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 Phra That Doi Khan
Built at the end of the 7th century, and sitting at the top of a forested hill outside of Chiang Mai, the Wat gets few visitors. The Wats name means “golden mountain temple”.
Built in 687, the chedi is the oldest structure and resembles the chedi at the well known Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Large golden colored Naga serpents guard the stairs on both sides. There is a sacred relic of The Buddha enshrined in the chedi. Local legend tells of 2 giants who lived in the area thousands of years ago who were cannibals. When the Buddha visited the area he convinced the giants to give up cannibalism and convert to Buddhism. The Buddha gave them a piece of his hair which is the relic now enshrined in the chedi. In 1966 the chedi collapsed from heavy rain, but money was quickly raised and the chedi was restored.
The courtyard which contains the chedi and viharn is partly enclosed by a gallery lined with green square pillars decorated with golden flower motifs. The gallery contains several seated Buddha images on white pedestals and in various seated positions. Visitors can strike any of the many bells and gongs in the courtyard. The grounds are guarded by large warriors and white lions or Singha. The viharn roof is decorated with Naga bargeboards and has beautifully carved window panels.
A short distance from the chedi and viharn you will find the most noticeable feature of the Wat, that is the 17 meter Buddha image sitting on a white pedestal. There is a Lanna style ubosot which is a very ornate structure with a multi-tiered roof and Naga bargeboard. On both sides of the stares are large golden colored Naga’s that come out of the mouth of Makaras (a mythical water creature). The ubosots facade is particularly beautiful with a golden peacock motif over the entrance with a lively green background.
The Wat is located about 10km southwest of Chiang Mai.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Wat Doi Suthep is one of the most important ad revered temples in Northern Thailand. If you only visit one temple in Chiang Mai, this is the one to see! The Wat is located about 15 kilometers outside of Chiang Mai atop Doi Suthep Mountain. From the arrival area, or car park, there are 309 steps to the top. This stairway is guarded by Naga serpents. As an easier alternative, to the right there is a cable car that can get you to the top.
Once you arrive at the top, you can wonder around and just take in the beauty of the temple. On this terrace you’ll find small shrines, monuments, rock gardens, a jackfruit tree, and the statue of a white elephant. The legend of this white elephant represents the founding of Wat Doi Suthep. It goes back to the 14th century when a monk from Sukhothai came to Chiang Mai. He brought with him a relic believed to be the shoulder bone of The Buddha. The monk took the relic to the ruler of the Lanna Kingdom, King Kueno. Upon arriving he found that the relic had split into 2 pieces, one piece the original size and the other smaller piece. The smaller piece was enshrined in Wat Suan Dok in Chiang Mai. The King decided the larger piece needed a special location. This piece was put on the back of a white elephant which was set free to wonder. The elephant made its way to Doi Suthep mountain and just before reaching the top, the elephant trumpeted 3 times and then died/ This was the sign of where to enshrine the relic. In 1368 the first chedi was built to keep the holy relic. Since then, the temple complex has grown to what you see today.
OK, from the first terrace you can see the magnificent entrance and stairs to the second terrace. Here you will find the covered in gold chedi that now enshrines the relic. As you walk around this terrace you’ll see a tightly packed complex of shrines, bells, golden umbrellas, and Buddha images displaying the many Buddha postures. Walk around, take-in the atmosphere of the Wat, see the copy of the Emerald Buddha and don’t forget the view of Chiang Mai City with it’s airport runways.
Wat Doi Suthep also has a meditation center that welcomes both Thai and foreigners to learn and practice meditation.
Being 15 kilometers from town options for getting Wat Doi Suthep include a private taxi, baht bus, and a guided tour can be a good choice.
Located opposite Wat Phra Signh in the old walled city of Chiang Mai, the founding date is unknown but generally believed to date back to the end of the 16th century.
The Wat grounds include an ubosot, viharn and two chedis. All but one chedi were built in a straight line.
A wooden structure built on a stone base, the viharn was built in 1823 using the classic Lanna style. It has a 3 tiered roof with Chofah decorating the roof ends. There are panels on the entrance plus pillars, all showing intricately decorated flower motif carvings in the Lanna style.
While most Wats have the principle Buddha image in the viharn, Wat Prasats Buddha image is in a chedi. The seated Buddha image can be seen through an ornately decorated entrance to a tunnel leading from the viharn to the chedi. Also, on both sides of the tunnels entrance are several seated Buddha images. The bronze Buddha image dates back to 1590.
Located behind the viharn is the ubosot which is a reconstruction of the original bot. Behind the bot is the original large white chedi with a golden spire. Also on the grounds is a bell tower and large spirit house guarded by 2 Naga serpents.
The easiest way to this Wat is to go to Wat Phra Singh – Wat Prasat is directly across from it.
Wat Saen Fang
The Wat gate, with its guarding Naga serpents, actually has a couple local businesses within the entrance. Dates are a bit confusing as the Wat was founded in the 14th century but the architecture only dates back to the 19th century.
The Lanna style viharn was originally built as a royal hall for the Chao Kawilorat who reigned from 1856 to 1870. With its elaborate carved panels of animal motifs on its gable, it was converted to the viharn in 1879.
There is a white Burmese style chedi with pairs of Chinthe guarding each corned.
There is a beautifully carved red painted Ho Trai located in a pond.
Finally, the ubosot was constructed in 1910 and displays both Lanna and Burmese style displaying small Kinnom figures on the roofs ridges.