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Wats - Temples in Chiang Rai

Walking the Wats and the Monuments

Chiang Rai has fair number of temples (Wats), most of which are within walking distance or short bike rides of the centre of town. Of all the provinces and cities of Thailand, Chiang Rai has the most sacred of all Wats, and this is the one which purportedly housed the Emerald Buddha which is now placed in the Grand Palace in Bangkok.


So the first major temple to visit in the city is the Wat Phrae Kaew. As mentioned in another section of the site, the story is that the temple was struck by lightning in 1434 and the resultant damage exposed a Buddha statue made from a single piece of emerald jade stone. The temple was originally known as the Wat Pa Yia. The statue was then moved to Vientiane in Laos and finally to Bangkok where it was housed in the Wat Phrae Kaew within the Grand Palace complex, although it also spent some time in Lampang.

So there two temples in Thailand with the same name, both of which are associated to the Emerald Buddha: the one in Bangkok and the one in Chiang Rai – no other city can boast such a strong spiritual connection. Another legend says there were attempts made by the King of Chiang Mai to get hold of the statue after it was found. However, after three attempts to dash off with the holy statue failed, the King gave up. He saw this as some sort of sign and allowed the much traveled jade Buddha to remain in Lampang, where it stayed for 32 years. The reason his attempts failed? The elephants transporting the statue refused to go beyond a crossroad in Lampang – they obviously knew something he didn’t!

Another lovely Wat is down by the river and this is the Wat Phra That Doi Chom Thong located on the banks of the Mae Kok. It houses what is thought to be the oldest Holy Relic in the city and dates back beyond the days when King Meng Rai originally built Chiang Rai. The Chedi containing the Holy Relic was most likely renovated at the same time as the town was being built.

King Meng Rai

Within this area there are a few more temples and these are Wat Moo Muan, and Wat Phra Sing. Phra Sing is the better to have a look around as this is the oldest temple in the city. It dates back to 1345, and is on Thanon Singh Klai. Just along from there is the Wat Klong Wiang, and on past the Clock Tower and along Jed Yod street is the Wat Jed Yod. This is the short section of road which has the liveliest night entertainment scene in Chiang Rai, but during the day there are a couple of places to stop for some western breakfasts or Thai noodles.

Wat Wang Kliang - Chiang Rai


One monument which has local significance is out by the superhighway, but is still within walking distance of town – maybe 20 minutes stroll, or 5 on a bike. The monument is the King Meng Rai monument and is right by the five road junction. Meng Rai was a charismatic and powerful leader, who quickly established his influence over the small neighboring domains. As his power increased he moved his capital to Chiang Rai, which he founded in 1262 – which makes the city 750 years old in 2012. In 1262 he went on to Fang and in 1276 formed an alliance with King Ngam Muang, the ruler of Phayao, so he was quite the empire builder. His memorial is a place where locals gather on significant Buddha days to place incense, flowers and gifts to the lordly King and there always appears to be something or some one around, whatever the day. Children practice their music, and northern Thai dances are staged, as well as the daily religious practices. There always seems to be something happening at the King Meng Rai Monument! The bright, tall monument is located at the junction of the superhighway 1 and the Singh Klai Road.



On to the White Temple

It would be quite wrong to suggest this is in Chiang Rai city, because it’s 13 kilometers away, going south down the superhighway. Some writings suggest it is close by, but that is not the case. The journey has to be made on a motorbike or with one of the local jeeps, but it is worth a visit, if only for photographic reasons. There is no historic or religious significance to the temple, which was proposed and designed by a Thai artist, Chaloemchai Khositphiphat. The temple is very elaborate - everything is white, including the fish in the ponds and the very ornate bridges at the entrance. Inside there is a small inner ‘chapel’ so as a religious entity, it holds no real interest. There is also something of a commercial edge as the artist responsible for the temple construction has a gallery of paintings for sale. If time is short, then this would be one local attraction to leave for another time – it’s nice, but not that fantastic.


Christianity in Chiang Rai

Travelers wanting to go to a Christian church whilst in Chiang Rai will find there are places of worship in the city. The area was the focus for missionaries quite come time ago and the local Overbook Hospital was founded in 1903 by the Overbrook Presbyterian Church of Pennsylvania. Many of the Christian endeavors were aimed at the Akha tribes people in the hills, so there are Akha Christian churches dotted around Chiang Rai Province. There are Christian schools and in the town, a church close by the TOPS supermarket on Sri kid road.


lamphun-wat phra that hariphunchai-01     
       ited in mid-town, Wat Phra That Hariphunchai was built during the reign of King Arthitayarat, a descendant of Queen Chamthewi some 800 years ago.A principal landmark is the 46-metre tall golden Chedi which contains a hair of the Lord Buddha, having nine-tiered umbrella, made of gold weighing approximately 6,498.75 grams...

Chiang Rai

      on the bank of the Kok River within town area, contains what is believed to be the oldest Holy Relic even before King Mengrai built Chiang Rai. Doi Chom Thong has been a sacred site for aextremely long time. The site was surely reverenced as the home of local spirits before Buddhism arrived in the area.

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