by Aaron James
Wat Phra Singh
Most lovers of historic architecture and culture head for Europe. The treasures of Venice, Rome and Florence are well known, but broader minded travelers in search of breathtaking historic architecture are heading east – Far East!.
Thailand has been a popular holiday destination for years, renowned for its tropical beaches, night market shopping bargains, warm tropical temperatures and gourmet cuisine. Now its architectural wonders are being added to its long list of assets.
Chiang Mai’s Heritage:
Chiang Mai is in northern Thailand, closer to Myanmar and Laos than to Bangkok, and the influence of its neighbors clearly shows. Art, architecture and handicrafts all have a certain Burmese style about them. Chiang Mai’s rich heritage goes back to the days when it was the capital city of the Lanna Kingdom, in the 13th century.
Lying in a fertile valley on the west bank of the Ping River, Chiang Mai is encircled by green hills. The well preserved historic town is encompassed by a square moat and is entered via one of the five restored gates. The modern town has spilled out beyond the Thae Pae Gate to the river and has excellent accommodation for visitors.
While some backpackers use Chiang Mai as a starting point for treks into the surrounding jungle, others now choose to stay and explore the wealth of stunning architecture within the old city.
“80 Wats in Chiang Mai”:
Chiang Mai’s temples or “wats” are much older than those found in Bangkok, and very different in style. There are 36 wats still standing within the old city walls, and more in the surrounding area. Those most worthy of note include Wat Chiang Man, probably the oldest temple in Chiang Mai. Built 700 years ago, carved elephants can be seen supporting the structure. Situated on the site of King Mengrai’s camp, it is known for its revered Buddha statues and the crystal Phra Satang Khamani, a tiny figure of great antiquity believed to hold rain-making powers.
Wat Phra Singh was built in 1345 to hold the ashes of King Kam Fu and is the largest wat in Chiang Mai. It has a collection of Lanna art and a Buddhist scripture library.
Behind the new viharn (monastery) is one of Chiang Mai’s finest buildings, the famous Phra Viharn Lai Kam containing the image of Phra Singh Buddha. The walls are decorated with wonderfully preserved 19th century murals showing the local dress, customs and daily life of Chiang Mai more than a century ago.
Outside the city moat lies Wat Chet Yot with its seven spires. It a replica of a temple in Myanmar, which is itself a copy of the Mahabodhi temple in India. Legend surrounds the ruined Wat Chedi Luang, partially destroyed by an earthquake in 1545. The 60m wide base of the Grand Pagoda still has several Buddhas inside. The nearby City Pillar stands beneath a gum tree and it is believed Chiang Mai will only prosper as long as the gum tree thrives.
After a busy day exploring the many amazing wats and historical buildings of the northern capital, unwind in one of Chiang Mai’s many beautifulhotels.
Did you know that there are eleven 5* Star Hotels in Chiang Mai?