Late one afternoon, when it was much cooler, we set off on foot to visit a number of wats that I wanted to photograph. We started at Wat Chedi Luang. Although the front of the grounds houses new, ornately decorated temple buildings, Wat Chiedi Man is home to the ruins of a 600-year-old temple that was once home to the Emerald Buddha that now resides in the Grand Palace grounds. The brick and stone structure, surrounded by carved elephants, has not been fully restored but was once the tallest building in Chiang Mai.
Wat Pan Tao, next door to Wat Chedi Luang, is one of the few temples constructed in wood and still in good condition.
We then walked north to Wat Chiang Man, the oldest temple in Chiang Mai, home to a tiny crystal buddha thought to have the power to bring rain. It was built in 1292 and is a exceptional example of Lanna-style architecture.
From there we walked south west towards Wat Phra Singh (Phra Singh means lion Buddha) passing this small temple which was almost in the middle of the street.
This is a typical scripture repository. These repositories were designed to keep and protect the delicate sa or mullberry paper sheets used by monks and scribes to keep records and write down folklore. The high stucco-covered stone base of the repository protected the delicate scriptures from the rain, floods and pests.
The lovely Lai Kam chapel houses the revered Phra Singh Buddha image. Sadly, the head was stolen in 1922, and a reproduction is now seen.
Gathered at the front of the buildings were several ladies offering you the opportunity to make merit for yourself by releasing birds from the confines of small baskets. I have never fully understood the logic behind this practice. I can see how you could earn merit for yourself by releasing the birds but what about the people who captured them in the first place. In some temples, we were glad to see, this practice is now actively discouraged.
The rows of smaller white chedis contain the ashes of Chiang Mai Royal family. We got there just in time to see the sun set but it wasn’t particularly spectacular. The main wat building was being renovated and was surrounded by scaffolding and safety netting making it impossible to photograph the exterior.
I went inside to look around; the columns have been covered with new red and blue and gold mosaic pieces and it was really vibrantly coloured.
In the evening we fortified ourselves at the mobile bar – a songthaew which had been converted to a small bar which set up most evenings just across the road from our guest house.
It proved to be a place to chat to some really interesting people, for example, a Canadian urban bee-keeper. Small stools were set up around the bar and everyone was happy to chat to everyone else. The bar closed at 11pm so nobody’s sleep was disturbed. We thought it was a really neat idea and it was very popular.