Chiang Mai is said to have more than 300 wat or temples in and around the city. They even say that this province has more temples than any other provinces in Thailand. These temples were mostly built around 13th and 18th century with various sizes and designs, although most of them embrace Lanna style architecture. One of the most prominent temples in Chiang Mai would be the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep which is located on the mountain outside of the city. I will write my story on that temple in my next post. In the meantime, for this post I am writing about three of temples which are located inside the walled city center that I have also visited during my stay in Chiang Mai.
By far the largest temple in the old city is Wat Chedi Luang which is located in the center of the walled city. This temple also hold high significance for the city and all citizens as this is where the city pillar (Lak Mueang) of Chiang Mai, named Sao Inthakin, can be found. However the most striking feature of this temple is the massive central structure. This bell-shape structure was the largest in this region and even though some part of it collapsed in an earthquake in 1545, this temple is now still the tallest structure in this old part of the city. Another standout features of this temple are three gigantic dipterocarp trees, which are believed to be planted to protect the city from catastrophe. Interestingly, this temple was also once the site where the Emerald Buddha statue was installed, as now this highly regarded figure can be found in Grand Palace royal complex in Bangkok.
The other important temple inside the city center is the Wat Phra Singh. Major restoration and renovation projects have made this temple complex become one of the most beautiful in the Thailand. This temple’s whole concept is also highly influenced by Lanna art and architecture. The assembly hall is decorated with beautiful paintings and murals. The other structures in the temple complex are also well restored. One particularly eye-catching structure is the chedi behind the main building. I mean if the reflective golden colour itself is not stunning enough, then the large dome shaped construction with half elephants coming out of the square base might interest you. Like Wat Chedi Luang, there were also a lot of visitors and worshippers coming to this temple complex.
The last temple which I visited in the old city center is called Wat Phan Tao. This nice old temple is located near Wat Chedi Luang, but unfortunately it is often overlooked and does not share the same attention as the large temple nearby. Although the temple is built in similar Lanna style design and decoration, this temple is different from other temples in the area as the main hall is made entirely of wood, teak to be exact. There is a beautiful peacock decoration above the door and inside we will find a golden Buddha statue. There are a lot of other temples in the area which unfortunately I cannot visit due to time restriction. But as I mentioned earlier, I also managed to visit the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep just outside of the city. More on that will follow after this post.