Wat Ban Den
While Wat Ban Den is 45 km from Chiang Mai, I’ve included it here as the basic way to visit the Wat would be to start from Chiang Mai.
As one of Chiang Mai Provinces largest Wats, it includes an ubosot, viran, meditation hall, kuti, drum hall and several other structures in including 12 chedis. The structures are relatively new but have been built in the traditional Lanna style.
Up until 1988 the Wat was falling into disrepair. During that year a new abbot was added leading to may donations from the local people. Through those donations, the Wat has been completely renovated.
The most impressive structure is the very large teak wood viharn done in the Lanna style. It has a 3 tiered blue roof with golden bargeboards with intricate wood carving decorations.
Many of the other buildings are ornately decorated with Lanna style wood carvings and mythical creatures. Several are guarded by Naga serpents while Singha (large white lions) guard other areas.
Another of the features of this Wat are the 12 chedis located here, each of which represents one of the 12 zodiac animals. Ancient custom says that everyone should visit the zodiac chedi that represents their animal sign because upon death their spirit will stay in that chedi.
To visit Wat Ban Den you’ll need to arrange a taxi or similar transportation to get you the 45 kms from Chiang Mai. Be sure to arrange a round trip or you may find yourself stranded there!
Built just outside the old walled city in 1497 during the reign of the Lanna King Muang Kaew, the Wat includes an ubosot, 2 viharns, a Dhamma hal, a chedi and a well providing holy water.
The ubosot is a small ordination hall built in the traditional Lanna style with the holy well supplying water once used to anoint the Kings of Chiang Mai.
The smaller of the 2 viharns was built in Lanna style during the 16th century. It was renovated in 1819 and its large Buddha image is about 3 centuries old.
The large viharn, built about 2 centuries ago contains splendid murals depicting scenes about the Buddha’s previous lives. The main Buddha image in this viharn is about 500 years old.
The great wood door panels, made in 1983, show the Himmavanta forest which from Hindu mythology surrounded Mount Meru.
The Wats dominant structure is the Dhamma Hall. Completed in 1996, the entrance is guarded by Makaras, part sea animal and part land animal, these creatures come from Hindu mythology. In fact, there is a walking Buddha image.
The hall contains several magnificent murals. The first floor shows groups of people gathering for a ceremony while the second floor mural shows a large number of chedis and temples from around the area. Also on the second floor are 2 Buddha’s, the first dating back 400 years is in the sitting position and the largest teakwood Buddha in Thailand. The second Buddha is made of bronze. Finally, there is a small garden with several interesting figurines.
The Wat is located just outside the walled part of Chiang Mai east of the Tha Pae Gate.
Built nearly 600 years ago, this is one of the oldest temples in Chiang Mai. Although it has seen many various dynasties over the years, there is very little information about the temple.
Wat Chedi Luang
Also known as Jedi Luang and The Temple of the Great Stupa, located within the old walled city, it is one of Chiang Mai’s most important Wats. The obvious structure of the Wat is a huge chedi that dominates the area. The construction was ordered by King Saen Muang Ma as a place to enshrine his fathers ashes. Construction was started in 1391 but was not finished until 1475 during the reign of King Tilokarat. At 85 meters tall and 44 meters wide, at its completion it was the largest structure in Chiang Mai. In 1468 the Emerald Buddha, which is the most revered Buddha image, was housed here but later moved to Laos and has now found its way to Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok. For the 600th anniversary of the chedi, a reproduction of the Emerald Buddha was placed in one of the chedi niches. 1545 brought a massive earthquake to the area which destroyed much of the chedi but it was partially restored in the 1990’s. All four sides have large staircases flanked by guardian Naga creatures. At the top of the stairs are niches where Buddha images are enshrined. Just below the top of the stairs is a platform with stone elephants.
The Wat grounds include 2 viharns. The first chedi, built in 1928, is a large impressive building with a 3 tiered roof and front facade in golden colors. Two rows of round columns support the high red ceiling. Cast in the 14th century, a large Buddha image standing in the Abhaya mudra posture is found opposite the entrance. The second much smaller viharn has an elegantly decorated front facade with intricate wood carvings. Large Naga’s guard the entrance stairs. Next to this viharn is a small Burmese style pavilion.
In 1296, Chiang Mai’s city pillar was housed at Wat Inthakin but in 1880 it was moved and placed in a small building at Wat Chedi Luang. The city pillar is important because the local people believe it protects the city. Next to the city pillar are 3 huge Dipterocarp trees which are also believed to protect the city. Legend has it that if the tree closest to the city pillar were to fall, a great catastrophe will hit the city.
Also on the grounds is a bell tower and a small building housing a reclining Buddha image.
The Wat is located in the center of the old walled city of Chiang Mai.
Located close to the Phae Gate of the old city, this is one of the must see temples in Chiang Mai.
According to folklore, the temple was built in 657 during the reign of Queen Chamawethi. Legend has it that the queen brought one of the most beautiful Buddha images from Lopburi to Chiang Mai, and was enshrined at its present location.
Wat Chai Phra Kiat
Translated it means “temple of the renowned victory’. Located near the center of the old walled city, this is a small Wat consisting of a viharn, ubosot and chedi.
The Lanna style viharn is the largest building with a 2 tiered roof with a front gable adorned with golden flower motifs on a blue background. At the bottom of the stairway leading to the viharns entrance you’ll find a pair of white and gold Chinthe (Burmese style lions) that guard the hall. These are 2 rows of red lacquered columns supporting the roof and the walls are adorned with murals. A large bronze Buddha image, cast in 1566, is in a very ornately decorated niche.
The ubosot is a small Lanna style building. The front gable is adorned with flower motifs on a green background. There’s a pair of ferocious multi-colored Naga serpents guarding the stairway to the ubosot’s entrance. Golden flower motifs adorn the red entrance doors with another pair of Naga over the doors. Inside the ubosot is a Buddha image seated in the subduing Mara posture on a pedestal.
Between the viharn and ubosot you’ll see the chedi. This is of white Burmese style sitting on a base of several square tiers and a section of reclining octagonal tiers. Topping the chedi ia a golden bell, a spire and a 7 tiered Pathein Htee (Burmese style umbrella).
The Wat is located just a few hundred meters east of Wat Phra Signh in the center of the old walled city.
Wat Chang Kong
History dates this Wat back to the founding of Chiang Mai, however what can be seem at Wat Chang Kong today dates back to around 1900. Practically nothing is writen about this Wat. I’m just going to run through the buildings quickly.
The obvious structures are the viharn with its guardian Nagas and inside house the principle Buddha image and fine murals on its walls. There is a white chedi with niches for Buddha images. There is another building, a Buddha image and a Ho Trai which was built in 1903.
Wat Chiang Man
Wat Chiang Mai is the oldest temple in Chiang Mai dating back to 1296 when the city was first founded.
There are 5 basic structures in the Wat. The chedi is a mixture of Lanna style and Singhalese styles. As is true with most Wats, this chedi is the oldest structure and is named Chang Lom Chedi or Elephant Chedi sitting on a square base supporting a second level of grey stone surrounded by 15 elephants. The gilded upper part of the chedi houses a relic. There are 2 viharns, the larger one has an impressive three tiered roof with a Lanna style front decorated with wood carvings. Renovated in the 1920’s, the viharn has a standing Buddha image holding an alms bowl dating back to 1465.
The smaller of the 2 viharns is also Lanna style with entrance stairs guarded by Naga mythical snakes leading to very old but important Buddha images. The Phra Sila Buddha image is a standing Buddha sculpted in Sri Lanka over 1000 years ago. It is believed to hold the power to bring rain making it important to the farmers. Phra Sae Tang Khamani is a small Buddha carved from a quartz crystal, thus giving it the name Crystal Buddha. It is believed to have belonged to the Queen of Haripunchai dating to the 8th century. In the 13th century, the King of Chiang Mai burned Haripuncha and when the Crystal Buddha survived, it was believed to have protective powers.
The ubosot (ordination hall), decorated with beautifully carved wood, dates back to the 19th century. The front stone of the ubosot, dated 1581, records the exact founding date of Chiang Mai – April 12th 1296.
The final structure is the Ho Trai (scripture hall) which is a simple wooden building.
Wat Chiang Yuen
Just outside the old walked center of Chiang Mai is the small temple Chiang Yuen consisting of a viharn, chedi and several small structures. Its founding date is unknown but it is generally believed to be one of Chiang Mai’s oldest temples.
Wat Chiang Yuen translates to temple of long life and was important in the Lanna Kingdom. All of the new Kings of the Lanna Kingdom would come here to pray to the Buddha image asking for good luck and a successful reign before being crowned.
The Wat was abandoned in the late 18th century when the Burmese conquered Chiang Mai and after they were driven out in 1794 the Wat was reconstructed.
As you first enter the Wat, the first thing that can be seen is the very large Buddha image sheltered by a 9 tiered ceremonial umbrella.
The Wats viharn porch is adorned with colorful murals with Buddhist scenes. Large Naga serpents guard the stairway to the entrance. The interior has 2 rows of red lacquered columns and the walls are adorned with murals showing events fro the life of Buddha. At the back is a large golden Buddha image seated in the subduing Mara posture.
Next is the most noticeable structure, its chedi – a massive white structure adorned with golden decorations. White and gold Chinthe are at each corner guarding the chedi. According to ancient chronicles, sacred Buddha relics are enshrined in the chedi.
Between the viharn and chedi stands a small Lanna style sala with beautiful gables and bargeboards. The Sala enshrines a Buddha image. Next to it are 2 decorated poles with Hamsabirds on top.
The Wat is located on Manee Nopparat Road just outside the old walked center of Chiang Mai.
Wat Duang Di
Wat Duang Di translates to “good luck temple”. Dating back to the early 16th century and located in the center of the old walled city, it consists of a viharn, ubosot, Burmese style chedi and a Ho Trai. The date comes from an inscription on one of the Buddha images. There was a renovation completed in 1819.
The viharn is a large building with a multi-tiered roof. It was constructed in Thai and Lanna style during the 19th century.
The ends of the golden bargeboards have Naga serpents and the rooftop is adorned with a golden Chofah or Garuda. Guarding the viharn are a pair of Chinthe (mythical lions). Inside the viharn is the principle Buddha image, seated on a large pedestal and surrounded by several smaller Buddha statues.
next to the viharn is the ubosot. It is a small Lanna style wooden building standing on a store base. The panels on the elaborate front gable are inlayed with colored glass.
The chedi, enclosed by its own low wall, enshrines relics. On each of the 4 corners of the square base stands a statue of an elephant.
The point of interest of the Ho Trai are its gilded wood carvings and stucco decoration. Recently restored, it was originally built in 1829. The building is usually locked but you can still see the fine stucco work of Lanna flower motifs around the entrance and windows.
To visit this Wat, it is located across the road from Wat Inthakin and the Three Kings Monument, close to the center of the old walled city.