Beautiful Temples of Chiang Mai, Thailand

The Temples of Chiang Mai are Toying with My OCD

Three days ago I headed out on a walking tour of Chiang Mai, intent upon visiting the three major temples in the Old City that the guidebooks classify as ‘not-to-be-missed.’ The problem is that I suffer from a bit of obsessive-compulsive disorder, so I want to see everything and in Chiang Mai you can’t walk 500 yards without running into a temple. Over the past four days I figure I have walked at least 20 miles and seen scores of temples.

Wat Chedi Luang

By the end of the first day I was – technical term coming up now – templed out. I thought if I saw one more golden Chedi or one more mirrored great hall I would gag. By the end of the second day I was just numb and my feet hurt so bad I could barely walk. But by the third day I started noticing the differences in the temples. Like the one that’s dedicated to caring for the thousands of stray dogs in Chiang Mai. Or the temple that has dozens of animal statues scattered around its grounds, including a Donald Duck statue right out in front. There are temples with jade Buddhas, temples with quartz crystal Buddhas, and temples with traditional golden Buddhas.

I have learned that all the temples have Viharas (great halls) and Chedis (monolithic stupas, shaped like giant bells, each of which houses a relic of Buddha, such as one of his bones). There are Viharas built of intricately carved teak, Viharas that are covered entirely in multi-colored mirrors that sparkle and blind in the sunshine, and Viharas made of humble bricks cast from the red Asian clay. So, in honor of all this opulence, and in tribute to my very sore feet, I decided to dedicate this post to a photo tour of the temples of Chiang Mai.

Old Vihara at Wat Chiang Mun Chiang Mai Thailand

Old Vihara at Wat Chiang Mun

At Wat Chedi Luang donation boxes collect funds to take care of stray dogs, visitors are encouraged to participate in a “Monk Chat,” and the faithful water the relics of the Buddha by raising a bamboo container full of water to the top of the Chedi by means of a pull cord and dumping the water on the top of the monument. Constructed in 1391 in a combination of Lanna, Sri Lankan and Pagan architectural forms, it is the tallest temple in Thailand, despite having been reduced in height by a past earthquake.

The golden-topped Chedi at Wat Chiang Mun Chiang Mai Thailand

The golden-topped Chedi at Wat Chiang Mun

When King Mungrai decided to build the city of Chiang Mai, the very first building he erected was the old Vihara at Wat Chiang Mun. Since it was believed that a city was a living entity that had a body and soul, its life was determined by its birth chart, which states that the city of Chiang Mai was born on the eight day of the waxing moon in the month of Visakha, year of the monkey, 1296, at 4 AM, when construction began at the Siphum Corner of the Royal Temple. This birth chart, inscribed on a giant stone slab, still sits aside the old Vihara at Wat Chiang Mun.

Using a pulley system, Buddhists raise a bamboo canister full of water to the top of this golden- topped Chedi at Wat Chiang Mun, where one of Buddhas bones has been embedded. Once at the top, a lever is pulled to dump the water out onto the Chedi. This process, which is believed to gain favor, is called “watering the relics of the Buddha.”

During my wanderings I found the following temples:

An altar house at Wat Kuang Ka Ma Chiang Mai Thailand

An altar house at Wat Kuang Ka Ma

Sunlight reflects from the mirrored surface of Wat Chedi Mun, rendering star bursts

Sunlight reflects from the mirrored surface of Wat Chedi Mun, rendering star bursts

Wat Lokmolee, constructed of bricks made from the local red clay in Chiang Mai Thailand

Wat Lokmolee, constructed of bricks made from the local red clay

Young monks at Wat Lokmolee in Chiang Mai Thailand begin their novice work, a combination of studying, physical labor, and, occasionally, gathering to watch the one TV in the open air pavilion

Young monks at Wat Lokmolee begin their novice work, a combination of studying, physical labor, and, occasionally, gathering to watch the one TV in the open air pavilion

Wat Montien in Chiang Mai Thailand exhibits characteristics of a traditional Chinese Buddhist Temple

Wat Montien exhibits characteristics of a traditional Chinese Buddhist Temple

Fierce red dragons guarding the entrance at Wat Montien in Chiang Mai Thailand

Fierce red dragons guarding the entrance at Wat Montien

Multi-colored prayer flags adorn the ancient Chedi at Wat Pa Pao Chiang Mai Thailand

Multi-colored prayer flags adorn the ancient Chedi at Wat Pa Pao

Wat Ou Sai Khan in Chiang Mai Thailand is the home of four lovely jade Buddhas

Wat Ou Sai Khan is the home of four lovely jade Buddhas, ranging in color from black to emerald green, to bluish-grey, to white

Wat Pan On in Chiang Mai, Thailand

The sign in front of Wat Pan On declared “No be afraid of the dogs, no bite.” Byt they barked and charged when I approached.

Built entirely of antique teak, the interior of Wat Pan On in Chiang Mai Thailand

Built entirely of antique teak, the interior of Wat Pan On astonishes

Worshipers place a coin in every bowl and say a prayer with each coin dropped at Wat Pan On in Chiang Mai Thailand

Worshipers place a coin in every bowl and say a prayer with each coin dropped at Wat Pan On

Wat Phra Singh in Chiang Mai Thailand is the pagoda representing the year of the dragon

Wat Phra Singh is the pagoda representing the year of the dragon

Buddhists believe that when human beings pass away their souls remain at the pagoda that represents the year they were born, thus it is wise to worship at your pagoda while you are alive so your soul can make the transition to the afterlife. Wat Phra Singh (below) is the pagoda representing the year of the dragon, when I was born. Should I be worshiping at this pagoda – just in case?

Wat Mahawan in Chiang Mai had the only pure white Chedi I have seen

Wat Mahawan had the only pure white Chedi I have seen. Although it is currently under repair, it is nonetheless beautiful.

Wat Boopparam in Chiang Mai, with its variety of animal statues scattered about the grounds, including this one of Donald Duck

Wat Boopparam, with its variety of animal statues scattered about the grounds, including this one of Donald Duck

At Wat Chai Mongkol in Chiang Mai Thailand you can catch a boat for a two hour cruise on the Mae Ping River

At Wat Chai Mongkol you can catch a boat for a two hour cruise on the Mae Ping River

The Chedi spire at Wat Ket Karam in Chiang Mai is purposely tilted in order to "avoid indecency in pointing it to the one in heaven"

The Chedi spire at Wat Ket Karam is purposely tilted in order to “avoid indecency in pointing it to the one in heaven”

The Vihara of Wat Ket Karam in Chiang Mai Thaiand is decorated with mirrored dragons that flank the staircases

The Vihara of Wat Ket Karam is decorated with mirrored dragons that flank the staircases, their tails climbing the bannisters

Wat Saen Fang in Chiang Mai Thailand features golden umbrellas, the symbol of Chiang Mai as well as of providing protection

Last but not least, Wat Saen Fang, featured golden umbrellas, the symbol of Chiang Mai as well as of providing protection

2 Comments on “The Temples of Chiang Mai are Toying with My OCD

  1. I really enjoyed the tour of the wats — thank you so much for sharing the pictures with us. I thought that I had seen most of the temples in our trips to Chiang Mai but I now realize that I had just seen a few of them. I will have to go back to see the rest. Take care and be well. Glad that the lice (nits) are all gone. If you can find a bottle of white vinegar, this is an old fashioned way of keeping the nits away but it works and is not as hard on your scalp or hair as the shampoo is.

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