When I first planned my trip to Chiang Mai, one of the major items on my to-do list is to visit and shoot the beautiful temples around the city. I've seen the photos and the postcards and was quite excited.
A day into our Chiang Mai visit was enough to make me realize that it will take so much effort and time to visit and take photos of these beautiful structures. There's just so many of them! Turn a street corner and there's another temple, and that's just in the old city.
We stayed in a part of the old city where some of the notable temple grounds are just a short walk away. The best time to shoot is twilight, the blue hour just before sunrise or just after sunset.
So here's my best effort :)
wat chedi luang
This is one of the most notable in all of Chiang Mai. In the sprawling temple ground is a viharn (prayer hall), a good number of Buddha images, as well as the one of a kind brick chedi and the city pillar ("Spirit of the City"). We stayed very near the temple so I was able to make several visits both at dusk and dawn. See more of Wat Chedi Luang here.
wat phan tao
Wat Phan Tao is right next door to Wat Chedi Luang. Its name means "the Monastery of a Thousand Kilns". Supposedly the Buddha images of the nearby Wat Chedi Luang were made in this site.
Its viharn is quite unique: its a wooden structure made of teak wood panels. Building was originally used as a royal palace and was refurbished as a monastery in 1876. On top of the front entrance is an motif with a peacock standing over a sleeping dog. The dog is the zodiac sign of Chao Mahawong, the king who used this building as a palace.
principal Buddha image
Inside the viharn are old bells and gold decorated wooden boxes with old palm leaf manuscripts (Dhamma texts)
A short walk from Wat Phan To is Wat Inthakin, also known as Wat Sadue Muang ("Temple of the City Navel"). Quite an apt name considering its location: its right at the center of the old city, a few meters away from the Three Kings Monument.
The temple's name came from Sao Inthakin ("pillar of Indra"). Legend has it that Indra, the Lord of Heaven, gave the pillar to the locals for protection. King Mengrai of the Lanna kingdom housed the pillar in the temple grounds in 1296, right in the center of the newly founded Chiang Mai (the area is referred to now as the "old city"). The pillar is now in the nearby Wat Chedi Luang.
wat chiang man
Wat Chiang Man is the oldest temple in the city. It was the first temple built by the founding king.
In the temple ground is a chedi named Chang Lom Chedi ("elephant chedi"). Under the usual gilded upper chedi are 15 elephants that seem to carry the chedi on their backs.
Like most temples, the main viharn is always lavishly and intricately decorated.
naga stairs of smaller viharn
The smaller viharn at the side of the main one houses old and interesting Buddha images.
wat phra dat doi suthep
Wat Phra Dat Doi Suthep is outside of the old city and would require a trip to the nearby Doi Suthep, a twin peak granite mountain west of Chiang Mai. But its worth the trip!
Temple is located close to the top at around 1060 meters above sea. It was built 1383 and there is an interesting legend as to how the spot was chosen. More of Wat Phra Dat Doi Suthep here.