The Ancient Temples Of Chiang Mai - Green Door Enterprises

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[Published on 2011-11-02 in Attractionsby Jesse Schule]

The Ancient Temples Of Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is Thailand's second largest city, and the former capital is well known for it's many historical Buddhist temples. Formerly known as "Lanna", meaning "the land of one million rice fields", this Northern Thai Kingdom reached it's peak in the 15th century. Travelers that visit Chiang Mai today can still see several of the temples that stood more than 600 years ago in the old city. The center of Chiang Mai, is restored to resemble it's original state, with a 3 KM long brick wall surrounding the old city, and a series of canals and bridges beyond the outer wall. In previous years these canals as well as the brick wall offered protection against invaders from Burma in the north.

One of the more significant temples is Wat Chedi Luang, located in the center of the old city of Chiang Mai on Phrapokklao Road. The main pagoda of Wat Chedi Luang was partially destroyed in the great earthquake of 1545, that lead to the demise of the Lanna Kingdom. During the height of the success of Lanna, the legendary Emerald Buddha was placed at the eastern niche of the temple, until 1551, a few years after the earthquake when Emerald Buddha was moved to Luang Prabang in Laos.

Tourists that make their way to the old city of Chiang Mai will find that most shops and travel agents will be able to provide them a map of the old city, that outlines a walking tour that highlights each and every temple located inside the city walls. It will take approximately half a day to complete the tour walking through the old city and viewing temples like Wat Phra Sing, Wat Chiang Mun, Wat Prasart, Wat Saen Fang and Wat Pan Tao.

Located at the peak of a mountain high above the city of Chiang Mai, Doi Suthep is by far most prestigious temple in Northern Thailand, and perhaps in the entire country. Known for the stunning panoramic view of the entire city from high above, Doi Suthep is said to be more than 700 years old, which actually makes it one of the more recently constructed temples from the Lanna period. The legend is that the site of the temple was determined by sending an elephant to roam in the hills, and when the enormous creature finally came to a stop at the peak, it trumpeted loudly to signal that it had decided on this particular spot. Doi Suthep is famous for it's large golden pagoda as well as the giant set of 309 stone steps at the entrance to the temple.

Similar to the temple at Doi Suthep, Wat Prathat Doi Saket is another well known temple in Chiang Mai. The temple at Doi Saket is located on a mountain outside the city, approximately a 30 minute drive from the center of Chiang Mai. The temple entrance at Doi Saket, similar to Doi Suthep,  has a steep set of stairs leading up to the temple. Another prominent feature is the giant golden sitting Buddha (Phra Buddha Pathimakorn), which is visible from the road that leads to the temple. One thing that sets this temple apart from all other Buddhist temples in Thailand, is the interior decorated with modern spiritual murals, painted by Khun Chaiwat Wannanon. It is rare to see modern paintings in ancient Buddhist temples, as most of the art is restored or done in the traditional style.

If you have an interest in Thai culture and history, then a tour of the ancient temples of Chiang Mai should be at the top of your list. Chiang Mai is nothing like the capital of Bangkok, and very different than the busy beach resort destinations in Southern Thailand. When you arrive in Chiang Mai you really feel as though your are seeing the real Thailand, less corrupted by tourism and modernization. Chiang Mai offers a unique atmosphere, and a pleasant change of pace from the bright lights of Bangkok and the hustle and bustle of the south.

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