Tag Archives: chiang mai

Monk Chat in Chiang Mai

The Monk Chats in Chiang Mai have been going on for quite a few years. I took this picture at Wat Chedi Luang, but the monk chats take place in other temples these days. Basically, this is an opportunity for novice monks and young monks to practice their English with foreign tourists. At the same time, foreigners can learn a little about life in a Thai temple and what it’s like to be a Buddhist. If you go, please dress respectfully and maybe leave a donation in the box afterwards. For ladies, you shouldn’t touch or be alone with a monk.

Wat Ketkaram

Wat Ketkaram, Chiang Mai

Year of the Dog: For people born in this year, they should pay respect to the chedi at Ket Kaeo Chulamanee. Unfortunately this temple is in Heaven and so is a little difficult to drive there. Fortunately for us, in 1428 A.D., a replica of this temple was built in Chiang Mai. It is actually quite an interesting temple to wander around even though it is not in the Lonely Planet. If you want to go there, you will find it on the east bank of the Ping River. If you look closely at the above photograph, you can see that the top part is slightly askew. This is because the builders didn’t want to show any disrespect to the original version by having this chedi point straight up to Heaven. In the temple grounds there is also an interesting museum of local artifacts which the monks have collected over the years. Another fascinating feature in the temple grounds is this ubosot pictured below. Look at those intricate carvings on the door and the front of the building. Very unusual. If you are ever in Chiang Mai, make an effort to visit this temple. Certainly you should come here if you were born in the Year of the Dog. Thai people believe that your spirit will reside in the chedi representing the year of your birth. So, you should try and visit the temple to pay respects before you die!

Wat Phra That Hariphunchai

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Wat Phra That Hariphunchai, Lamphun Province

Year of the Rooster: Lamphun is a small town about 28 kms southeast of Chiang Mai. One of the highlights of the town is this stunning chedi at Wat Phra That Haripunchai. Does it look familiar to you? You may recognize some of the features in the above picture if you have ever been to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai. That temple was in fact based on this one in Lamphun. The 46 metre high chedi, which contains a hair of the Lord Buddha, dates back to the 9th Century. According to legend, the Buddha once visited the town near here on his alms round. He correctly predicted that a man would in the future build a town on that spot and call it Harinphunchai Nakhon. Of interest in this temple is a large bronze gong which is claimed to be the biggest of its kind in the world. There is also an old wooden library (see below) which is built on a high brick pedestal. Thai people believe that this temple is one of the holiest in the country. It is also an important pilgrimage site for people born in the Year of the Rooster.

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Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

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Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai Province

Year of the Goat: If you ever go to Chiang Mai, then you must make sure you visit this temple at the top of the mountain at Doi Suthep. The golden chedi is really beautiful and if you go there on a clear day, you will also see fine views of Chiang Mai city and the surrounding countryside. This temple dates back to 1373 A.D. There is a fascinating legend about how the site for this temple was chosen. The Lanna king at that time invited a monk from Sukhothai to bring him a relic of the Lord Buddha. When he arrived, the relic mysteriously duplicated itself. One piece was enshrined at Wat Suan Dok. The other piece was put in a box on the back of an auspicious white elephant. The elephant was then left to wander on its own accord. It then proceeded up to the top of Suthep Mountain where it walked in a circle three times and then promptly fell down dead. The chedi was then built on this spot to house the relic. This temple is an important place for people born in the Year of the Goat.

Wat Phra That Doi suthep

Thai 12 Year Animal Cycle

12 year cycle
The temples associated with each animal in the 12 year cycle

I am now half way through listing each of the temples that represent a different animal in the 12 year cycle. In Thai this system is called “naksat pi”. Thai people believe it is important that they should visit the temple associated with their birth sign.  I was born in the Year of the Goat, so I should visit Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai on the anniversary of each 12 year cycle. These pilgrimage sites are considered highly sacred because of their associations with the Lord Buddha. According to legend, seven of these temples were visited by the Buddha, four others contain his relics and the 12th one is in heaven. However, this last temple has a representative here on Earth. To be precise, in Chiang Mai. Two other temples are not in Thailand. These are Bodhgaya in India and Shwedagon Pagoda in Burma. But, they both have sacred representatives here in Thailand.

Earlier this year, armed with a guidebook in Thai, I attempted a pilgrimage to all of these sacred sites in Thailand. Here is the list of the temples I have written about so far:

There are six more sacred sites. Did I visit them all? Come back later to find out.

Wat Jet Yot

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Wat Jet Yot, Chiang Mai

Year of the Snake: This turned out to be one of the hardest temples for me to find. All I had was the name Wat Maha Potaram (also written Wat Botharam Maha Vihara). It wasn’t in any of my guidebooks. The people at the Tourist Authority of Thailand (TAT) didn’t know too. All I knew was that it was in Chiang Mai and it looked a bit like the famous Bodhgaya in India. I nearly gave up but decided to go back to the TAT office on my last day in the city. I was in luck. A local resident happened to be visiting the office at that time. She told me that it is on the northern highway loop and that it is better known by its nickname, Wat Jet Yot, or temple with the seven spires.

Wat Jet Yot was built in the mid 15th Century. The seven spires represent the seven weeks that the Buddha spent in Bodhgaya before he went out to spread his teachings. The outside wall is decorated with a stucco relief of an assembly of angels. In the grounds there is a bodhi tree much like the one that the Buddha set under during his enlightenment. As well as being an important pilgrimage site for people born in the Year of the Snake, the temple is also the historical location for the eighth world seminar on the revision of the Tripitaka in 1477 A.D. If you cannot make it to Bodhgaya in India, then this temple is a good alternative.

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