Temples Inside the Old City Chiang Mai

Temples Inside the Old City Chiang Mai

In the northern reaches of Thailand lies the historic city of Chiang Mai, a tapestry of culture, tradition, and architectural marvels. The Old City of Chiang Mai, nestled within its ancient walls and moat, offers a window into a bygone era, resonating with tales of the once-mighty Lanna Kingdom. Founded in the 13th century, this former capital exudes a timeless elegance and serene spirituality reminiscent of its rich past.

At the heart of this legacy are the temples or "wats", each a repository of stories, art, and devotion. These temples are more than just ornate structures of worship; they are custodians of Chiang Mai's identity and the bedrock of its spiritual and cultural life. As one wanders through the narrow lanes of the Old City, the golden spires, intricate wood carvings, and echoing chants from these temples create a symphony that transports visitors to an era where faith and artistry flourished in tandem. Whether you seek spiritual solace, historical insight, or architectural admiration, the temples of Chiang Mai's Old City promise a journey like no other.


Lanna Architecture

Stepping into the precincts of Chiang Mai's Old City is akin to opening a grand illustrated book on Lanna architecture. This distinctive style, which evolved over centuries, captures the essence of a kingdom that thrived in its golden age, reflecting its might, spirituality, and cosmopolitan nature.

Lanna architecture, a term derived from the ancient Lanna Kingdom, encapsulates an elegant and bold aesthetic. Characterised by tiered roofs, intricate carvings, and stately chedis (stupas), these structures are a testament to the sophisticated craftsmanship of the era. One of the defining features is the "viharn", an assembly hall for monks, often adorned with sweeping multi-tiered roofs, protective naga (serpent) motifs, and resplendent facades.

However, what truly enriches Lanna architecture's tapestry is its eclectic blend of influences. The geographical position of Chiang Mai made it a melting pot of cultures. As a result, its temples became canvases upon which a myriad of art forms converged.

The Thai influence is evident in the graceful curves of the roofs, the ornate woodwork, and the gold leaf applications. The Lanna style inherited the bell-shaped stupas, intricate mosaics, and elaborate wooden fences from the Burmese. As trade routes expanded and cultural exchanges intensified, elements from other Southeast Asian neighbours, like the Laotians and the Shan, began integrating seamlessly, adding multi-dimensional layers to the architectural ensemble.

This harmonious amalgamation created a unique style wherein each temple, though rooted in Lanna traditions, exudes a distinct personality. The sumptuous details, the soaring spires, and the tranquil courtyards symbolise a time when architecture was not just about constructing buildings but about narrating tales of faith, ambition, and artistic exploration. Today, as one admires these temples, it becomes clear that Lanna architecture is not just a design style; it's a chronicle of Chiang Mai's vibrant history and cultural confluence.



Wat Chedi Luang

In the heart of Chiang Mai's Old City stands Wat Chedi Luang, a majestic temple that has witnessed the passage of time, with its origins tracing back to the 14th century. Once the tallest structure in the city, this ancient tower stands as a testament to the grandeur of the Lanna Kingdom and Chiang Mai's rich tapestry of history.

Founded in the late 14th century by King Saen Muang Ma, Wat Chedi Luang was initially built to house the ashes of the king's father. The construction, which spanned several monarchs' reigns, saw its completion nearly a century later under the rule of King Tilokaraj. The temple's pinnacle moment in history was when it enshrined the highly revered Emerald Buddha, a position it held until the mid-15th century, after which the statue was relocated to Luang Prabang and ultimately to Bangkok's Wat Phra Kaew.

A legend that adds to the temple's mysticism revolves around the city pillar (Inthakhin). This pillar on the temple's grounds is believed to hold the city's spirit. An annual ceremony is conducted, wherein offerings are made to ensure Chiang Mai's continued prosperity and protection.

Yet, the temple has faced its share of adversities. A massive earthquake in the 16th century caused significant damage to the central chedi, reducing its height and leaving it in partial ruins. While it has undergone restorations, the chedi's form today captures its original grandeur and time marks.

Unique Features and Attractions:

The expansive temple complex offers many architectural and spiritual experiences.

  • Central Chedi: The imposing central chedi remains the focal point with its terraced design and five golden spires. It's an architectural marvel, offering a glimpse into the Lanna style's aesthetics.
  • City Pillar Shrine: The small building housing the city pillar, or Inthakhin, is a significant site for locals and visitors. It's believed that paying respects here can bring blessings and good fortune.
  • Monk Chats: Wat Chedi Luang is renowned for its "Monk Chat" program. Visitors get a unique opportunity to converse with English-speaking monks, learning about their lives, Buddhism, and Thai culture. This interaction bridges cultural divides and offers deeper insights into monastic life.
  • Viharn Luang: Adjacent to the chedi is the large Viharn Luang. This assembly hall, with its intricate woodwork and ornate columns, houses a significant Buddha statue and is an essential space for rituals and ceremonies.
  • Guardian Statues: At each entrance to the chedi, visitors are greeted by intricately carved Nagas and other mythical beings, symbolising protection and spiritual transition.

Wat Chedi Luang is an architectural marvel and a living testament to Chiang Mai's spiritual heartbeat, history, and enduring traditions. Visiting here is a journey through time, offering a deeper understanding of the city's soul.

Wat Chiang Man

Tucked away in the northeastern corner of the Old City is Wat Chiang Man, a gem with the esteemed title of Chiang Mai's oldest temple. Founded by King Mengrai in 1296, the temple's grounds have witnessed the city's evolution from its nascent stages to its current status as a vibrant cultural hub.

King Mengrai, the founder of Chiang Mai, chose this spot for his temporary abode while overseeing the city's construction. Recognising its significance, he subsequently commissioned the building of Wat Chiang Man on the same grounds, marking the city's spiritual birth.

Wat Chiang Man has been an emblem of the city's resilience and faith over the centuries. While it has seen renovations and restorations, its essence remains steeped in legends and the tales of King Mengrai's vision for his kingdom.

One popular legend narrates that the temple was constructed to protect a significant relic – a crystal Buddha, believed to have the power to bring rain. According to lore, this relic was pivotal in ensuring the prosperity and abundance of the Lanna Kingdom.


Unique Features and Attractions:

One of the temple's most iconic structures is its chedi (stupa), supported by a group of life-sized elephant sculptures named "Elephant Chedi." These statues appear to carry the weight of the chedi on their backs, symbolising strength and endurance.

Two Significant Buddha Statues:

  • Phra Sila Buddha: A marbled bas-relief Buddha believed to have originated from Sri Lanka or India. It's famed not only for its age and artistry but also for its legendary rain-making powers.
  • Phra Satang Man: This highly revered crystal Buddha statue, housed in the main viharn, is a testament to the temple's spiritual significance. It's believed to be over 1800 years old, predating even the temple itself.

Wat Chiang Man boasts two viharns. The larger, more modern one houses the Phra Satang Man, while the smaller, older wooden viharn showcases Lanna's architectural features, including intricate wood carvings and a multi-tiered roof.

The temple's interior walls are adorned with murals that depict tales from the Jataka (stories about Buddha's previous lives), offering insights into Buddhist teachings and values.

Ubosot (Ordination Hall) is a sacred structure encircled by sema stones where monks are ordained. Its design reflects traditional Lanna aesthetics, and it holds significant religious artefacts.

Stepping into Wat Chiang Man is akin to traversing the pages of Chiang Mai's history. Each structure, artefact, and carving whispers tales of a city founded on faith, vision, and cultural amalgamation. It remains a living testament to Chiang Mai's beginnings and enduring spiritual journey.

Wat Phra Singh Woramahawihan

Situated in the western part of the Old City, Wat Phra Singh Woramahawihan is one of Chiang Mai's most revered and iconic temples. Its prominence not only stems from its architectural magnificence but also from the venerated Buddha statue it houses. The temple, dating back to the 14th century, pulsates with religious fervour, especially during significant ceremonies and festivals.

At the heart of Wat Phra Singh is the Phra Buddha Sihing (or Phra Singh) statue, around which many legends swirl. This highly respected image has been the subject of both awe and intrigue for centuries.

One tale suggests that the statue originated from Sri Lanka, representing the revered Mahabodhi Temple's style where Buddha attained enlightenment. It went to Thailand from Sri Lanka, journeying through several cities, including Ayutthaya and Chiang Rai, before finding its home in Chiang Mai.

The statue's name, "Sihing", remains a mystery. Some believe it's derived from the Lion style (Sinhalese) it represents, while others speculate it's named after a lost city where it was once housed.

The Phra Singh statue's mystique is amplified by its head being stolen in the 1920s and has never been recovered. The current leader is a replacement, yet the statue's reverence remains undiminished.


The Temple's Role in Religious Ceremonies and Festivals:

Wat Phra Singh plays a pivotal role in Chiang Mai's religious and cultural fabric, particularly during significant ceremonies and festivals.

  • Songkran Festival: During Thailand's famous water festival, which marks the Thai New Year, the Phra Singh statue is paraded around the city streets in a grand procession. Devotees gather to sprinkle water on the figure, a gesture that seeks blessings and purifies the soul.
  • Vassa (Buddhist Lent): At the onset of the annual three-month Buddhist Lent, monks confine themselves to their monasteries to meditate, study, and teach. With its extensive monk community, Wat Phra Singh witnesses elaborate ceremonies to mark the beginning and end of this period.
  • Inthakin Festival: Every year, the city's Inthakin Festival is celebrated to invoke blessings for peace and prosperity. Although the festival's primary rituals occur at Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phra Singh plays a significant role as devotees visit to make offerings and participate in prayers.


The temple complex, with its golden chedi, intricately carved viharns, and the Lai Kham Chapel boasting exquisite murals of Lanna's life, serves as a backdrop to these significant events, enriching the spiritual experience.

Wat Inthakhin Sadue Muang

Wat Inthakhin Sadue Muang, although lesser-known than some of Chiang Mai's grand temples, occupies a unique and significant place in the city's history and spirituality. Located in the heart of the Old City, this temple's foundations are intrinsically tied to the very origins of Chiang Mai itself.

The name "Inthakhin" translates to " city pillar, " and rightfully so. The temple is built around the city's foundation pillar, known as Sao Inthakhin. According to historical records and legends, when King Mengrai founded Chiang Mai in 1296, he installed this pillar as a symbol of the city's establishment and spiritual heart. The pillar was believed to house the city's guardian spirits, ensuring protection, prosperity, and harmony for Chiang Mai and its inhabitants.

Over the centuries, the importance of Sao Inthakhin has remained undiminished. Even today, locals believe that the city's well-being is closely linked to the pillar's sanctity, and they regularly visit the temple to offer prayers and ensure the city's continued prosperity.


Unique Features and Attractions:

  • The temple's elegant main assembly hall, or viharn. With its ornate wooden panels, multi-tiered roof, and intricately carved bargeboards, the viharn exemplifies traditional Lanna architecture.
  • The city pillar stands within a dedicated pavilion, which, though modest in design, resonates with deep spiritual significance. The pavilion is often adorned with offerings, flowers, and incense, bearing testament to its importance in the hearts of Chiang Mai's residents.
  • Dotting the temple's grounds are several smaller stupas and shrines, each with distinct styles and historical significance. These structures, some of which are adorned with delicate stucco work, add depth and layers to the temple's architectural landscape.
  • Portions of the temple showcase beautiful murals that depict scenes from the Jataka tales, the Buddha's life, and stories of the Lanna Kingdom. These artworks offer a colourful narrative and provide insights into the region's rich cultural and religious tapestry.

Wat Inthakhin Sadue Muang is not just a temple but a tangible link to Chiang Mai's inception, spiritual roots, and enduring faith. Amidst the hustle and bustle of modern life, this temple stands as a serene reminder of the city's deep historical and spiritual connections.

Wat Phantao

Nestled amidst the plethora of Chiang Mai's temples, Wat Phantao offers a distinct blend of history, artistry, and spirituality. At the same time, it might not possess the vastness of some of its neighbouring temples; its charm lies in the intricate details and the stories whispered by its centuries-old teakwood structures.

Wat Phantao's crowning jewel is undoubtedly its viharn, an exquisite ordination hall crafted entirely from teakwood. This structure is a testament to the architectural prowess and artistry of the Lanna craftspeople.

The hall's exterior showcases classic Lanna architectural elements - the multi-tiered roof, elaborate finials, and intricately carved bargeboards, all narrating tales of bygone eras.

Stepping inside, one is greeted by the warm glow of polished teak, offset by ornate golden motifs. The walls and columns, adorned with delicate carvings, narrate stories from Buddhist scriptures, local legends, and scenes of daily Lanna life.

The main altar houses a revered Buddha image, with its serene visage casting a spell of tranquillity. The backdrop, often adorned with golden motifs and artefacts, amplifies the statue's sanctity.


Significance in Lanna's History:

Originally, Wat Phantao was part of a royal residence during the reign of King Mahotara Prateth in the late 14th century. However, as time unfolded, the residential structures gave way to religious ones, marking Wat Phantao's transformation into a spiritual hub.

The teakwood viharn, originating in the 19th century, is a silent witness to the region's socio-political changes, power shifts, and evolving architectural trends. While many wooden structures of its time have succumbed to modernisation, Wat Phantao's ordination hall has been lovingly preserved, reflecting the community's respect for its heritage.

Moreover, Wat Phantao played an essential role in religious ceremonies and served as a centre for Buddhist learning. Its contributions to Lanna's spiritual fabric are undeniable, with generations of monks walking its wooden floors, seeking enlightenment and guiding the community.

Wat Lok Moli

Located north of Chiang Mai's Old City, Wat Lok Moli stands with solemnity and gravitas. Unlike many other temples in the city with well-documented histories and foundation tales, Wat Lok Moli's origins are shrouded in mystery, lending it an enigmatic allure. This temple's charm is further amplified by its imposing chedi, which dominates the landscape and holds significant historical and architectural importance.

The precise date of Wat Lok Moli's establishment remains one of Chiang Mai's enduring enigmas. There are no inscriptions, records, or chronicles that pinpoint its inception. Historians and scholars have deduced its age based on architectural styles and comparisons with other landmarks, placing its origins in the 14th or 15th century.

Some legends hint at its association with the Mengrai dynasty, suggesting that it might have been built to commemorate members of this royal lineage. While these tales add layers of intrigue, they are largely speculative, and the temple's true origins continue to elude definitive documentation.


Importance of its Chedi:

Wat Lok Moli's chedi is undeniably its distinguishing feature, drawing devotees and history lovers. The chedi's design is representative of classic Lanna architecture. Its grand, multi-tiered structure, flanked by intricately designed naga (serpent) statues, exemplifies the region's architectural aesthetics during its zenith. The chedi's weathered brick and stucco facade, worn by time, adds to its antique charm. Radding gravitas to the chedi's significance is the belief that it houses the ashes of several members of the Mengrai dynasty. This association with royalty further elevates its status, making it a religious structure and a monument of historical importance. As with many such structures in Thailand, the chedi is a focal point for religious ceremonies and prayers. During festivals and significant lunar days, the temple grounds come alive with activities, with the chedi serving as the epicentre of rituals, prayers, and offerings. Recognising its historical and cultural significance, there have been concerted efforts to preserve and restore the chedi. While ensuring it retains its antique charm, these restorations aim to safeguard it against the ravages of time and environmental elements.

Wat Jet Lin

Situated within the labyrinth of Chiang Mai's ancient lanes, Wat Jet Lin emerges as a sanctuary of tranquillity and reflection. What sets this temple apart from many others in the city isn't just its historical significance and picturesque lotus pond—a peaceful oasis that evokes contemplation and serenity.

Amidst the urban hustle of Chiang Mai, the lotus pond at Wat Jet Lin offers a refreshing respite. With blooming lotuses, their petals unfolding gracefully over the water's surface, and the gentle rustle of leaves, visitors often find themselves enveloped in a meditative calm.

In Buddhist philosophy, the lotus symbolises purity, rebirth, and enlightenment, its growth from the mud to the water's surface mirroring the soul's journey towards spiritual awakening. This symbolism isn't lost on visitors, who often see the pond as representing life and spiritual evolution.

The pond complements the temple structures, creating a harmonious blend of natural beauty and Lanna's architectural prowess. The reflections of the temple buildings and chedis on the pond's still waters, especially during dawn and dusk, offer captivating visual treats.


Historical Background:

Like many regional temples, Wat Jet Lin dates back to the Lanna Kingdom's glory days. Although not as old as some of its counterparts, with its establishment believed to be in the late 16th or early 17th century, the temple has been a significant religious and cultural landmark.

Historical records indicate that Wat Jet Lin received patronage from Lanna royalty and nobility, leading to enhancements and expansions over the centuries. This royal connection is evident in the temple's intricate carvings and inscriptions.

Time and natural elements have affected the temple's structures. Recognising its historical significance, restoration efforts in the late 20th and early 21st centuries ensured that Wat Jet Lin's heritage was preserved, with many of its buildings restored to their former glory.

This temple, with its lotus pond, invites visitors to embark on a journey that traverses the annals of Lanna history and delves deep into introspection and spiritual reflection.

Wat Saen Mueang Ma Luang (Wat Hua Khuang)

Situated amidst the rich tapestry of temples in Chiang Mai, Wat Saen Mueang Ma Luang, also known as Wat Hua Khuang, occupies a distinctive place. Beyond its aesthetic allure, this temple bears an intrinsic connection to the royal lineage of the Lanna Kingdom, lending it a revered and special status in the annals of Chiang Mai's history.

Wat Saen Mueang Ma Luang was initially established under the patronage of the Lanna royal family. This association with royalty provided the temple with resources for its construction and maintenance and elevated its status as a significant religious and cultural hub in the region.

The temple is believed to be built in honour of a Lanna prince. Over time, it became a symbol of the royal family's devotion and commitment to Buddhism and their role as guardians and patrons of religious institutions.

Given its royal connections, the temple often played a central role in royal ceremonies, rites, and festivals, further emphasising its significance within the sociopolitical and religious framework of the Lanna Kingdom.


Architectural and Historical Highlights:

  • The temple's principal viharn (assembly hall) is a splendid representation of Lanna architecture. With its ornate wooden panels, intricately designed bargeboards, and multi-tiered roof, the viharn is a testament to the era's architectural finesse.
  • Dominating the temple grounds is the chedi, an imposing structure combining classic Lanna and other regional architectural styles. This chedi believed to house relics and serve as a monument to the prince, is often the focal point of religious activities.
  • The temple's walls are adorned with exquisite murals that depict scenes from Buddhist scriptures, tales of the Lanna Kingdom, and episodes from the royal family's life. These artworks offer valuable insights into the region's cultural, religious, and historical narratives.
  • Flanking the temple's entrance and various buildings are statues of mythological creatures and guardians. Apart from their aesthetic value, these statues serve as symbolic protectors of the temple's sanctity and treasured relics.


Wat Saen Mueang Ma Luang (Wat Hua Khuang) isn't just a visual delight; it's a poignant link to the Lanna Kingdom's regal past. It is a testament to a time when royalty and religion were deeply intertwined, and temples were not just places of worship but also embodiments of cultural pride, history, and heritage.

Wat Duang Dee

Amongst the many jewels of Chiang Mai's temple-studded landscape, Wat Duang Dee offers a blend of historical richness and architectural splendour. Its name, intertwined with tales of its origin and the array of statues and features it hosts, makes this temple a must-visit for both devout followers and history enthusiasts.

"Wat Duang Dee" translates to "Good Luck Temple" in English. Rooted in local folklore and beliefs, it's said that the temple was auspiciously named to invoke blessings, prosperity, and good fortune for both its patrons and visitors.

The temple's establishment is believed to coincide with auspicious astrological alignments, leading the local community to regard it as a beacon of positivity and spiritual well-being. Over the centuries, the temple has lived up to its name, becoming a focal point for prayers and ceremonies to seek blessings, good luck, and protection from adversities.


Unique Features and Attractions:

  • The main assembly hall, or viharn, is an architectural masterpiece displaying the hallmarks of Lanna's design. Its intricately carved wooden doors, the elegant multi-tiered roof, and the fine stucco work reflect the craftsmanship of artisans from the era of its inception.
  • The chedi tower over the temple grounds, built in classic Lanna style. This spire-like structure, often gilded or adorned with ornate designs, is believed to house essential relics and is a site of reverence and devotion.
  • Wat Duang Dee is home to several significant Buddha statues. Each meticulously crafted figure embodies the Buddha's different postures (mudras), representing various phases of his life and teachings. These statues are not just objects of veneration but also works of art that provide insights into the sculptural traditions of the Lanna Kingdom.
  • As with many regional temples, the entrance and critical structures of Wat Duang Dee are guarded by mythological figures and creatures. These statues, often depicting fierce expressions, are symbolic protectors against evil spirits and indicate the region's rich folklore.
  • The interior walls of the temple's buildings are adorned with murals narrating stories from the Jataka tales, episodes from the Buddha's life, and scenes from local legends. These artworks, often rendered in rich hues, provide a visual journey through the spiritual and cultural tapestry of the region.

Wat Duang Dee, with its compelling name and rich features, stands as a repository of the Lanna Kingdom's spiritual and artistic heritage. Each statue, mural, and architectural element narrates tales of devotion, artistry, and cultural evolution, visiting this temple a journey through time and tradition.

Wat Dok Kham & Wat Dok Euang

Nestled within Chiang Mai's historic landscape are the temples of Wat Dok Kham and Wat Dok Euang. While they might not be as grand as some of the city's more illustrious temples, both hold a special place in the cultural and spiritual tapestry of the region. Their names, deeply rooted in local lore and the tales surrounding them, give a glimpse into the rich heritage of Lanna.

Wat Dok Kham: The history of Wat Dok Kham dates back several centuries to when the Lanna Kingdom was flourishing. While detailed historical records are sparse, local legends tell of its foundation laid by a revered monk who envisioned a golden chedi on the temple's present location. It's also believed that the temple once housed a relic, making it a significant pilgrimage site in its heyday.

"Dok Kham" translates to "Golden Flower" in English. This title is believed to have been inspired by the legend of the golden Chedi vision. Moreover, the temple grounds, especially during its early days, were renowned for their blossoms that resembled gold in their hue, further justifying the temple's moniker.

Wat Dok Euang: Similar to its counterpart, Wat Dok Euang's precise origins are mysterious. However, folklore suggests that it was built on the site where a divine revelation took place. An ancient tree, believed to have mystical powers, stood on its grounds, and it's said that the temple was established to honour this divine entity.

"Dok Euang" stands for "Flower of the Universe" or "Cosmic Flower". This ethereal name is likely derived from the temple's association with the mystical tree, which was seen as a connection between the earthly realm and the cosmos. The tree, often described in tales as bearing flowers that shimmered like stars, is the likely inspiration behind the temple's celestial name.

While perhaps lesser-known, they symbolise Chiang Mai's rich tapestry of legends, faith, and cultural identity. Their names, steeped in lore and symbolism, echo tales of visions, divine revelations, and nature's marvels, making them intriguing stops in the spiritual journey through the ancient city.

Wat Pha Khao & Wat Phra Chao Mengrai

Chiang Mai's spiritual landscape is riddled with tales of faith, royalty, and artistry, and nowhere is this more evident than in the intertwined histories of Wat Pha Khao and Wat Phra Chao Mengrai. While distinct in their identities, these temples share a web of legends and historical events that paint a vivid picture of the Lanna Kingdom's legacy.

Wat Phra Chao Mengrai is named after King Mengrai, the founder of the Lanna Kingdom and the city of Chiang Mai. Legend suggests that King Mengrai often visited Wat Pha Khao during his reign for meditation and reflection. The proximity and frequent royal visits to Wat Pha Khao led to a bond between the two temples, with ceremonies, rituals, and festivals often organised collaboratively.

Both temples, in their storied histories, have been reputed to house important Buddhist relics. These relics, believed to be fragments of the Buddha's remains or possessions, drew pilgrims across the region. The temples' shared responsibility in safeguarding these revered items further intertwined their destinies.


Unique Features and Attractions:

Wat Pha Khao:

  • One of the defining features of Wat Pha Khao is its elevated chedi, built on a raised platform and intricately adorned with carvings and motifs characteristic of Lanna's design.

  • The main assembly hall of Wat Pha Khao stands out for its wooden construction, showcasing the craftsmanship of Lanna carpenters. The interior walls are embellished with murals depicting scenes from the Jataka tales and the life of the Buddha.

  • Scattered around the temple complex are stone inscriptions, providing insights into the temple's history, the Lanna Kingdom's socio-religious dynamics, and King Mengrai's association with the temple.

Wat Phra Chao Mengrai:

  • Dominating the temple's sanctum is a resplendent Buddha image, believed to be named after King Mengrai. This statue, often gilded, embodies the Lanna style and has been the focal point of various ceremonies throughout history.
  • The temple houses a multi-tiered ceremonial umbrella, a distinct feature in Lanna temples. This ornate structure, made of metal and sometimes adorned with precious stones, symbolises the Buddha's enlightenment and the spiritual hierarchy.
  • The exteriors of the temple buildings in Wat Phra Chao Mengrai are decorated with intricate stucco work, depicting mythical creatures, floral patterns, and scenes from Buddhist scriptures.

Wat Pha Khao and Wat Phra Chao Mengrai are testimonies to the intricate weave of faith, royalty, and artistry that defined the Lanna era. Their shared histories and distinctive architectural features invite visitors to delve deep into a time when temples were not just places of worship but epicentres of cultural and historical narratives.

Wat Phan On & Wat Phuak Hong

As explorers meander through the labyrinthine streets of Chiang Mai's Old City, they invariably encounter the compelling presence of Wat Phan On and Wat Phuak Hong. While individually radiant, these temples represent the tapestry of religious practices that have pulsated through the heart of the Lanna Kingdom for centuries. Not only do they provide spiritual solace, but they also offer an architectural journey through time.


Wat Phan On:

Wat Phan On has historically been a significant hub for various religious ceremonies. The annual Songkran (Thai New Year) festivities see devout followers thronging the temple, engaging in prayer sessions, merit-making activities, and water-pouring ceremonies.

With its serene ambience, Wat Phan On has also been recognised as a haven for meditation. Many locals and even tourists flock here for guided meditation sessions, seeking inner peace and spiritual enlightenment.

  • One of the most striking features of Wat Phan On is its radiant golden chedi. This gleaming spire, reflecting the Lanna architectural style, is believed to house significant relics.
  • The viharn (prayer hall) boasts exquisite woodwork, with intricately carved wooden panels and beams showcasing stories from Buddhist scriptures and Lanna folklore.
  • The temple complex is adorned with verdant gardens, flowering trees, and tranquil ponds, further amplifying its status as a meditation retreat.


Wat Phuak Hong:

Wat Phuak Hong is known for preserving the age-old practices and rituals of the Lanna Kingdom. The temple has been instrumental in maintaining traditions, such as the candlelit processions during Asalha Puja (celebrating the Buddha's first sermon).

The temple also plays a vital role in the religious education of the community. It has been a centre for Buddhist teachings, hosting monks and scholars who impart the Dharma (Buddhist teachings) to locals and visitors alike.

  • Unlike the typical Lanna-style chedi, Wat Phuak Hong's stupa showcases a blend of Thai and Burmese architectural influences, signifying past cultural exchanges.
  • Within the temple grounds stands a revered Bodhi tree, a symbol of enlightenment in Buddhist tradition. The tree is often adorned with prayer flags and offerings, reflecting its significance in religious practices.
  • The walls of Wat Phuak Hong's main hall are adorned with age-old murals that provide glimpses into the Buddha's life, teachings, and significant events in Lanna's history.

Wat Phan On and Wat Phuak Hong, while seemingly quiet in the bustling cityscape, resonate with the echoes of ancient chants, rituals, and the timeless wisdom of the Lanna Kingdom. They stand not merely as architectural marvels but as active participants in the spiritual evolution of Chiang Mai.

Wat Fon Soi & Wat Chai Phrakiat

Wat Fon Soi and Wat Chai Phrakiat possess a unique charm that transcends mere architectural beauty. These temples, ensconced in legends and wrapped in the tapestry of time, have been integral to the cultural and spiritual fabric of the Lanna Kingdom.


Wat Fon Soi:

"Fon Soi" directly translates to "Rain Shower." Legend has it that a sudden and unseasonal downpour occurred during the temple's initial construction, which was considered a divine blessing. The temple, thus, took on this evocative name.

Wat Fon Soi received patronage from various Lanna royals over the centuries, leading to its expansions and renovations. This royal association has lent the temple a certain gravitas, solidifying its place in Chiang Mai's history.

  • Nestled within the temple grounds is a natural spring. Pilgrims and visitors often come to collect this "blessed" water, believed to have curative and purifying properties.
  • An annual ritual at Wat Fon Soi gives thanks for the rain, which is essential for the region's agriculture and well-being. During this ceremony, attendees engage in traditional dances, prayers, and offerings to invoke blessings and favourable weather.


Wat Chai Phrakiat:

"Chai Phrakiat" means "Victorious Monument." This temple was believed to be erected to commemorate a significant victory or event during the Lanna Kingdom's reign, though the exact details remain in mystery.

Whispered tales among the locals speak of a guardian spirit that protects the temple grounds. Many believe this spirit to be that of a revered monk or a warrior from the past who had deep connections with Wat Chai Phrakiat.

  • The temple boasts intricate mural art that depicts scenes from Buddhist lore, Lanna history, and celestial imaginations. These murals, rendered in rich hues, transport visitors through time and legend.
  • Drawing inspiration from its name and the victory it represents, Wat Chai Phrakiat hosts an annual Festival of Lights. The temple complex is illuminated with thousands of lanterns and candles, symbolising the victory of light over darkness and good over evil.

Both Wat Fon Soi and Wat Chai Phrakiat are more than religious edifices. They are repositories of tales, traditions, and timeless wisdom. Whether one is drawn by the allure of history, the enigma of legends, or the magnetism of spiritual ceremonies, these temples offer a sanctified embrace to every seeker.

Wat Khuan Khama & Wat Rajamontean

Deep within the historic quarters of Chiang Mai's Old City, two temples - Wat Khuan Khama and Wat Rajamontean - stand as proud custodians of the region's illustrious Lanna past. Both temples have played pivotal roles in the tapestry of Lanna's history, each weaving its narrative and possessing characteristics that set it apart from the myriad of temples that dot this ancient city.


Wat Khuan Khama:

"Khuan Khama" is rooted in the Lanna phrase for "Horse Stable." Historically, the region surrounding the temple was a prominent hub for the horse-keeping community. This temple served as their spiritual centre, offering blessings for their horses and trade.

Due to its connection with the horse trade, Wat Khuan Khama saw an influx of diverse communities, each bringing in its own cultural and spiritual practices. This made the temple a melting pot of various traditions and rites.

  • In a nod to its history and the community it served, the temple grounds of Wat Khuan Khama are adorned with several horse statues. Some ancient and other more modern statues offer a visual narrative of the temple's unique legacy.
  • Due to its position as a cultural confluence, the architectural designs and motifs within Wat Khuan Khama reflect various influences, from traditional Lanna to other Southeast Asian styles.


Wat Rajamontean:

"Rajamontean" denotes "Royal Monastery," signifying its profound connections with the Lanna royalty. This temple was historically a space of reverence for the royals and was central to many significant ceremonies.

Wat Rajamontean was a nucleus for Lanna's scriptural studies. The temple housed many ancient manuscripts detailing the region's history, culture, and spiritual practices.

  • The temple's chedi (stupa) is one of its most iconic features. Its intricate carvings, embellishments, and proportions reflect a design distinct from many other regional temples.
  • Within the confines of Wat Rajamontean is a library that once safeguarded many of the region's valuable manuscripts. This structure, built with teak and elevated to protect the scriptures from floods and pests, is a testament to the temple's academic and cultural significance.

Wat Khuan Khama and Wat Rajamontean offer more than spiritual solace. They are windows into a time when temples were epicentres of community life, culture, trade, and education. Their unique features and stories ensure they stand out in the rich mosaic of Chiang Mai's spiritual landscape.

Temple Etiquette and Tips for Visitors

Navigating the tranquil ambience of Chiang Mai's ancient temples requires understanding the customs and etiquettes that have shaped their sanctity over centuries. Visitors need to be aware of and adhere to certain practices to fully immerse in the spiritual aura and show respect to the devout. Here's a guide to ensuring a harmonious temple visit.


Dress Code:

  • Dress modestly. Both men and women should wear clothing that covers the shoulders and knees. Sleeveless shirts, short skirts, and shorts are typically considered inappropriate.
  • Given Chiang Mai's tropical climate, choose breathable, light long pants and long-sleeved tops. This ensures comfort while maintaining respect for temple etiquette.
  • Remove your shoes before entering temple buildings or sacred areas. It's a sign of respect, and you'll often find designated spaces outside temple structures to leave your footwear.
  • Hats, caps, and other head coverings should be removed before entering the temple premises.


Behaviour and Customs:

  • Always show respect towards images or statues of Buddha. Avoid pointing your feet towards them or raising your head higher than the image.
  • Temples are places of worship and meditation. Keep conversations in hushed tones and ensure mobile phones are on silent mode.
  • Holding hands might be acceptable, but avoid hugging, kissing, or other intimate gestures.
  • Always check for signs or ask temple staff about photography permissions. Some areas or artefacts may be off-limits for photos.
  • Avoid physical contact with monks if you're a woman. This includes handing objects directly to them. If you wish to give something to a monk, place it down for him to pick up or hand it to a male intermediary.


Best Times to Visit:

  • As dawn breaks, temples are abuzz with morning chants and rituals. This is a wonderful time to visit, where you can witness the real essence of temple life. Plus, the cooler morning temperatures make for a comfortable exploration.
  • Temples are generally less crowded during weekdays as opposed to weekends. If you're looking for a quiet, contemplative visit, aim for a weekday.
  • Consider visiting Chiang Mai during the off-peak tourism seasons. Not only will the temples be less crowded, but you'll also experience the city in a more relaxed ambience.

A visit to the temples of Chiang Mai is not just about admiring architectural grandeur; it's a journey into the heart of a culture deeply rooted in respect, reverence, and ritual. Adhering to temple etiquette ensures you're showing respect and enriches your overall experience.


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Su Thep, Muang Chiang Mai District,

Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand


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