Before I head to Chiang Mai, I didn’t know this place is full of temples. When I did a google search, Wikipedia told me that there are over 300 Buddhist temples (“wat” in Thai) in Chiang Mai alone. The number is really staggering considering Chiang Mai is not very huge after all. Although I’m not a fan of temple, those in Chiang Mai took my breath away. Out of so many of them, three temples really stole my heart. So if you ask me what are the Must See Temples in Chiang Mai? Here’s your answer.
Where is Chiang Mai?
Located 700km (435 miles) north of Bangkok, Chiang Mai is a city in mountainous northern Thailand. Unlike many big cities out there, Chiang Mai is both a natural and cultural destination, where the past and the present seamlessly merge with modern buildings standing side by side with venerable temples.
Just under half an hour’s drive, Chiang Mai’s verdant countryside and mountains offer limitless possibilities for nature explorations as well as visits to many fascinating ethnic hill-tribe villages. I’ve written about the Best of Chiang Mai in 6 days. You can check it out and discover what the beautiful countryside has to offer.
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Must See Temples In Chiang Mai No 1 – Wat Chedi Luang
Located right in the city center, Wat Chedi Luang is the most impressive temple in my opinion. Built sometime between 1385 and 1402, the massive chedi (pagoda) measured 60 metres across at the square base and 80 metres tall. This was possibly the largest structure in ancient Chiang Mai.
Unfortunately, the top of the chedi was destroyed by either a 16th-century earthquake or by cannon fire during the recapture of Chiang Mai from the Burmese in 1775 (nobody knows for sure). As the result, the chedi’s height is reduced to nearly half of its original size. Nevertheless, it’s still a very impressive structure awed by others.
Apart from the chedi, there’s a beautiful temple right next to it. The design of the temple is so intricate and meticulous, drawing a stark contrast from the bold chedi.
Inside the temple, you’ll find many golden statues, where people can make prayers to. If you wish to make a wish, you can even purchase a small piece of “gold” sticker, and stick it onto a statue of your choice. A very unique experience indeed!
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Must See Temples In Chiang Mai No 2 – Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
A Thai saying goes, “If you haven’t tasted Khao Soi or seen the view from Doi Suthep, you haven’t been to Chiang Mai.” Situated in the middle of the mountain, the temple is one of the most historically and spiritually significant places in Thailand.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep’s origins date back almost seven hundred years, to 1382. The fact that it’s situated in the mountain makes the place even more holy and mysterious. Even till today, it’s still a working monastery. Funds raised by donations and the lift fee go to support the monks living there and for maintenance of the various temple buildings. The architecture, statues, murals and shrines seen here are nothing short of breathtaking.
To get there, you either have to fetch a tuk-tuk/taxi, or drive by yourself. The ride is around 30 mins from the city center. Once you reach the top, you’ll see a golden spire in the centre of the mountain top temple. Surrounding it are many richly Buddha statues. You can even find a beautiful copy of the Emerald Buddha statue. The real Emerald Buddha statue is now in Bangkok.
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Must See Temples In Chiang Mai No 3 – Wat Umong
Wat Umong is another very special temple in Chiang Mai. Also known as the “Tunnel temple”, it’s unique because of its location in the forest and its system of tunnels. Approximately 20 mins by car from the city, Wat Umong provides a sense of peace and serenity that you can barely find in other temples.
Its origin dates back to 13th Century. The temple complex also has a monastery so there are always monks walking around, often circling the stupa in prayer.
Before entering, you need to take off your shoes and remain silent as this is a place of worship. Inside the tunnel, you’ll see a few golden Buddha statues at different ends for you to pay respect to. If you are observant, you may even notice some old drawings of elephants and temples on the tunnel ceiling, thought to date back to the 13th or 14th Century.
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Here’s the V-log I created for the temple hunt!
How to get around?
There’s no better way to explore Chiang Mai and its countryside than renting a car on your own! You may be wondering why you need a car. Well, if you are just exploring the Chiang Mai city, there may not be a need. But if you want to explore the “nearby” places like Doi Inthanon and Pai, which is at least 2 hours away, you need to get a car! If not, your transportation cost is going to be crazy! Personally we chose Budget Car Rental, as it’s very affordable and service is awesome.
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Where to stay?
During my 2 days visit, I stayed at the Opium Serviced Apartment and Hotel. The hotel is super comfortable and clean. The room is nicely decorated with a tribal touch. Believe it or not, it’s only under $40 per night!
Later when I was chatting with the owner Boom, he told to me that he studied his university in England. And later he found out that his passion lies in hospitality and serving people. That’s why when he came back to Chiang Mai, he decided to set up his own hotel. And he’s totally enjoying it right now.
Apart from the awesome room and friendly service, the hotel also has a cooling swimming pool. This pool is perfect, especially in the middle of the summer. 😀
I also made a video about the awesome stay with the hotel. Check it out!
Here’s the conclusion, the Must See Temples in Chiang Mai are Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Umong and Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Are you in love with Chiang Mai now? I hope you do! Chiang Mai is such a beautiful city full of nature and culture. Even a non-temple fan like me finds Chiang Mai really charming and gorgeous. I’m sure you enjoy it very much too! If you’ve been to Chiang Mai before, share with us your experience by commenting below. Happy travels!
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