May 15, 2014
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
Chiang Mai is famous for its numerous Buddhist temples or “Wats” located in and around the city. There are over 200 and some of these structures date back to when the city was originally established in 1296. Despite more than 700 years of successive kings rearranging the landscape to leave their own distinct mark upon it, most of the temples remained untouched. What you can see today are the temples in their original glory, with stunning hand painted murals and elaborate carvings decorating the interiors. That so many of these temples have survived intact for so many centuries is testament to the skills of the original builders as well as the dedication of the numerous artisans down the years who worked to maintain them for future generations. These temples still form an important part in the lives of the Thai people who visit them frequently to worship.
These are some of the better-known temples that you should consider visiting if you have registered for a medical placement in Chiang Mai.
Built around 1383 and standing near the top of Mount Suthep to the north-west of the city, this is the most famous Temple in the area. The story goes that King Keuna of Chiang Mai selected a white elephant to choose the resting place for a holy relic of the Lord Buddha. The elephant strolled up the mountain and finally laid down the relic at a spot it chose. The Temple was erected at that spot. Inside the temple, is a prominent replica of the famous Emerald Buddha, the original of which is kept in Bangkok.
This is considered to be one of the most important Temples in the city as it houses the Phra Singh Buddha, a highly revered statue. Within the Wat Phra Singh temple complex is a learning centre where young boys and men study to become Buddhist monks. This temple was built in 1345 and is located on the western side of the old walled city.
Commissioned by King Mengrai in 1296 as part of the original city construction, this was the first temple to be built in Chiang Mai. It is located in the north-east corner of the old walled city. Inside the temple are two rare Buddha statues, the Marble Buddha and the Crystal Buddha.
Located in the forested foothills of Mount Suthep, Wat U-Mong is one of the most unusual of all the temples in the area, in that it is mostly underground beneath a large hill with a flattened top. This complex contains numerous brick-lined tunnels which can be easily navigated. Built in the 14th century for a revered monk it was later abandoned for six centuries. The trees throughout the complex are decorated with hundreds of short Buddhist proverbs in English and Thai.
All of the temples are easily accessible and non-Buddhists are allowed to enter. You will have to leave your footwear outside before going inside though.