10 Wats | Chiang Mai
Everyone knows I love a good walking tour but sadly there don't seem to be many free ones around Asia. With this in mind, I headed off to explore the temples of Chiang Mai by foot all on my lonesome, using this walking tour as a rough guide. When I'm reunited with a computer I'll put the route into Google Maps but until then you'll just have to map the route yourself. The stops are in a logical order and only include a few outside the old city walls because I was too hot to walk any further. Brave souls can hire motorbikes or even graver souls can exercise by using an actual bike . . . my feet will never forgive me for the endless walking.
Wat Lok Moli
It's not known exactly when this temple was built, but it was mentioned in a charter in 1367 AD. It's located just across the moat on the north side of the city and is one of the prettiest temples that I've seen. All that work above the door? Hundreds of little tiles! The dragon's scales? Also little tiles, some of these coloured.
The chedi (tower in the background) was built in 1527 by King Ket and he later added the viharn (the main building) in 1545.
During their dynasty, the Mengrai family were responsible for maintaining the temple and even some of their ashes were stored here.
Whilst this temple might not look like much from the outside, once you look over the wall you'll see a huge Buddha statue just sitting there - for that reason alone it's worth a visit.
The red and gold theme throughout gives the temple a rather luxurious feel. Two tips for your visit: if you don't want to tackle the massive stairs in front, there are smaller ones behind the wall on the right; and don't forget to dress respectfully! This means cover your knees and shoulders - don't be a muppet and forget your scarf, like me. I actually later found my scarf in my bag, where it had supposedly been all day. I suspect alien abduction.
Wat Kuan Kha Ma
The Horse Temple. You can't really miss this one due to the horse statues on the wall and beside the gate.
This temple was built in 1492 AD by, funnily enough, a horse groom. Upon the death of his horse, he was understandably upset, and decided to turn his garden into the temple we see today.
As you can see in the photo below, the decor and detail is incredible. It's quite a 'fun' temple, if a temple can be described as fun?!
There aren't just horse statues though, there are other animals such as a rat and a monkey, which symbolise the Chinese zodiac signs.
Wat Saen Muang Ma Luang
What a mouthful, eh? This temple also goes by the name of Wat Hua Khuang and is a Burmese temple.
It's yet another stunning temple but sadly I couldn't find much information about it to share with you - I shall keep researching and update ASAP.
My visit here was also cut short because there was a dog that start growling at me so I made a hasty retreat. . .
Wat Chiang Man
Wat Chiang Man was built in 1297 AD and was the first temple built in Chiang Mai. Before Chiang Mai became Chiang Mai it was known as Wiang Nopburi (a name which I definitely prefer). In front of the Ubosot (the holiest prayer room in a Buddhist temple) you can find a stone stele (a slab used for commemorative purposes) which mentions the exact founding date of Chiang Mai: 12th April 1296 AD at 4am. Who on earth founds cities at 4 in the morning?!
Wat Chai Phra Kiat
Gold, glorious gold! I have a feeling Buddhist temple architecture is slowly overtaking Moroccan architecture as my favourite.
Although this is a small temple, it is located in the centre of the old town so it's relatively easy to just pop in. As with the other temples here, Wat Chai Phra Kiat is built in the Lanna style. The most notable feature of this style is the roof. Notice how they're rather flamboyant and curve upwards at the end? That's the Lanna style. Compare it to the straighter styles of the temples in Ayutthaya.
Wat Phan Tao
A very wooden temple. Wat Phan Tao is one of the oldest temples in Chiang Mai and was probably built a pt the end of the 14th century. This temple has scarves and sarongs available for free for those of us who forget to dress modestly- no awkwardly lurking around the entrance here!
The name Wat Phan Tao means 'temple of a thousand kilns' and probably refers to the ovens used to make Buddha statues for its next door neighbour, Wat Chedi Luang.
Wat Chedi Luang
This is one of Chiang Mai's most important temples. Originally it was actually two temples, Wat Ho Tham and Wat Sukmin, but these were merged into Wat Chiang Luang.
The main Chedi (pictured above) took around 84 years to build with construction starting in 1391 and finishing in 1475. Sadly in 1545 a massive earthquake destroyed much of the 85m tall chedi and it was only partially restored in the 1990s.
On each side of the chedi you'll find a great staircase leading to an alcove containing a Buddha statue. The bottom of each of these staircases are guarded by mythical Naga creatures.
Fun fact: Bangkok's emerald Buddha used to be housed here before being moved to Laos and finally Bangkok.
Behind the chedi you'll find a few beautifully decorated buildings. Inside you'll find some of the most realistic - read scary - waxworks I've ever seen. And I've been to Madame Tussaud's a lot. The purpose of these waxworks remain a mystery to me . . . they were so lifelike I'm not sure they are even waxworks.
I took a sneaky photo and made another hasty retreat.
What did I find when I moved onto the next building? Only another reclining Buddha! This one was significantly smaller than the other two, though.
Unlike the other temples, Wat Chedi Luang has an entry fee - but it's only 40 TBH and you get a free snazzy purple jacket to borrow if you're scantily clad.
In front of the chedi there are more traditional temples that you can enter. Except one, if you're a woman. The 'men only' building houses the city pillar which is believed to protect the city. Next to the building you'll find three Dipterocarp trees and it's believed that if the tree closest to Wat Inkthakin (the temple which originally housed the city pillar) falls, a great catastrophe will occur. Oh, the reason why women can't enter? Because we get periods and apparently that's considered unclean.
Wat Phan On
So. Much. Gold. This temple was built in 1501 by King Mueang Kaeo. The temple complex consists of the viharn, spectacular golden chedi, and the monks' living quarters.
This temple is still inside the old city, on the same road as the Tha Pae Gate.
Sadly I didn't make it to Chiang Rai this time, so Wat Mahawan will have to suffice as my white temple fix of Thailand.
Wat Mahawan is located just outside of the old city gates but don't worry it's not too far away! It's a mixture of Lanna and Burmese architecture with plenty of sculptures of mythical creatures. Although the founding date is unknown, we do know that the main viharn was built in 1865. Purely going from the photo below, I'd say it was my favourite in terms of colour and design!