Chiang Mai Day 3 (11 Nov 17) – Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Phan Tao – Ancient Temples in Old City and Another Day of Shopping in Chiang Mai

Today we planned to visit some of the temples in the Old City, after all during my research prior to this trip, I found out that there are several temples worth visiting in the Old City. As we did not have the dedicated car today, we moved around in the city via songthaew.

The impressive stupa in Wat Chedi Luang

The Chedi That Stood the Test of Time – Wat Chedi Luang

Our first stop today is Wat Chedi Luang. The main draw for us to visit Wat Chedi Luang is the partially ruin chedi that was believed to be the tallest building in ancient Chiang Mai. Entering Wat Chedi Luang, pass the ticketing counter, a small shrine – Inthakhin Pillar Vihara at the side of the main building is the first thing that we visit. Interestingly, there is a sign that says women are not allowed to enter this shrine. Upon reading the sign, it is believed that the city pillar of Chiang Mai was buried beneath this shrine and that women who entered might cause social instability. The interior of Inthakhin Pillar Vihara is very colourful, with paintings that depict Buddhism in Thailand. We headed for the main prayer hall just a little into the temple grounds of Wat Chedi Luang’s main entrance, pass Inthakhin Pillar Vihara. This large viharn is guarded by 2 elephants and 2 nagas, the 3 tiered roof of the main shrine is a work of art. The facade of the shrine is covered with Lanna-styled gold elaborate and detailed carvings. The interior of the viharn, decked in maroon and gold colours, look grand and elegant. A row of chandelier hangs in the centre of the ceiling that leads all the way into the prayer hall. The main Buddha, standing a whopping 3 storey tall, was cast in the 14th century. To this date, the Buddha statue is very well maintained and there are no signs that show its age. Visitors to Wat Chedi Luang can buy some gold foils from a desk at the entrance of the viharn to paste onto the Buddha statues. The Thais believe that pasting of gold foils onto Buddha statues is a way of making merits and is also believed that one would get their prayers answered by doing so. There is a row of small stupas nearer to the entrance of the temple building, where visitors can paste the gold foils according to the zodiac animals that one is born in. There are also Buddha statues further into the viharn next to the stupas, where one can paste the gold foil according to the day of the week one is born. We bought 3 gold foils and pasted one onto the Buddha statue at the entrance of the viharn, one on the stupa according to our zodiac animal and one onto the Buddha statues according to the day of our birth.

Guardian at Wat Chedi Luang
Entrance of Wat Chedi Luang, from this angle, the massive stupa is not visible
Viharn that the city pillar is buried beneath. Woman are not allowed to enter this small viharn
The interior of the viharn, the murals painted onto the walls depicts Buddhism
Impressive mural inside the viharn
Murals inside the small viharn
Exterior of the small viharn by the entrance of the Wat Chedi Luang
The exterior of the main viharn of Wat Chedi Luang
Taking a wefie with the elephant statue in front of the main viharn in Wat Chedi Luang
One of the 2 nagas guarding the main viharn in Wat Chedi Luang
Entrance to the main viharn in Wat Chedi Luang
The interior of the main viharn is impressive
Small stupas for visitors to paste gold foil onto
Pasting a gold foil onto the stupa of my zodiac animal
Buddha statues for visitors to paste gold foil onto according to the day of birth
Buddha statues for visitors to paste gold foil onto according to the day of birth
Buddha statues for visitors to paste gold foil onto according to the day of birth
Me pasting gold foil onto the statue that represents the day of my birth
The Buddha statues in the main viharn in Wat Chedi Luang
Wax figurine of past head abbots of Wat Chedi Luang
Me pasting a gold foil on the Buddha statue at the entrance of the viharn
The main viharn with the stupa in Wat Chedi Luang

The highlight of Wat Chedi Luang lies behind the main temple, this is where the giant stupa that seems to stand the test of time is located. The 5-tiered stupa, built in 1441, is massive! With a height of 62m and base diameter of 54m, the stupa is impressive. It used to be 82m tall and was at one point, the tallest building in Chiang Mai. However, an earthquake sent the top 30m tumbling down. Despite that, the stupa is still impressive. The stupa once housed the Emerald Buddha at the top, which now sits in the Grand Palace in Bangkok. The Emerald Buddha is regarded as a symbol of power which gives whoever possesses it the legitimacy to rule the country. Walking around the stupa, it seems that the earthquake did not take away the grandeur the stupa exudes. Every inch is a work of art, I can imagine how grand and elaborate this stupa must have been in its heydey. A pair of Nagas statues guarding the 4 stairways on each side of the stupa, that leads to the top of the stupa for centuries. The Buddha statues housed in the top of the stupa on all four sides are visible from the base of the stupa. The stupa is fenced up these days to prevent visitors from climbing, thereby causing more damage to the dedicate stupa. On the southern side of the stupa, 7 elephants can be seen protruding out of the stupa on the 4th tier, that seem to be carrying the weight of the top tier of the stupa. Some of these elephants less 2 have been restored over the years.

The massive stupa that Wat Chedi Luang is built around
There are Buddha statues like this one on the base of each of the 4 sides of the stupa
Stupa up close
One of the 5-headed nagas guarding the entrance to the stupa at the base
Stairways up to the stupa, which is out of bounds these days
View of the massive stupa, a Buddha statue can be seen installed inside the stupa
Taking a wefie with stupa in Wat Chedi Luang
Another view of the stupa in Wat Chedi Luang
Stupa in Wat Chedi Luang with a Buddha statue at the base
Elephants on top of the stupa in Wat Chedi Luang
5 of the 7 elephants on the stupa

Behind the stupa lies an open building that houses a large statue of the Reclining Buddha, with a short fence at the front of the building. Initial we were just taking pictures from beyond the fence. A closer observation, I realise that the fence was not locked and visitors are allowed to enter the building through the gate. One can take pictures without pillars of the building blocking from inside the building. There are 3 other statues of Buddha housed in the same building. Next to the building with the reclining Buddha are 2 wooden buildings. These buildings houses wax figurines of the abbots of Wat Chedi Luang. We headed for the exit after spending a little more time admiring the stupa which Wat Chedi Luang is built around.

Reclining Buddha in the building behind the stupa in Wat Chedi Luang
Buddha statues in the same building as the Reclining Buddha
Another Buddha statue in the same building as the Reclining Buddha
One of the 2 wooden buildings next to the Reclining Buddha
One of the 2 wooden buildings beside the Reclining Buddha

The Unsung Treasure of Chiang Mai – Wat Phan Tao

Leaving Wat Chedi Luang, we headed to a small temple next to Wat Chedi Luang. This small wooden temple is Wat Phan Tao, which is often overlooked by visitors. Wat Phan Tao is a small temple, with only one wiharn that faces the main road. The beauty of Wat Phan Tao lies with the material that was used for its construction. Wat Phan Tao was constructed entirely of moulded teak wood panels fitted together and supported by 28 teak wood pillars. Not a nail was used in the construction of this temple. As it is not visited by tourists, I find it particularly peaceful inside the wiharn of Wat Phan Tao. Inside Wat Phan Tao houses a golden Buddha statue. There are some old temple bells, ceramics and old palm-leaf manuscripts on display inside Wat Phan Tao. After taking some pictures, we exited Wat Phan Tao and headed for more shopping.

 

Exterior of Wat Phan Tao
Wat Phan Tao is made entirely of teak wood
Exterior of Wat Phan Tao
Some gold decors on the facade of Wat Phan Tao
Buddha Statue inside Wat Phan Tao

Shopping in Central Festival Chiang Mai

Our next stop is Central Festival Chiang Mai, located northeast outside the Old City. Compared to Maya Lifestyle Shopping Centre, Central Festival Chiang Mai not just is bigger, it is also livelier. The mega shopping mall is one of the largest in Chiang Mai, covering 250,000 ㎡ of shopping space, spread over 6 floors. The shopping mall houses more than 300 shops, with a good mix of local and international brands, such as Marks & Spencer and Uniqlo to name a few. This place is a shopping haven for shopaholics. It is a one-stop shopping complex that has everything that one would find in a modern shopping mall. There is even an ice-skating ring in Central Festival Chiang Mai, other than the usual mega cineplex. The 4th and 5th floors of the shopping mall mainly house eateries with local and international cuisines up for choice. There is a Thai local food roadshow in the basement of Central Festival Chiang Mai at the time we went. Here is where we got most of our local food souvenirs and the price is rather reasonable. At the time we were there, most of the shops are having a sale, we had a great time shopping here. The shopping mall has a tourist privilege scheme, where tourists can get a discount card good for discounts in numerous shops in the shopping mall, with discounts up to 50%, although the shop that we went to offer only 5% discount. The shopping mall event has a complimentary shuttle bus service that links the shopping mall with some of the bigger hotels in Chiang Mai. 6 routes at a fixed time schedule brings visitors to and from the hotel they stay in. A word of caution, as the shuttle buses can be quite small, do be at the shuttle bus pick up point 15 mins prior to the departure to secure a seat. When at the pickup point, just walk up to the bus and the staff will be happy to let you board while waiting for the scheduled time to depart. The bus that brought us to our hotel can take up to 9 pax, a group of Chinese tourists tried to board the bus but it was full.

Central Festival Chiang Mai is a modern mega shopping mall in Chiang Mai
Facade of Central Festival Chiang Mai
Inside Central Festival Chiang Mai
Inside Central Festival Chiang Mai
Wefie inside Central Festival Chiang Mai

Shopping on the Saturday Walking Street

After resting a little in the hotel and having dinner, we spent our last night in Chiang Mai shopping in their Saturday Walking Street. The Saturday Walking Street is a night market that opens only on Saturdays from 4pm until midnight. The street that this Saturday Night Market is located south of the Old City along Wualai Road and is popular with locals and tourists alike. As the entire road is closed to traffic, visitors can be assured of a safe vehicle-free shopping environment. The Saturday Walking Street is very crowded when we visited. We walked at a zombie-like slow speed. There is no lack of night market shopping here with the numerous stalls selling stuff that is typical of any night market in Thailand. Most of the stalls on the Saturday Walking Street sells mainly souvenir items like those “I have been to Chiang Mai” type of T-shirts, handicraft souvenirs from keychains to soap carvings. I do find the prices here to be cheaper compared to any night markets in Bangkok. As with the Night Bazaar, there are pockets of areas where one can detour in to find more shops or even a street food area. As it was a warm night at the time of our visit, there are insects flying around the lights, we did not try any of the street food here. We spent the whole night walking along the Saturday Walking Street, mostly browsing on the items that are up for sale.

One of the stalls selling food on Saturday Walking Street
Food stalls on Saturday Walking Street
Shopping on Saturday Walking Street
Shopping on Saturday Walking Street
There is a huge crowd on Saturday Walking Street
Shopping on Saturday Walking Street
Shopping on Saturday Walking Street

Surprise Find of the Silver Temple – Wat Sri Suphan

As we were walking in the Saturday Walking Street, we made a turn at a fork junction. Little did we expect this route that we took brought us to a surprising temple that is totally not in our plan to visit. As we were walking along the street, reliving that the crowd here is thinner than what we had experienced, we were attracted to some performances inside a temple ground. A thin crowd gathered to see some men performing with fire. After the performance, since we are already at a temple, we decided to check it out. The main wiharn of this temple is an impressive 4-tiered roof large building. A little further from the entrance to the temple, we saw a small 2-tiered wiharn in Silver. This is the Silver temple or known as Wat Sri Suphan. The silver temple is made using a mix of aluminium, compounded silver and pure silver. The temple is built in 1500 to serve as the main temple for a silversmith village. A couple of Buddha statues, one in silver and the other in gold, sits peacefully in front of the silver temple. The entrance of the silver temple is guarded by 2 5-headed nagas. The temple is especially spectacular at night when the interchange colours are being cast onto the temple, giving it a mystical feel. The temple is out of bounds to female visitors due to an old Buddhist rule. The work is impressive inside the temple. Traces of painstaking carvings in every panel can be seen. There are even carvings of the world map on the floor of the Wat Sri Suphan. There are murals that depict Buddhism as well as the late Thai King. A golden Buddha statue sits in the temple, contrasting with the silver used in the construct of the temple. After visiting the temple, we traced back our footsteps back to the night market and shopped a little before heading back to the hotel to rest as it is almost midnight and the stalls are packing up, ending the day of sales.

Entrance to Wat Sri Suphan
We were attracted to the fire performance in Wat Sri Suphan
Fire performance in Wat Sri Suphan
Main viharn in Wat Sri Suphan
The unique and impressive Silver temple in Wat Sri Suphan
Purple lighting cast onto the Silver temple in Wat Sri Suphan
Elaborate carving on the silver walls of the Silver temple
The Golden Buddha inside the Silver Temple in Wat Sri Suphan
Even the chandelier is cast in silver
Taking a wefie inside the Silver Temple
Buddha statue inside the Silver Temple
One of the Nagas guarding the entrance to the Silver Temple in Wat Sri Suphan
Gold Buddha statue outside the Silver Temple
Facade of the Silver Temple

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