Chiang Mai is a peaceful escape from the frantic bustle of its southern rival capital Bangkok. Rich in history, fabulous food and traditional culture, this ever growing city is still firmly authentic despite attracting visitors from around the world.
One thing that makes this city so glorious is its dazzling collection of temples, each unique in character and different to its neighbour. There are temples around every corner in Chiang Mai, so many that after a few days of wandering the streets you may find yourself slightly ‘done’ with them.
To help you in your temple selection, here are my top three favourites, whose beauty and serenity I still remember to this day.
Wat Chiang Man
Situated in the north-east corner of Chiang Mai’s walled Old City, sits the Wat Chiang Man temple. Built in 1296, this glorious complex holds Chiang Mai’s first ever temple, laced in gold and glittering detail. Inside sits two rare Buddha statues, the Crystal Buddha and the Marble Buddha.
Out in the gardens stands an ancient Chedi, the complex’s oldest construction, studded with life-sized elephants. A unique combination of grey stone and a shining gold peak, the Chedi is simply striking.
Apart from the dazzling architecture, the peaceful gardens are a place of serenity. As you can see, I was quite happy wandering the quiet pathways…
Perhaps one of my favourite pictures from my travels, the below image will forever bring me a feeling of peace. As it sits framed on my mantelpiece, I can hear the sound of chirping birds in the air and almost feel the sun shining on my face as I gaze into its captured moment.
Wat Chedi Luang
The towering ruins of the Chedi were perhaps ancient Chiang Mai’s tallest structure. Nobody knows for sure what happened to the top of the building, perhaps a 16th century earthquake, or a canon fire. Built in 1441, the Chedi still has a powerful presence among its surroundings after a restoration in the 1990s. Five elephants support the base, one of which is still an original.
Guarding the entrance to the main temple sit two fierce golden dragons, their astonishing statue and detail contrasting to the minimal décor of the building.
Once inside, an overwhelmingly vibrant space is revealed. Beautiful silk ribbons hang from the ceiling, bringing good luck to their worshippers. Gilded with golf leaf, the Pra Buddha Attharos greets you, his standing posture a representation of peace.
The interior of this temple was probably the most striking. The carpet of lanterns and ribbons that cover the ceilings are exquisite, and the silent still atmosphere is one to find peace with.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
The legendary temple sat near the top of Mount Suthep is one of Northern Thailand’s most treasured landmarks, known not only for its sacred buildings but also its panoramic views of Chiang Mai. Visitors can choose a uphill climb of 306 steps or to take a mountain side lift to its peak.
Sadly our trip to Wat Phra That was met with a downpour of rain, casting a misty blanket over the city views. The wet weather however did not take away from the glorious gold structures and their intricate designs.
One thing I loved about this sky high temple is the many treasures to be found including the world’s largest gong and a shrine to the white elephant. Unique statues sit on ever corner where pilgrims queue to present shrines with lotus flowers, and hand painted designs cover the walls.
The intensity of the gold canvas that covers the complex was overwhelming compared to the monotone greys and browns of the city architecture that I’m used to. It feel surreal and almost fake that I could walk among these lavish treasures so freely.
Do you have a favourite temple or place that you’ve been that has overwhelmed you?