A Photo Odyssey through Chiang Mai’s enchanting temples

Temple in Hang Dong Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai, the ancient capital of Lanna, holds an enormous temple treasure. Here is a photo odyssey of some of the incredible temples in and outside the city. I earmarked only 20 out of 300+ temples to explore! But we all need to start somewhere. Also, temples are great witnesses of past times. Even though some buildings are not the same original buildings in full as when they were built, they still carry a story from that time in history. In Chiang Mais history, prosperous times with temple building and renovations. It comes hand in hand.

You can often find parts of the old temple somewhere in the vicinity, a relic, a gong, a part of the old roof. Some of the temples host small museums. It is not necessary to be a Buddhist to find interest in temples. If you arrive in the early morning or early evening, there might be monk sermons and chanting. There is often a certain Buddhist peacefulness and some sense of a mystery that one is not yet part of that adds to the atmosphere—a feeling of escapism.

Temples as a key to exploring the Thai and Lanna Cultures

Temples are architecturally exciting and reminders of ancient Lanna and Thai culture. Even though Buddha is officially not recognised as a God in Theravada Buddhism, temples are still built for eternity. At the same time, average peoples houses were not. So temples are often the best remains of history that we have, with their meditation halls and temple towers built in brick or sandstone. Additionaly, stupas or chedis are memorials of enlightenment and is considered to bring culture to the present.

The temple towers named stupas, chedis, prangs and many other names have the function to demonstrate the enlightenment and wisdom that comes with it to victory over ignorance. The escape from suffering made Buddhist followers overwhelmed by joy, so they built stupas by the millions. Stupas are sermons in stone, and often, they also claim to hold relics of the Buddha.

Then the towers help people turn their minds from the hedonistic pleasures and direct them towards their own higher potential. So to better understand Chiang Mai, the old kingdom of Lanna and indeed Thailand and a majority of its Buddhist population.

Please do take your time to visit some of the magnificent temples we have in Chiang Mai. There is no lack of good coffee shops with cool air-conditioning for those needed breaks when you feel a bit “templed out” once in a while.

Then try to look for the small soi / side street temples, or the ones in the countryside that tourists don’t stop by. Then you can often truly feel that calm and harmony that comes with the territory.

1. Wat Phra Sing

Location click here.

Wat Phra Sing
Wat Phra Singh. A temple considered royal by the highest degree since 1935. Wat Pra Singh is situated at the end of the main Rachadamnoen road of Chiang Mai, running east from the temple, via the old Thapae Gate down to the Ping River. The temple has an ornamented library.

2. Wat Sri Suphan – The Silver Temple

Location in Google maps here.

Silver Temple of Chiang Mai
Silver colour in aluminium and silver. This temple is located just by the Wualai silver street of Chiang Mai. Here is a new temple built on the sight of an old but cherishing handicraft of the famous silversmiths of the area. Many people in this area descended from the Shan state in today’s Myanmar. The Lanna king Kawila brought back plenty of silver workers from that area after a raid into the region. The old Sri Suphan was a temple where people would pray that their sons and husbands would come back alive from wars. The silver and golden colours of the temple makes it stand out. On occasions, you can see workers working aluminium that will be a part of the temple, Jataka(Buddha life tales) and from the Ramakien. A temple not to miss in Chiang Mai.

3. Wat Dok Kham

Location in Google maps here.

Wat Dok Kham
Wat Dok Kham is near the Thapae Gate. A small temple with a viharn, a chedi and an eye-catching pavilion. An excellent place to start a walk in the old town.

4. Wat Doi Kham

Location in Google maps click here.

Wat Doi Kham
Morning walk at Wat Doi Kham. Best seen in the morning. It is possible to drive up or do the morning exercise through a short nature trail and then followed by this staircase protected by Naga guardians up to the temple itself. You will be rewarded with great views of Chiang Mai from the hill of the golden mountain temple. This is a very living temple. Thai people come from all parts of the country to seek success in business from making merit here. Avoid this temple during the Thai national holidays. It is very dense and heavy traffic to get in and out.

5. Wat Chedi Luang

Location in Google maps here.

Wat Chedi Luang
Wat Chedi Luang in the blue hour. A majestic brick construction that is best seen in the evening with lights and in the blue hour. Once partly destroyed in an earthquake, this temple is also home to the city pillar of Chiang Mai and, once upon a time, an important centre for Buddhist monks all over South East Asia.

6. Wat Doi Suthep

Location in Google maps here.

Wat Doi Suthep
Doi Suthep temple is the name of the mountain where it is located. There is a tale of a white elephant bringing the relics of the Buddha to this spot, and the whole temple is a story about Buddhism. Leading up to the temple, you have the longest Naga balustrade in Thailand, and on top, you find the 24 meters gold-gilded octagonal Chedi. It is revered by Thai people all over the country. The temple is somewhat the guardian temple of Chiang Mai. The holiest and most visited temple. I prefer an early visit before the buses with tours come. It can be very crowded here at times.

7. Wat Hang Dong (Wat Ban Dong)

Location in Google maps here.

Wat Hang Dong
Wat Hang Dong called a nearby relative to Wat Ton Kwaen. Another jewel of Lanna architecture is 12 km outside town. Age, 19th century
or earlier.

8. Wat Suan Dok

Location in Google maps here.

Wat Suan Dok
Wat Suan Dok after a rainy night. The royal burial grounds for Lanna kings. The ashes were brought here from several places in Chiang Mai in the early 20th century. The white Chedis, contrasting the golden one against the blue sky and sometimes clear visibility of Doi Suthep. This is the “flower garden temple”. The area was once used as a Royal flower garden by the ruler of Chiang Mai. The tallest golden Chedi in Sri Lankan style is 48 meters high and contains the relic of the Buddha. The Suan Dok area is an active Buddhist studying centre. They used to offer monk chats as well.

9. Wat Ched YodThe Seven Spires Temple

Location in Google here

Wat Ched Yod
Wat Ched Yod. A piece of India in Chiang Mai, with a feeling similar to being in the Angkor region of Siam Reap. This is a pilgrimage site for people born in the year of the snake. A copy of the Mahabodhi temple in Northern India, Bodhigaya, where the Buddha reached enlightenment. I enjoy this temple best in the early morning.

10 . Wat Umong – The Tunnel Temple

Location on Google maps here.

Wat Umong
Wat Umong, smiling Buddha. An area that differs. Mysterious tunnels, meditation grounds, a nature area, and a graceful Chedi. The temple area is very active in many ways and has some art installations. The whispering forest and the proximity to the cafe and art area surrounding Wat Umong make a half-day to this part of town worthwhile. I would call it Chiang Mais own little Kyoto.

11. Wat Ton Kwen (Wat Intharawat)

Location in Google Maps here.

Wat Ton Kwaen
Wat Ton Gwen(kwaen). Miniature, minimalistic, a lot of woodwork, less gold. This is the wonder of Hang Dong outside Chiang Mai. You will probably be alone here, at least it will not be crowded. Charming and tranquil. Built-in 1848, you can feel the village presence from Tong Kwaen village where it is located. Festival in June early year.

12. Wat Ket Karam

Wat Ket Karam
Shortly just Wat Ket. Exciting temple in an exciting area. You find it on the west side of the Ping River. The Chiang Mai citizens living here were of Chinese, European, and Thai origins. Wat Ket Karam was the centre of this community. Before the emergence of train travel, the main port for marine transport between Bangkok and Chiang Mai was here. Inside the compound is a museum of the old days. Nice place to go in the evening; you can continue to the restaurants and bars along the road the iconic Rubber Tree Road nr 106.

13. Wat Bupparam

Location on Google here.

Wat Bupparam
Wat Bupparam. Not far from Chang Klang road, easily accessible downtown though with an entrance. It holds the giant teak Buddha in Thailand, 400 years old. A classic Burmese Chedi and a Donald Duck statue. Yes, you saw right. There is a statue of Donald near the entrance.

14. Wat Rajamontean (Wat Rachamontien)

Location on Google here.

Read more about the temple on this link. Sights in Chang Puak and Sri Poom Road.

Wat Rajamontean
Wat Rajamontean, the eye-catching from the moat with its giant Buddha statue, is well worth a visit inside with the red lacquered pillars on a white marble floor and a Buddha type Shan/Burmese royal style. I very much like the statue of Rama and Sita. The temple offers monk chats.

15. Wat Kuan Khama

Location on Google maps here.

Read more about the temple here.

Wat Kuan Kama
Wat Khan Khama. The legend says that a horse owner commissioned the temple for the love of his deceased horse—a unique temple with about 20 horse statues facing the main road.

16. Wat Ban Den

Location in Google click here.

Read more in a separate article here, Wat Ban Den a Dreamlike Vision.

Wat Ban Den
Wat Ban Den. An old temple turned into a complete new temple with so many different beliefs, directions of Buddhism, colours and architectural mix. Wat Ban Den has to be experienced. Like it or not. It is the most overwhelming temple we have in Chiang Mai. But it would help if you travel outside town.

17. Wat Lok Moli

Location in Google maps here.

Wat Lok Moli
Wat Lok Moli. The ashes of some members of the Mengrai dynasty were placed in the temples of Chedi. The Bihari is currently under renovation(2021). The temple is famous for the viharn’s sweeping three-tiered roof. Inside the viharn, a superabundance of artworks decorates the walls and ceilings. 

18. Wat Rai Neua or officially Wat Si Pho Thong

Location on Google maps here.

Wat Rai Neua
Wat Si Pho Thong (Wat Rai Nuea). This temple, very off the beaten track, not too far away from Wat Ton Gwen, has some village treasures like a huge drum and gong. I like coming here in the evening listening to the temple bells and monks meditating, birds singing in the background. And you have this exciting section of murals that depict daily life and festivals in a contemporary and traditional way at the same time.

19. Wat Saen Muang Ma Luang (Wat Hua Khuang)

Location on Google Maps here.

Wat Hua Kuang
And old Chedi holding a Buddha relic in a reasonably new temple area rebuilt in 1993. The whole temple was deserted for a while. But now guided and like a fairy tale in red and white. Early morning is a great time to visit. Historically an important temple for religious and military meetings.

20. Wat Inthakhin Sadue Muang

Location in Google Maps here.

Wat Inthakhin
It gets its name from being the first temple in 1296 with the Holy Chiang Mai city pillar. A small temple with an excellent museum. Early morning visit to recommend.

Behavior and dress code

  • When in temples, always cover your shoulders wear knee-length shorts. Don’t wear singlets or hot pants and such; dress conservatively. Don’t forget to take off your shoes when you enter holy areas.
  • Usually, it is ok to take pictures of the Buddha images in Thailand. But not always, such as the Emerald Buddha in Wat Phra Kaew. Also, pay attention not to climb Naga staircases or hold Buddha’s hand and pose with Buddha. Thai people often take pictures together with Buddha images, but most of the time, they are sitting correctly and below the Buddha image.
  • Buddhist Monk’s are not allowed to touch women, so please keep the distance. So no selfies with the monks.

The Thai temple explained

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