In Chiang Mai it seemed like spent a lot of time visiting wats, or Bhuddist temples. It was a big enough part of our trip that I wanted to write up a post about what we saw and what makes the wats significant. I started with 40 pictures from a dozen wats to share but after much parsing through my collection I’ve reduced it to four of the most interesting wats we visited. In no particular order:

Wat Doi Suthep

Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep was founded in 1383 at the top of Doi Suthep mountain about 15km northwest of Chiang Mai. The legend behind the temple is that it contains half of a relic that was alleged to be Buddha’s shoulder bone. It was carried put on the back of a white elephant who carried up Doi Suthep, trumpeted three times and died. The king decided it was a sign that a temple should be built at the site.

The main stupa is covered in gold and can be seen from everywhere in the valley, especially at sunset.

Inside every wat there is a room in which sits a statue, usually gold, of the meditating Buddha. As Doi Suthep is such an important temple it has many such rooms. In smaller temples they are very simple but in rich or important temples they can be very extravagant.

We visited the wat in the evening when the six o’clock prayers began. We stood outside the temple and watched and listened to the ceremony.

Outside we found a statue of the white elephant which as Kris pointed out “really brings the wat together.”

The sun had finished setting by the time we had descended the 309 stairs to the entrance, where two dragons sat protectively. In front of almost every wat we saw in Thailand are two long dragons, sometimes eating other dragons, with bodies that stretch up the railings of the stairs to the top. There is another example further down the post of what they most often look like. The ones in front of Doi Suthep are the longest in Chiang Mai and possibly Thailand.

Wat Jed Yod

My favorite wat in Thailand, Wat Jed Yod was built in the 15th and is a copy of the Mahabodhi, a famous temple in Bodhgaya, India.

It is my favorite because the buildings are very old and the grounds are spread out, quiet, green and very peaceful. The grounds were also pretty much completely empty of people. We visited this temple also around dusk and listened to monks chanting from inside the main hall as we sat amongst the old stupas and walked through the grounds.

Something else we liked about the wat was that it is home to a massive bodh tree that was planted when the wat was founded. Buddha attained enlightenment under a bodh tree in Bodhgaya which is why they are considered sacred.

Wat Chiang Man

Allow this sign to give you a brief history of the temple.

Here is the elephant and gold stupa:

Elsewhere in the temple grounds were small shrines built and maintained by locals for ancestor reverance. We approached one man who explained that every year he comes to the place where his parents’ ashes rest and repaints the statue.

Wat Sri Suphan
Also known as the “Silver Temple,” Wat Sri Suphan was comleted in the year 1500 and is located in the middle of the city. It is called the Silver Temple because the main hall is decorated in massive amounts of pure silver, compound silver and aluminum.

The front of the building facing the entrance provides the best example I have of the beautiful facades that adorn the front entrances to just about every wat in Chiang Mai.

Here is another example of the dragons protecting the temple.

The first time we visited the silver temple was during the day, but during the Sunday market we walked by in the evening when the grounds and the temple were lit up and the contrast was much more interesting.

Walking through the grounds we found several shade structures under which monks and their disciples were sculpting the decorations for the temple. The roof of the temple is real silver but the rest of the decorations throughout the grounds are mostly aluminum. The sculptures are very difficult to produce and the process takes years to master.

Inside the silver building is quite beautiful.

What Wat?

Here I leave you with a picture with a Buddha image from an unknown temple somewhere in the center of the Old City of Chiang Mai: