Chaing Mai was once a great city and center of a powerful kingdom. Within the old city walls there are dozens of Buddhist Temples of all sizes and shapes. And I made it my mission to visit as many as I could cram into 5-hours with time for a quick lunch before catching my plane for Luang Prabang, Laos.
My first stop was the Wat Buppharam just outside the old walled city. The first temple was built on this site in 1497 by the Lanna King Muang Kaeo. The oldest surviving structure in the temple complex is the white chedi (pagoda) with a golden spire though it is only a little over 400 years old.
The Dhamma Hall contains Thailand’s largest Teak wood Buddha image and was carved over 400 years ago.
Next temple on the list was the Wat Chang Man – the oldest temple in Chiang Mai (1296). When King Mengrai decided to build the new city of Chiang Mai to be the capital of the Lanna Kingdom he built Wat Chiang Man as the city’s first temple.
This temple complex is the home of two important and ancient relics. The first is the Phra Sila Buddha Image – a bas relief stele, sculpted from stone over 1000 years ago depicting a standing Buddha. He other is a small Buddha image carved from quartz crystal known as the Crystal Buddha. It is believed to have been carved in the 8th century.
Next up was the Wat Lok Molee. This is one of the oldest and largest temples in Chiang Mai. The Lok Molee is believed to be the Royal Wat of the Kings of the Megnrai dynasty and one of the largest and most impressive chedis (pagoda) in Chiang Mai.
Wat Chedi Luang’s massive chedi was built just after 1385 and is the most compelling feature of the Chiang Mai city scape. The huge structure is 200ft across and 260ft tall. The Chedi was once the home to Thailands most sacred relic – the emerald Buddha now relocated in Bangkok.
The Wat Phan Tao sits next door to the more famous Wat Chedi Luang and is a beautiful wooden temple and stupa with a pond and huge stand of bamboo on the grounds of the complex.
Wat Suan Dok was built in the late 14th century and its grounds include a garden of white mausoleums housing the ashes of late Chiang Mai rulers.
Wat Sri Suphan – Chiang Mai Silver Temple. The temple is completely covered in hand crafted silver decoration. The walls, roof floor and all displays are detailed silver carving and etchings denoting Buddhist legends. Buddha statues are even covered in silver.
Having worn myself out taking my shoes off at all of these temples, I headed to the airport to catch my plane for Laos. Photos of all the temples are included.