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 went together 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 interesting and reminders of ancient Lanna and Thai culture. Even though Buddha is officially not recognized as a God in Therevadha buddhism, temples are still built for eternity. While normal 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 enlightenment 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 be a victory over ignorance. The escape from suffering made Buddhist followers overwhelmed by joy so they started to build 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 directs them towards their own higher potential. So to 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 coffeeshops with cool air-conditioning for those needed breaks when you feel a bit “templed out” once in a while. Also try to look for the small soi / side street temples, or the ones in the countryside that tourists don’t visit as much. Then you can often truly feel that calm and harmony that comes with the territory.
When in temples, always cover your shoulders wear knee long 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.
Normally 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 no posing with Buddha. Thai people often take pictures together with Buddha images but most of the time they are sitting properly 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.