No trip to Chiang Mai is complete without a tour of a few of the city’s temples. The city actually has over 300 temples (called ‘wats‘ in Thai), but there are four that people are specifically pointed to if you ask which temples are not to miss.
Click “read more” for a run down of the temples I visited and lots of pretty pictures!
The first temple on the list is the city’s oldest temple, Wat Chiang Man. Wat Chiang Man was built in 1297 and is home to the impressive Elephant Chedi which houses the temple’s relic.
The second-oldest temple is Wat Phra Singh, built in 1345. This temple was very crowded and crazy commercialized (so many vendors outside). I would say skip this one if you didn’t have the time or energy to do all of them.
Wat Chedi Luang is also home to the famous “Monk Chat” where people can sit and talk with one of the monks about…pretty much anything you want. They are happy to answer questions, practice their English, and also ask you about your home country. I had a nice chat with a monk whose English name was Olay. I’ll upload the conversation later; I won’t have time to edit and upload it until after I get home. But here is his picture.
Finally, the last temple you should check out is the “temple on the hill,” Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. Legend says that King Nu Naone, of the northern Lanna kingdom that Chaing Mai was once part of, had a relic of the Buddha carried by a white elephant. “Where the elephant stops, that is where the relic should be housed,” said the king. He expected the elephant to walk only a few steps, but the elephant began to walk to the west…and didn’t stop. For fifteen kilometers and up the highest mountain in Lanna, the elephant walked. He walked until he collapsed and could walk no more. So that is why the temple of Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep is the temple on the hill. You can see all of the modern city of Chiang Mai from the top.
Well, that’s about it for the temples of Chaing Mai. You can see all the pictures from the temples at the links above. Also, if you plan on visiting any Buddhist temples any time, here is a handy guide for the rules: