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Explore Chiang Mai’s Oldest Temple: Wat Chiang Mun

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Wat Chiang Mun is Chiang Mai’s oldest temple, which was constructed at around the city’s development in 1296.  It was built by King Mengrai, founder of the city who lived in the temple while the new Lanna capital was being built.  The temple is located inside the old city, which is contained within a city wall and moat (built as protection from invaders).

One of the temple compound’s oldest structures is Chedi Chang Lom, or Elephant Chedi.  The structure is easily recognizable from its life-sized brick and stucco elephants carrying the upper levels of the building on their backs.

The compound also contains two viharns (monastery), the larger of which was renovated about 90 years ago by a monk named Khru Ba Srivichai.  The façade of this viharn features beautiful carvings of Kirtimukha (a demon with horns, huge fangs and gaping mouth) surrounded by flower and plant motives.

The smaller of the two viharns is famous for its two Buddha images, the stone stele Phra Sila and the quartz crystal image of Phra Sae Tang Khamani which according to legend are 1800 and 2500 years old respectively.  Phra Sila is revered to have rain giving powers and is the focus of a festival at the temple held from April 1st-5th while Phra Sae Tang Khamani is thought to protect against disasters because of its survival during Lamphun’s invasion by King Mangrai and his forces.  This structure also features stair banisters of colorful nagas (serpent deities) typical of the Northern temple design.  The roof gable-ends also form beautiful nagas using colored glass and mirror tiles.

The ubosoth (ordination hall) contains a 1581 stone inscription near its door, chronicling the history of the town and the monastery as well as the temple’s donors.  It details the exact founding of the city right to the hour (April 12th 1296 at 4am), confirms that the temple was founded by King Mengrai and its restoration in 1471, 1558, 1571 and 1581.

Unique to Wat Chiang Mun when compared to other Chiang Mai temples is its inclusion of a ho trai (temple library).  It is a fairly plain designed wooden structure set on top of a high plastered brick base.  There is also a lotus pond at Wat Chiang Mun which is again another rarity in Chiang Mai temples.

Wat Chiang Mun is one of the city’s smaller temples, but for a long time was one of the city’s most important.  The temple is also not on the main tourist trail (when compared to Wat Doi Suthep and Wat Phra Singh), making it a must-see on your Chiang Mai temple touring trip.  Exotissimo’s Thailand Discovery tour allows you to capture the best of the country.  After exploring Bangkok’s temples, you will then explore Chiang Mai’s rich culture, as evident by its quiet temple-filled streets.  You may also extend this tour with an extra day in Chiang Mai, as you continue exploring the city’s numerous temples with our Chiang Mai City & Temples Walking Tour – Chiang Mai day trip.  This fabulous and informative walking tour takes you past colorful markets and temples and through the heart of the city.  You can also see our Thailand tours collection for other ideas in this fabulous country.

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