A Photo Tour of The Temples of Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai has more than 300 temple to explore. This post is not supposed to be a guide to temple spotting but a place to put some of the hundreds of photos we took in and around temples during the couple of months we spent in the city.
Temples Inside the Old City Walls
Wat Chedi Luang was the temple we visited most often as it was very close to where we lived. As well as the enormous, partially restored chedi to wander around there are several ordination halls and smaller buildings to explore. The temple often holds events and drew large crowds of locals. We saw education fairs, famous monk talks, a funeral and several unidentifiable gatherings.
My favourite part of this temple was inside the main ordination hall. Visitors can pay to hang a paper prayer flag to wires strung across the centre of the room. The effect was lovely and I had too many photos of them to choose from.
Right next door to Wat Chedi Luang (located on Ratchadamnoen Road) is the lovely Wat Phan Tao. It is much smaller but the main building (constructed from teak) makes it well worth a visit. I especially liked the abundance of colourful flags outside the main building.
We were lucky enough to be walking by one afternoon and catch the monks at prayer. It was at about 6.20pm.
The other very important temple within the old city wall is Wat Phra Singh. It is the most visited within the walls and covers quite a large area. All of the photos from my previous post about the scarily lifelike monk statues were taken in the small building behind the main ordination hall. Many monks live and study here and the temple is actually twinned with Wat Phra Singh in Runcorn in the UK.
Another temple that often earns a place on any sort of organised tour is Wat Chiang Man. This, I think, is because it has the honour of being the oldest temple in the city. We found it to be a quiet and relaxing place; not very busy at all.
The most impressive part of Wat Chiang Man is the stupa guarded by elephants. The little details were a pleasure to photograph.
There was also a small, somewhat neglected temple where we found some cute cats relaxing.
So, onto some of the smaller, less visited temples. One of the most ostentatious buildings we saw was at Wat Jetlin. The gold was everywhere!
And just over the road was the much lower key Wat Muemtoom. We could not go inside here but the grounds were decorated with quotations to ponder on, some with interesting spellings.
A little further north on the same road (Phrapokklao Road) is the small Wat Chang Taem. The light was quite poor when we were there so I experimented with black and white.
Moving a little further south we found what I think was Wat Puak Tame. It was shut up and deserted except for this lovely dog.
There is a certain attractiveness about things in a state of decay, especially after seeing so many glistening, shiny temples.
Also inside the city walls is Wat Phan On. It is right in the middle of the area that becomes the Sunday night market on Ratchadamnoen Road. By day the large gilded gold stupa glistens in the sun and every Sunday the grounds become an enormous outdoor food court with every type of food you can imagine available for a very reasonable price.
The tiny Wat Inthakin Saduemuang can be found on Intawararot Road, near the Three Kings Monument and good for a quick visit of you’re in the area.
The award for most difficult to pronounce temple goes to Wat Umongmahatherachan. Nestled on Ratpakinai Road the flags welcome you in to explore the temple and grounds.
I like the hand painted sign reminding visitors to dress politely:
Temple North of the Moat
I’m only going to feature one wat to the north of the old city boundary and that is Wat Lok Moli. Located on Manee Nopparat Road, I popped in on my bike one day on the way back from a shopping trip to one of the malls. It is one of the only temples in Chiang Mai to have the main ordination hall on the north/south axis as opposed to the much more usual east/west.
By far my favourite feature of this temple was the mai kham sari (tree props). Tree props are a common sight around the temple trees in northern Thailand but these were the first I had seen where each individual branch had been decorated with colourful material.
The main hall is exceptionally detailed on the outside and when I visited, beautifully calm and quiet inside.
I got distracted trying to capture the individual leaves on this big metal tree, many of which had individual messages or prayers on.
Temples to the East of the Moat
There are many, many temples to be found to the east of the moat in Chiang Mai, as I’m now finishing this post months after we left the city (due to many factors including the theft of our laptops and not being able to remember the names of all of them) I’m just going to include a few. Wat Saen Fang was very quiet when we visited. The way the stupas had aged and the cloudy sky made for some moody photos. The hall was closed but we could wander around the compound freely and admire the giant dragons guarding the entrance.
Close by is Wat Bubphram, probably one of the more visited temples in Chiang Mai because of the tourist heavy location on Tha Phae Road.
Further east along the banks of the Ping River is Warorot Market. Nestled next to the market is Pung Tao Gong Chinese temple. The colours are much brighter although it is one of the oldest temples in the city.
Temples South of the Moat
There are not as many temples located in the south of the city but it is home to two of the most unusual, so I could not leave them out. Just outside the south west part of the walled city is the silversmith area. The craftsmen here have given the city two magnificent silver temples. Possibly the most famous one is Wat Si Supan.
Being a female, I was not actually allowed into this building.
The other ordination hall was open to all though, here you can see some of the useful items donated to the monks of the wat.
A little further south and just as worth a visit is the striking Wat Muem San.
The work was so detailed that we spent ages here taking photos in the afternoon sun.
The final temple of this photo tour is located just outside the south west corner of the city. Wat Meuang Muang just had to be included so I could post this photo.
We visited many others but my memory as to the names of them all fails me and I can’t publish an incomplete report, also, this post is quite long enough as it is now! So, that is where I’m going to leave my photo tour of the temples of Chiang Mai. There will be other photos up on the Gallery Page of our time in Chiang Mai so check that out if you’re after more!
Chiang Mai, Thailand: July 21st – October 17th 2013