Wat Pha Lat is a succes story, there is a renaissance for many temples in and around Chiang Mai getting a face lift at the moment. And Wat Pha Lat is one of these temples.
Wat Pha Lat has the advantage of being on the popular hike, the monks trail. It is also easily accessible by car or motorbike. In my mind it is worth the visit for its own merits but it can also be done as stop on the way to or from Doi Suthep temple. Or as nice break on the way down after your camping at Doi Pui.
Wat Pha Lat – not a secret jungle temple but a beautiful spot
If you are not a typical temple visitor this is still a nice spot to stop for some noodles, a coconut ice cream and just indulge in the amazing views of Chiang Mai. Do I have to mention that it is a popular Instagram spot? It is indeed refreshing just to stroll around with the forest framing the sacred area and the sound of the small stream with its tiny waterfall, and the shrill, relentless whine, from the cikadas.
A short history of Wat Pha Lat
The story goes that King Kuna of Lanna commissioned the temple. This was a resting place for the white elephant carrying the Buddha relic up Doi Suthep in the 14th century. Later the same elephant is supposed to have died at the site where Wat Suthep was built. But first, it apparently took a break on the way, which was here at Wat Pha Lat. The temple is also called Wat Skathadami.
Sakadagamin is one of the four stages on the road to enlightenment in Buddhism.
The temple has been used for meditation. The Pha Lat part derives from sloping. So the popular name has been the “sloping temple”.
In the early 20th century, a Burmese businessman from Moulmein funded the temple’s restoration. Mong Panyo (1845-1927) was a teak trader working with the Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation. Mango Panyo financed the restoration of many temples in Chiang Mai at the time.
And a few years ago, we saw another restoration. Fur a deeper understanding of the history, I recommend reading Frans Betgems excellent article about the temple here.
So many peacocks on the pavilion
The main building sees a lot of Burmese architecture influence and the Burmese national symbol, the peacock. The peacock symbolises the sun and royalty. There is a widespread Buddhist belief that peacocks symbolise one’s capacity to consume or soak up the many poisons that come up in day-to-day life while still retaining one’s path on the journey to enlightenment. The rabbits represent the moon.
How to get to Wat Pha Lat?
You can reach the temple from a walk from the mountain base in 30-40 minutes. And you can continue from the temple a one-hour trek up to Doi Suthep on the monk’s trail. Google Maps has a marker at the origin of Wat Pha Lat Monks Trail.
Be careful during the rainy season when it can be a bit slippery. At the mountain base, there are also Red Buses, so-called Songthaews, that take the visitor up to Doi Suthep. You can also take a Grab here from downtown if you don’t have your own transportation.
On my last visit, it was Visakabucha day. A significant day for Buddhists, it marks the birth, enlightenment and death of the Lord Buddha. It falls on the full moon of the sixth lunar month. On this day, the Thais make merit and participate in candlelit processions in the monasteries.