temple you wanted to see and wait on you to finish and take you to the next one. The prices we overheard were between 50 and 100 baht per number of temples visited. That’s only about $2 or $3 each. Here are the temples we visited:
Wat Phra Singh (20 baht) – This brightly colored Wat has some beautiful dragons that flank the front steps. It has an extremely large Buddha inside with Lanna architecture on the outside. It is part of almost a campus. Some tourists have complained about the recent addition of a fee to enter, but I wasn’t put off by it. Since we were charged to enter Wat Pho and the Grand Palace in Bangkok I didn’t think it was odd. We didn’t wander the grounds, as it was a little crowded and we had other things we wanted to see.
Wat Phan Tao (free) – I liked this temple due to its wooden structure and interesting gate. It’s name is translated to mean the monastery of a thousand kilns. It’s probably because it was used to cast Buddha images before it became a royal residence in 1846 and then a monastery in 1876. If you wander back behind the Buddha, there are pictures and exhibits describing the various festivals that take place on the grounds of this temple. We wandered the grounds and festival sites and came upon the outside of the monks dormitory. It was laundry day with their robes drying in the sun. This simple thing was breathtaking.
Wat Chedi Luang (free) – This temple here used to house the Emerald Buddha that now sits in the Grand Palace in Bangkok. What makes this temple a little different is that the main Buddha figure is standing. The chedi on the grounds was reconstructed in the 1990s in the Thai style financed by UNESCO. We didn’t even wander the grounds to take a look at it. I don’t really know why, we just meandered around and it didn’t make the cut.
Wat Chiang Man (free) – This temple is considered the oldest one in Chiang Mai dating back to 1297. It is supposed to be a great example of the Lanna style, but I’m not sure that I’d know what that meant anyway. The chedi behind the temple is the oldest part of this temple complex. I just loved the elephants on the bottom tier, although it does hold a Buddha relic.
Overall, the temples in Thailand have such amazing details and colors. The fact that most of them date back thousands of years is almost lost due to the sheer numbers of them. We picked the temples we visited based on a little bit of blog and book research before we left the United States. It was definitely nice to have a small paragraph of research from a book or the internet to read about as we were looking at particular temple. Sometimes information can be gained at each temple site (in english), but it can be a bit of a scavenger hunt to find it. If you don’t plan ahead, you could get distracted by trying to see every temple you passed by. Although, I’m not sure that would be a bad thing, since there seemed to be something different and wonderful about each one.
If we hadn’t wandered the grounds of Wat Phan Tao, we would have missed the monks laundry day. Something about the opulence of the temple out front contrasted with this mundane task hidden in the back made this my favorite picture of the day.