Chiang Mai reportedly has over 300 temples (Wats). Thus far, I have visited 7 of them.
Most of the temple complexes within the city are open daily, making it easy to wander and appreciate without a plan. Since there are so many temples, it’s also easy to assume that wherever you are, you’ll likely be near one.
A couple of quick guidelines for temples:
- Be ready to remove your shoes and possibly cover up with a sarong before entering buildings on the temple grounds.
- Monks can’t touch women, and women can’t enter certain buildings.
- Don’t point your feet towards Buddha. (Or monks. Or anyone really. But especially not Buddha.)
I’m definitely not an expert on Buddhism in Thailand, but I’ve learned bits and pieces during our stay. One of the things that I find fascinating is that ordination as a monk isn’t necessarily for life. Instead, many Thai men will become ordained for a shorter period of time – often (though not necessarily) for a multiple of three (3 days, 3 weeks, 3 months, 3 years.) My guide on a bike tour of the city was formerly a monk so that he could attend secondary school and university . A driver we ride with regularly became a monk twice, for three months each time, to honor his mother. There seems to be a fluidity between secular and religious life for many people.
Anyway, on to the temples!
Wat Saun Dok
I’ve been to this temple many times, in part because my favorite restaurant in Chiang Mai is directly behind the temple. (Pun Pun – vegetarian slow food and really amazing.) I also went on a short (one night) meditation retreat associated with Wat Saun Dok, which I recommend both for the meditation practice and the chance to learn more about life as a monk in Thailand.
Wat Phan Tao
I enjoy discovering cities by getting extremely lost in them. As part of getting lost in Chiang Mai one day, I stumbled upon this temple, which turns out to be pretty famous because of its teak interior.
Wat Chedi Luang
… and then, as I continued being lost, I discovered this temple as well!
(I use the word discovered very, very loosely. I think Wat Chedi Luang is one of the biggest and most well-known temples in Chiang Mai. There have always been lots of tourists when I’ve wandered through.)
I took this picture towards the end of my being lost adventure. I don’t remember much about the temple, but I really liked the statue of the goddess of the earth squeezing water from her hair to protect the Buddha.
Wat Sri Suphan
I visited this temple as part of a bike tour of the old city with Chiang Mai Biking. It’s the only silver temple in Thailand, and it has a silver workshop onsite.
Then men working here (while watching a show on a phone) told me that it takes a month to finish a panel like this.
Many temples, like this one, have a Ganesha statue with a nearby helper mouse. (There seems to be plenty of Hindu influence in Thai Buddhism.)
You can buy trays of goodies to leave Ganesha as an offering.
Wat Pa Ngio
I already posted about the many critters at this temple. It was also just generally one of the prettiest and most varied temples we visited, with a plethora of statues, including a reclining Buddha statue covered in coins.
This is the outside of the giant Ganesha statue…
… and this is the inside of the giant Ganesha statue, once you have half-crawled, half-walked to the interior.
Wat Sai Moon Muang
We were early for an dentist appointment one day, so we stopped by this temple just to peek for a few minutes, since we had extra time.
Or so we thought. Then we discovered that Google maps had shown us the incorrect location for our dentist, and we had to hustle pretty far up the road to the actual location, arriving 10 minutes late and fairly sweaty. Google maps is not particularly good with Thai addresses.
Anyway, the temple was lovely, our teeth are clean, and we’ve learned to gather a little more evidence before declaring that we’re early!