Temple Hopping in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is a city sprinkled with elaborate golden temples

Chiang Mai wears it’s heritage as capital of the ancient Lanna kingdom with pride. It is a relaxed, culturally rich city, sprinkled with over 300 elaborate, golden temples and saffron robed monks; surrounded by jungle and mountains where hill tribe communities still reside.

The golden temple of Doi Suthep

The jewel of Chiang Mai’s temples is the Doi Suthep temple that rises above the town perched on a misty, forested mountainside. This is one of the most sacred temples in Northern Thailand and the views stretch across the mountainside back down over the town.

The location is believed to have been chosen in the 14th century when an auspicious white elephant carrying a buddha relic on its back died there.

A pair of multi headed, mosaic covered nagas (sea serpents) greet you at the foot of the steps up the hill.

Nagas (sea serpents) flank either side of the steps toward the temple

 Once inside the temple gleams blindingly brightly with an abundance of gold. Numerous buddha images in a poses for every day of the week, elaborate temples and beautifully bright, fragrant flowers surround a huge golden central chedi.

These cute little bells tinkle in the breeze adding to the serene atmosphere

I was mesmerised by the beauty and atmosphere of this golden temple while engrossed in watching the faithful circulate around the chedi, hands clasped together holding flowers. Devotees also light candles and incense; kneeling and praying in front of the many Buddha idols.

Inside the temple

I find it fascinating learning about different religions, especially in such devout countries where religious values and rituals have so much impact over everyday life.

The old city of Chiang Mai is neatly packed into a square mile surrounded by a moat and the remnants of the old city wall. Slowly meandering round the narrower sois (lanes) pausing to wonder at the many temples I stumbled across is a great way to spend a day. All the temples differ in some ways and have interesting stories to tell.

The oldest temple – Wat Chiang Man

Wat Chiang Man is the oldest temple in Chiang Mai, erected by the city’s founder King Mengrai in 1296 and houses a crystal buddha believed to have the power to bring the rains.

The beautiful Lanna architecture of Wat Phra Singh makes it the most famous of Chiang Mai’s old city temples with the most revered of the city’s buddha images.

Wat Phra Singh

Around the back of the temple I enjoyed the shade as I watched people who came to pray and then hung colourful banners up that provided a stunning, bright contrast against the large white chedi.

Beautiful coloured banners provide a striking contrast to the white chedi at the back of Wat Phra Singh

Wat Chedi Luang is another beautiful temple It also contains the imposing but ruined remains of a huge chedi dating from 1441, it was one of the tallest structures in Chiang Mai and once housed the famous emerald buddha that is now in Bangkok.

The ruined remains of Wat Chedi Luang

It was mostly destroyed, perhaps by an earthquake in the 16th or 18th century, no one really knows for sure but it is an interesting place to chill in the shade or chat to a monk.

When temple hopping in Chiang Mai it doesn’t even matter if you get lost as you will soon stumble across a temple that surprises and delights: temples adorned and dripping with gold, intricately carved gabled roofs, colourful, glittering mosaics with singha lions or naga sea serpents guarding the entrances and octagonal chedi rising proudly high into the sky.

Another beautiful temple in Chiang Mai

 

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