Chiang Mai is very much the spiritual capital of Thailand. There are many highly revered temples, and the atmosphere is a little more spiritual, and the way of life a little more relaxed. Thai people here even speak more slowly than in Bangkok.

I suspect that the way of life is somewhat changing under the massive influx of tourists here. Great swathes of the city are now given over to the tourist industry, and you can find restaurants reflecting almost any kind of cuisine from Mexican to Indian to Lebanese. Fortunately, you can still find good Thai cuisine, too, if you know where to look.

Anyway, on my final day in Chiang Mai I summoned up the strength to visit four of the city’s famous temples.

Wat Chiang Man
Wat Chiang Man is thought to be the oldest surviving temple in the city, though the exact date of its founding isn’t known. It has an impressive gilded exterior

Facade of Wat Chiang Man, Chiang Mai

And charming gilt lacquer window shutters

Window shutter at Wat Chiang Man, Chiang Mai

Wat Phan Tao

Roof of Wat Phan Tao, Chiang Mai

This little-touristed temple doesn’t have the flashy gilt of many of the temples around here; it’s a much simpler affair made of teak. The walls and windows have a simple, rustic charm:

Window at Wat Phan Tao, Chiang Mai

Inside the viharn you can see the 24 large teak trunks which support the building and the temple’s main altar. It’s a simple place with a crudely-tiled floor.

Interior, Wat Phan Tao, Chiang Mai

Wat Chedi Luang

Exterior, Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai

However, the temple is dominated by a massive chedi, partly in ruins, dating from 1441 (i.e. predating any surviving temple in Chiang Mai). The chedi has naga staircases on each side, and supporting elephants – though only one is original. The rest are modern cement reproductions.

Chedi at Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai

One of this temple’s claims to fame is that it used to house the Emerald Buddha figure which now lives in at Royal temple, Wat Phra Kaew where the figure is given a change of costume three times a year at the change of each of Thailand’s three seasons. The costume is traditionally done by the King, but given the current King’s advancing years his son now performs the ceremony on his behalf.

Wat Phra Singh
Wat Phra Sing is another temple with an ornate gilded façade.

Wat Phra Singh, Chiang Mai

The interior has a large Buddha figure.

Interior, Wat Phra Singh, Chiang Mai


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