Alana Morgan is a twenty-something traveler trying to figure out life one place at a time. Check out more of her stories, photos and experiences of what it’s like to be a young expat in Asia on her blog Paper Planes.
Tired of temples? Starting to think they all look alike?
While all temples have similar architecture, themes and designs running through them, several in Chiang Mai stand out from the crowd with unique locations, building materials and stories.
Many people know about the ‘White Temple’ in Chiang Rai, but did you know there’s a silver one in Chiang Mai? Off of Wualai Road (the Saturday Walking Street), Wat Sri Suphan not only has a gorgeous temple filled with unique wall paintings, but also a special ubosot (‘shrine’ in Thai) completely covered with intricate silver designs by local artists. While the coverings for the holy images are made out of actual silver, the rest our mainly made from alloy and zinc – all our handmade. The project to create ‘The World’s First Silver Shrine’ started in 2004 and is still in progress – you can see the artists tapping designs into the metal daily on the temple grounds.
Location: 100 Wua Lai Road
The first thing you notice after entering the temple grounds is the unusually-shaped, rectangular chedi. Translated as ‘Temple of the Seven Peaks’, Wat Jed Yod is just off the Superhighway near Nimmanhaemin Road, but worth going out of your way for. The temple was built in the late 15th century and modeled after the Maha Bodhi Temple (hence the seven peaks on the chedi) in Bodhgaya, India (where the Buddha achieved enlightenment). The complex also has several temple buildings, shrines and areas to walk around.
Location: Just off the Superhighway, north of the Nimmanhaemin-Huay Kaew intersection
Located on the north side of the moat (outer road) between the north gate and northeast corner, Wat Lok Molee catches your eye with its unique entryway, dark temple, animal figures and impressive, crumbling chedi. Many chedis in Chiang Mai are covered, but here you can see all the bricks making up the large structure. The temple itself is different as well, made with very dark, polished wood instead of the usual white-washed walls.
Location: About 400 meters east from Chang Phuak Gate on Manee Nopparat Road
Like Wat Lok Molee, Wat Pan Tao is one of the few remaining wooden temples in town. It’s also relatively small, with exposed beams and tiled floor on the inside creating a warm, comforting atmosphere. Though it gets overshadowed by its larger, more prestigious next door neighbor, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Pan Tao has a quiet character to it that continues to draws people in.
Location: In the center of the old town, next to Wat Chedi Luang, on Prapokklao Road
While most people head to the top of Doi Suthep to visit the golden chedi of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, many don’t realize there’s another gem hiding part way up the mountain. The striking thing about Wat Palaad, found about halfway between Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and the bottom of the mountain, is not a particularly beautiful temple building, but magical temple grounds including a waterfall, forest paths and stunning views of the city. Take time simply to wander around soaking in the scenery and noticing the little touches – various Buddha statues, stairways leading seemingly nowhere, and tree trunks wrapped with pieces of saffron robes. There's also a great hike that goes from Huay Kaew waterfall, through Wat Palaad and up to Doi Suthep - check out our article Best Day Treks Out of Chiang Mai.
Location: Doi Suthep - When driving up looking for the large shrine on your left with a giant white Buddha statue, then go down the driveway to the left of the shrine.