Chiang Mai Temples
| Temples are perhaps the most interesting and appealing attractions of Chiang Mai. There are about 300 Buddhist temples (known as "wats" in Thai), some of which are about 700 years old. Temples form an integral part of Thai lifestyle and valuable Thai traditions.
Devotees and visitors to the temples must be dressed appropriately, covering up the legs and shoulders completely, before entering any of the Thai temples. The Thai people are also very particular about removing footwear and shoes before entering the temple premises.
Some of the most popular temples in Chiang Mai include:
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is one of the most famous temples of Chiang Mai and is located on the peaks of Doi Suthep. The temple is a "must see" not only because of its religious importance, but also because of the remarkable panoramic view that it offers of Chiang Mai city and the Mae Ping River valley.
Wat Chiang Man is the oldest temple built in Chiang Mai and is known to have served as a temporary home for the temple founders. The temple is constructed in the famous Lanna style architecture and is finely decorated in red lacquer, gold leaf and mosaics of tinted mirror. The temple houses two highly respected images of Lord Buddha -- Phra Sila (marble Buddha) and Phra Satang Man (crystal Buddha).
Wat Phra Singh is highly admired for its classic northern (Lanna) Thai style architecture and houses the most revered Phra Singh Buddha, which was brought to Thailand from Sri Lanka in the 1300s. The temple has a beautiful main hall, a small Lai Kam worship hall, and the roof is designed in the form of a bird's wings.
Wat Chedi Luang is one of the most impressive temples of Chiang Mai, built almost 600 years ago. The most prominent feature of this temple is the massive Lanna-style chedi (pagoda) which is visible from any part of the city. This temple was the home of the Emerald Buddha, which got damaged during an earthquake in 1545. What remains now is a set of 2 naga staircases and wonderful statues of elephants decorating the base of the structure.
Wat U-Mong is built in the foothills of the heavily forested Suthep Mountain. The temple is constructed in the form of several criss-cross tunnels and houses a ghastly and emaciated looking concrete Buddha who is shown to be seated and fasting. The temple also shows many tiny Buddha images scattered near the altar. The temple grounds are heavily forested and there is a small lake which acts as an abode for many species of fish, birds and other wildlife.
Wat Suan Dok is a uniquely distinct temple with a large prayer hall (‘wiharn’ in Thai) which is not totally enclosed, but is open on the sides. There are many large pagodas containing Buddhist relics. The temple also contains a large number of ornate white-washed reliquaries, containing the remains of the cremated rulers of Chiang Mai. The temple offers a "monk chat" program where tourists can learn more about Buddhism, through their discussions and chats.
There are many other beautiful temples, each with its own unique architectural beauty and style, such as the Wat Ched Yot, Wat Chiang Yuan, Wat Gate (especially the temple's museum, with hundreds of photographs which depicts the life in Chiang Mai a century back), Wat Lok Moli, Wat Pan Tao, Wat Pa Pao, and Wat Saen Fang, which are worth visiting.