If you had told me a month ago that visiting Wats (temples) would be one of my favorite activities in Chiang Mai, I would have smiled politely and thought “no way.”
Don’t get me wrong, I was looking forward to visiting a few Wats to see the relics, learn about the culture and history and take some pictures. What I wasn’t expecting was to be so drawn in by the peacefulness of the Wats themselves.
Whether visiting one of the larger Wats that attract many tourists, or the smaller less fancy Wats, I found myself mesmerized by the calm that each place held inside the grounds, but especially inside the chapels themselves. No need to talk, in fact it’s expected that you will be quiet and polite in these holy places. I found that I could just sit in barefoot silence on the floor (must remove shoes before entry) and look around, take in the beauty of the place or people watch and be quite content for some time. I’m not Buddhist but all are welcome, and the temples always feel very inviting.
Trent likes to meditate each day so it really works out that we both love to stroll through the Wats and the grounds until we find a quiet place for a few minutes. And there are several hundred in Chiang Mai so no shortage of new places to visit. Add to that the affordability (most are free but some charge foreigners about a dollar) and it’s a perfect outing on any day.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Famous for its location high above the city on the side of the mountain, as well as the 306 steps you must climb to reach it, this was one of our favorite Wats. Also, we can see it from our apartment.
We took a songthiew (red taxi) up the mountain to get there for $3 per person round trip.
View of Wat Doi Suthep from our window
Songthaews are everywhere and charge about $1 to go anywhere around town but it was $3 round trip to Doi Suthep
Before the climbLots of children around singing and wearing traditional clothesAll were invited to sign a banner to be hung around the central pagoda
View of Chiang Mai from Wat Doi SuthepBefore the descentOne of many ancient relics on the sprawling grounds
Wat Umong Thera Jan
This unique temple was built hundreds of years ago around 1380 for a crazy monk that used to wander off into the forest and get lost for days. They built a temple with underground tunnels just for him. It was the most different of all the Wats, set in a very natural forest environment just a few miles outside of the Old City walls.
One of the buildings contained dozens of murals painted by the monks and honoring many religious and philosophical beliefsWe fed the fish at “the fish feeding place” (aka the pond)
Wat Chedi Luang
This is the biggest Wat in Thailand and so far the most decadent we have seen.
The grounds of this very ornate Wat hold the remnants of the original pillar of Chiang Mai. Women weren’t allowed inside this area for fear of unrest. Read more below on the sign.
Wat Phan Tao
This was a very rustic dark teak Wat and one of my favorites for its simplicity, especially in comparison to its grand neighbor Wat Chedi Luang.
I am certain this isn’t my last post about Wats. Enjoy! And if you visit Chiang Mai I hope you will find the Wats as wonderful as we do. What a great escape from the bustling cities to refocus and gain some inner peace.