One of the biggest reasons I wanted to go to Chiang Mai was that I knew it had lots of cool temples. Even though I’m not religious, when I went to Japan, I loved visiting temples because they were beautiful and serene. They represented a way of thinking and a way of life. In Bangkok I found that the temples were equally important or maybe even more so. In Bangkok we noticed that people came to temples such as Wat Pho and the Grand Palace with the full intention of spending a whole day at the temple site. The temples were places for people to get together and relax as well as to meditate and pray.
Thus when we reached Chiang Mai, I had a full plan for which temples I wanted to see. Of course this was not as easy as it sounded. We arrived at the first temple, which was supposed to be Wat Chedi Luang—or did we? We saw red columns. We saw doors with big figures in gold. There was a Buddha in the earth position. On the right were cabinets with religious urns. But something seemed wrong. We asked a school girl, but she laughed and said this was the temple we were supposedly looking for. So we took a few pictures and then we kept walking.
|Wat Phra Si Luang, photo by D.R.R.|
We got to Wat Phra Si Luang, one of the main temples. The red-carpeted structure had a Big Buddha inside with ten or so little Buddhas below. The roof had red beams which contrasted with white columns. There was a pretty, smaller temple to the left side, and a smaller Buddha flanked by two more Buddhas and gold lotus blossoms. A man and his son unwrapped lotus blossoms in big leaves to put in the pots before the altar. In the corner was a vacuum and a monk. Even temples get dirty!
Then I had to let my poor tired friends stop for lunch even though I hated wasting the time for something so mundane. But then we proceeded to Wat Hua Khuang, Wat Lam Chang, and Wat Chiang Man. Wat Chiang Man not only had elephant statues, but it had its own elephant temple! It was very cool.
By the time we’d visited Wat Umong, a temple whose name we couldn’t discern, and Wat Phan On, I conceded we might be done for the day. We headed back towards our guest house, but when we stopped for postcards at the edge of Old Town, I found views of the real Wat Chedi Luang. That’s not where we’d been in the morning at all!
|Wat Chiang Man, photo by D.R.R.|
While my hot, tired, and footsore friends returned to the guest house, I retraced my steps until I finally reached the elusive Wat Chedi Luang. Luckily, it was worth the extra effort.
For my fictional version of Thailand, a novel called THAI TWIST, please see http://www.drransdellnovels.com. Indeed, the protagonists visit a couple of temples--but not all of them!
When have you had the most trouble finding an iconic site? If the Eiffel Tower weren’t so high, I would probably have trouble finding it too!