While it wasn’t our intention to visit so many temples or wat during our brief stay in Chiang Mai—being too templed out from our previous Asian destinations—it was totally impossible not to bump into one while walking along the streets of the old walled city.
So besides the massive Wat Chedi Luang, which can be found at the center of the city’s moated grounds, we also got to visit six more temples within a span of two days.
|CHIANG MAI TEMPLE DETAILS|
With temples in the area eclipsing the 300 hundred mark, one simply cannot ignore all those graceful multi-tiered roofs, the intricately decorated walls and the impressive (and intimidatingly weird) naga creatures that guard their entrances.
Join us, unwilling participants, to the Chiang Mai temple run we go.
ADDRESS: PRAPOKKLOA ROAD, CHIANG MAI | OPEN HOURS: 4:00 AM TO 6:00 PM DAILY | ENTRANCE FEE: FREE | GPS MAP: 18.783755, 98.988291
|WAT CHEDLIN’S ICONIC STONE BUDDHA FACE ALONG ITS COURTYARD|
The first temple we stumbled upon after entering the brick gates of Chiang Mai’s walled city is Wat Chedlin. What immediately seized us was the huge black gong right outside its gate. Inside, a gargantuan stone Buddha head greeted us.
|THE TEMPLE FACADE FRAMED BY ITS GATE|
Built during the 16th century, the complex houses a main assembly hall (viharn), a brick chedi or tower and a monk’s quarter out back.
|INSIDE WAT CHEDLIN|
I heard that there’s a café right before its bridge leading to the monk’s quarter where they serve good organic coffee at only 1.50 USD a cup, unfortunately the day was too hot for coffee when we visited.
WAT UMONG MAHA THERA CHAN
ADDRESS: RATCHAOAKHINAI RD., CHIANG MAI | ENTRANCE FEE: FREE | GPS MAP: 18.789433, 98.989829
WAT UMONG MAHA THERA CHAN’S SIMPLE FACADE GUARDED BY SINGHS
After visiting the Lanna Folklife Museum and learning that they impose an entrance fee, we decided to head off for lunch. I remember a row of Chinese restaurants serving chicken rice near the area, but we promptly got lost. And in the process of getting lost, we found Wat Umong Maha Thera Chan.
|NOT MUCH GOING ON AT THIS PLACE|
While it’s really not the most beautiful nor the most venerated temple in Chiang Mai, it has its own charm. Its claim to fame, other than having the same name as Wat Umong, a more prominent temple several kilometers away from the city center, is its brick chedi out back which is dubbed as the Temple of the Great Monk's Cave.
ADDRESS: INTRAWAROROT RD., CHIANG MAI | HOURS: 8:30 AM TO 5:00 PM DAILY | ENTRANCE FEE: FREE | GPS MAP: 18.789606, 98.987440
|WAT INTHAKIN IS MADE FROM GILDED BLACK WOOD|
After asking for a free Internet connection from one of the cafés in Chiang Mai, I was able to bring up my Google Maps and find our choice restaurant for lunch. But that was not before we passed Wat Inthakin, which stood parallel to the Three King’s Monument.
Still able to hold off our stomach dragons, we were attracted to the temple’s wooden structure and its set of gold trimmings. We decided a cursory visit won’t hurt.
|LUANG PHO KHAO, THE BUDDHA INSIDE THE TEMPLE|
Also called as Wat Sadue Muang, The Temple of the City Navel, this is one of the major temples in Chiang Mai.
Unbeknownst to us then, this was where the Pillar of Chiang Mai was set in 1296 by Lanna Kingdom’s King Mengrai before it was moved to Wat Chedi Luang.The Buddha image inside the dark wooden viharn known as Luang Pho Khao, is also noteworthy, being made for Kawila, one of the Lanna Kings.
WAT LOK MOLEE
ADDRESS: MANEE NOPPARAT RD., CHIANG MAI | OPEN HOURS: 6:00 AM TO 5:00 PM DAILY | ENTRANCE FEE: FREE | GPS MAP: 18.796064, 98.982546
|WAT LOK MOLEE’S GRACEFUL VIHARN WITH ITS FAMOUS CHEDI AT THE BACK|
The next day, we were accompanied by I, one of our friends in Chiang Mai, she said she’d take us around some of the major temples in the area. Even with our templed out state, we willingly obliged. Well, it was that or we go to the malls, lol.
|PRAYER LEAVES NEAR THE CHEDI|
Wat Lok Molee was our first stop on our second day of temple run. From the gates, it was quite easy to be impressed with this wat. Its Lanna-style wooden viharn, while constructed only last 2003, was as impressive as its ancient 14th-century chedi, one of the oldest in Chiang Mai.
|BUDDHA STATUETTES SCATTERED ALONG THE CHEDI|
The towering brick chedi, which has four Buddha statues set on niches facing the four compass points, also houses the ashes of Mengrai Dynasty kings, 14th-century Lanna Kingdom rulers before the Burmese invaded the land.
This temple isn’t really inside the old city of Chiang Mai, but it’s just across the road from its northern gate. Wat Lok Molee is one of the most impressive temples in the city.
|INSIDE WAT LOK MOLEE’S VIHARN|
ADDRESS: MANEE NOPPARAT RD., CHIANG MAI | ENTRANCE FEE: FREE | GPS MAP: 18.795341, 98.982687
|WAT MONTHIAN’S FANCY EXTERIOR|
On our way inside the city gates, we passed by an ornately decorated temples not usually found on the tourist circuit tours in Chiang Mai; Wat Monthian.
|A GIGANTIC BUDDHA OUTSIDE THE TEMPLE|
This wat boasts of a huge Buddha image standing outside its viharn. The temple itself, elevated several feet from the ground, is quite impressive with its gold details and surrounding sculptures.
It was just our second temple for the day, but we were already starting to feel templed-out; hence, we didn’t even bother going inside.
|BALLS STUCK WITH GOLD SHEAVES|
WAT KUAN KAMA
ADDRESS: MANEE NOPPARAT RD., CHIANG MAI | ENTRANCE FEE: FREE | GPS MAP: 18.795336, 98.983691
|WEIRD TO SEE HORSES ADORNING A WAT IN CHIANG MAI|
Wat Kuan Kama was another temple we passed before entering old Chiang Mai. What attracted us to this temple was the golden horses perched on its fence pillars. It was quite uncommon to see these animals gracing a Thai temple.
|A FAIRLY NEW CHEDI AT WAT KUAN KAMA|
Inside, a huge golden chedi handsomely stands. It was also quite different form the usual brick ones we’ve been seeing; this one’s very geometric and angular (octagonal) in configuration, and very modern in style.
I read that there’s a good khao soi (noodle soup) place near the area, Khao Soi Khun Yai or Grandma's Khao Soi, unfortunately, we were not informed! Haha.
WAT PHRA SINGH
ADDRESS: SAM LAN RD., CHIANG MAI | OPEN HOURS: 6:00 AM TO 5:00 PM DAILY | ENTRANCE FEE: FREE | GPS MAP: 18.788578, 98.981947
|WAT PHRA SINGH’S MAIN VIHARN|
Our final destination for the day is one of Chiang Mai’s most important and oldest temple; Wat Phra Singh. Looking at its facade as the light started to fade, I was failed to be impressed. It looked just like any other Thai temple, only bigger.
|BUDDHA IMAGES OF ALL SIZES INSIDE THE VIHARN|
Tired from walking and taking our shoes off to go inside temples, we still did so at Wat Phra Singh. We were told that the Phra Buddha Sihing—a sacred Buddha image brought all the way from Sri Lanka to Nakhon Si Thammarat, then Ayutthaya, before taking home in Chiang Mai—is housed inside its virhan.
|MONKS DOING THEIR PRAYERS|
What we didn’t know was it was on the smaller viharn located at the back near the complex’s chedi was where it was located. I never did mind though, as I have never seen so many Buddhists monks gathered and praying in a single temple as in Wat Phra Singh.
|THE END OF OUR CHIANG MAI TEMPLE RUN|
And so endeth our two-day temple run in Chiang Mai. We’re not overtly fond of temples after having our fair share from Cambodia and Myanmar, but it was still an interesting way to have a glimpse into Thai and Lanna culture.
Now let’s go find that khao soi place again. My feet hurts and I’m starving.