Temples

Wiang Kum Kam

To the south of Chiang Mai lie the remains of a 13th-century fortified city and a surrounding moat that had been submerged under mud and silt for centuries. Wiang Kum Kam had been built by King Mangrai, who lived there for only a brief period before founding Chiang Mai. Flooding appears to have submerged the city in 1524 and it disappeared from view until excavation works began in the 1950s.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Set atop the mountain of Doi Suthep, this temple was founded in 1383 to house a fragment of bone from the Buddha’s shoulder, carried to the peak, according to legend, by a white elephant. The 306-step staircase to the temple is flanked by jewelled naga. A funicular railway is available. Within the compound are a gold-plated chedi, pagodas, bells, shrines, ancient murals and a museum, and the views of the city and mountain are astounding.

Wat Chedi Luang

Originally founded in 1391, Wat Chedi Luang was rebuilt almost a century later when the Emerald Buddha was installed in a niche on its eastern side, where it remained for eighty years. A black jade replica is enshrined in its place today. Standing some 80 metres high, the chedi was the highest structure in the Lanna kingdom until the top part collapsed during an earthquake in 1545. Wat Chedi Luang is also home to the city pillar, Inthakin.

Wat Phra Singh

One of the finest examples of classic Lanna-era temple architecture, Wat Phra Singh dates back to 1345, its entrance guarded by singhs, or lions. The origin of the Buddha image from which the temple derives its name is unknown, although the legend is that it arrived from Sri Lanka. Every year during the Songkran festival, the statue is placed on a chariot and paraded through the streets of Chiang Mai to be doused with lustral water.

Wat Chiang Man

Chiang Mai's oldest temple, Wat Chiang Man was established by the city's founder, King Mangrai, around 1296. The main sanctuary contains the oldest known Buddha image created by the Lanna kingdom, cast in 1465. A smaller sanctuary houses the city’s two guardian images. The oldest structure within the temple complex is the Elephant Chedi, where fifteen brick-and-stucco elephants appear to carry the upper levels upon their backs.

Wat Suan Dok

Wat Suan Dok translates as “flower garden temple”, for it was built on a former royal flower garden in 1373 to house one-half of a sacred Buddha relic, the other half being interred in Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. The architecture of Wat Suan Dok was greatly influenced by the Burmese colonisation. A gilded, bell-shaped chedi rises above a large grouping of small, whitewashed sheds containing the ashes of Lanna-era royalty. 

Wat Sri Suphan

Nestled in the heart of Chiang Mai, Wat Sri Suphan, also known as the Silver Temple, is a captivating masterpiece of Thai architecture. The intricate silver patterns adorning the temple walls, ceilings, and pillars are a visual feast for the eyes and a testament to the extraordinary craftsmanship of local artisans. Visitors can participate in silver-making workshops, where they can learn about the art of silversmithing and create their own unique pieces of jewellery.

Wat Umong

Wat Umong is a forest temple founded in 1296 by King Mangrai and famous for its tunnels, built by the king as a sanctuary for a noted but eccentric monk, who would otherwise wander off into the wilderness. The tunnels, which can be explored, contain shrines with Buddha images. Monks live on the extensive grounds of the temple, which is a well-known centre for meditation and Dhamma teaching.

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