Thailand, with its rich culture, is well-renowned for preserving a sacred lineage of holy shrines. The city of Chiang Mai reflects Thailand’s character in all its architectural wonders, and you’ll come across ethnic structures known as ‘Wats’ while exploring the city’s 200 local temples.
Wat Phra That Doi Kham
Famous (mostly among locals) for its huge seated Buddha, Wat Phra That Doi Kham is one of the lesser-known temples in Chiang Mai thanks to its slightly out-of-the-way location, but nonetheless just as spectacular as many of the more popular temples in Chiang Mai. The Giant Buddha structure towers nearly 20 metres into the air, painted in bright white and gold colours. The whole temple complex dates back more than 1,000 years, with plenty of shrines, pagodas and relics to explore in the tropical garden area in the foothills of the Doi Suthep Mountain range. It is also known as the ‘Temple of the Golden Mountain’.
Wat Sri Suphan
This central Chiang Mai temple really stands out from the rest with its shiny coat of silver paint that glistens brightly in the sunlight. The tips of the stupas are solid silver and at night they have a neon light display which turns the temple into multiple colours – a stunning sight indeed. The temple complex actually dates back to the 16th century, although the main silver building is much newer, with additional halls and monks’ buildings nearby. There is also a silver-working school housed here, which helps to pass on the traditions which led to the temples creation. Find it just south of the Old City walls on Wualai Road, close to the weekend market.
Wat Chiang Man
Wat Chiang Man temple once served as the residence of the city’s founder, King Mengrai, shortly after its construction in the 13th century (which makes it one of the very oldest in the region). The temple itself is a glorious sight from every angle, with the old crumbling pagoda offering an insight into the rich history of Wat Chiang Man, while the newer temple hall presents a fine example of traditional Lanna architecture that has been well maintained over the years. Find it on Ratchaphakhinai Road, near the Chang Puak gate in the northern part of the old city.
Wat Lok Molee
Another visually striking temple in Chiang Mai is Wat Lok Moli, well-known for its three-tiered wooden roof and prime location very close to Chang Puak Gate on the north edge of the Old City. The main temple hall has been well-restored, although the weathered chedi at the back shows the temple’s true age, dating back to around the 14th century. Although Wat Lok Molee is located very central, it’s just hidden out of the way meaning most tourists miss it, allowing it to enjoy a little more peace and tranquillity compared to some of the city’s other temples.
Wat Phan Tao
Wat Phan Tao is a beautiful wooden temple with a decorated garden area. Sitting next to the famous Wat Chedi Luang this temple is often overlooked but worth a visit. Especially when the more famous religious complexes in the area are overrun with tourists in the high season. When you enter, the main prayer hall is to your right and a walkway on your left leads you to the stupa at the back. The prayer hall is made from dark teak wood and inside is a gold image of the Buddha. The prayer hall was built back when the teak trade was at its peak and the wood was an offering to the Buddha.
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