Wat Suan Dok
The name Wat Suan Dok literally means flower garden temple. It got this name because the area the Wat now occupies was originally a Royal flower garden for the ruler of Chiang Mai.
There was a monk from the Sukhothai area that discovered a relic that was believed to be the shoulder bone of The Buddha. The ruler of the Lanna Kingdom, King Kuene, invited the monk to Chiang Mai and during the second half of the 14th century had the Wat constructed as a place to enshrine the relic. Upon arriving in Chiang Mai, the relic magically split into 2 pieces, one piece the original size and the other piece was smaller. The smaller piece is the one now enshrined at this Wat. The King ordered that the larger piece was to be put on the back of a white elephant and be set free to roam where it wanted. The elephant eventually climbed Doi Suthep mountain where it trumpeted 3 times and then died. In the year 1383, Wat Doi Suthep was constructed.
Wat Suan Dok is located in the west part of the old walled town and is easily known for its large number of chedis. The tallest, golden chedi standing 48 meters is where the Buddha relic is contained. Many of the smaller white chedis contain the ashes from several generations of the Chiang Mai Royal Family.
The Wats viharn and ubosot are unusually large and were rebuilt in the 1930’s by a famous monk who is responsible for renovating several Chiang Mai temples.
The viharn contains several Buddha images including a large standing Buddha holding a bundle of straw and also a sitting Buddha.
The ubosot contains a bronze seated Buddha statue measuring almost 5 meters high that was cast in 1504. The walls are decorated with painted murals with scenes from stories of the Buddha’s previous lives.
Within the temple grounds is a Chiang Mai university. From the university, large heavily decorated gates grant access to the temple grounds. The university also hosts both a monk chat and meditation retreat.
To get to Wat Suan Dok, from the west end of the old walled city center, just go west about 1 km on Suthep Road.
Wat Sum Pow
Also written as Wat Sam Pao, the Wat grounds are located on Ratchadamnoen Road which is the main road through old Chiang Mai town and is just opposite from Wat Phan On.
There are a pair of Chinthe (Burmese style lion) guarding the Wats entrance. The beautiful gold chedi has niches with Buddha images seated under a Bodhi tree. Also within the grounds is a large Naga serpent guarded viharn and next to the viharn is an area offering Thai and foot massage.
Although not actually in Chiang Mai, it is in Chiang Mai Province and anyone visiting will probably start from Chiang Mai city.
Also called The Temple of the Magnificent Crystal Pagoda, Wat Thaton is a large temple complex in a very attractive setting just a few kilometers fro the Myanmar boarder. It is built on a hill overlooking Ban Thaton Village and the Maekok River and covers several levels of a forested hill.
At the first level is a statue of Guanyin, the Chinese Goddess of Mercy. Also at the first level is the office and a Buddhist school. One of the oldest structures is the chedi which is used to enshrine relics of The Buddha, Kings, and very important monks.
At level 2 is the ubosot and at level 3 there is a large white Buddha image sitting in the subduing Mara posture.
The Phra Nakprok building with the Vipassana Meditation Center are at level 4. The roof has a huge seated Buddha image with a 7 headed Naga serpent. The next level is the meditation hall and accommodations for the students.
The obvious and most striking structure is the newly built Chedi Kaew or Crystal Buddha which can be seen from miles away. This colorful structure has a large greenish spire on top and both sides of the entrance are decorated with golden colored Theawada figures on a red background.
Over the richly decorated entrance is a depiction of the Buddha in front of a Dhamma wheel. A very tall golden Buddha image standing over 10 meters and holding an alms bowl is overlooking the area.
Getting to Wat Thaton is a journey. It is about 175 km north of Chiang Mai near the village of Ban Thaton and about 50 km northwest of Chiang Rai.