Temples (Wats) in Chiang Rai
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Anyone going to Thailand should get used to one idea - you are going to see a lot of temples whether you seek them out or not. Take a journey of any decent length in Bangkok and you are sure to go past at least one, probably more. Temples play vital roles both in the society at large and local communities. Temples of course play the same role as places of worship in other religions, dealing with births, deaths, and marriages, but there are no set services in like, for instance, in a western church, and people turn up when they wish. People visit the temple when they are in need of spiritual guidance, when they are celebrating a special occasion, and when they need to receive a blessing or want to make merit in a bid to change their fortune or for a good afterlife. The temple is even a place to have your fortune told! Of course, many temples are steeped in history (some thousands of years) and have played key roles in the unfolding of Thailand's history. Although travelers and budget tourists stay in Thailand longer than your average tourist, it is still difficult to grasp the historical intricacies of specific temples in the relatively short time most people are in the country. But for many, historical relevance is not the main reason for a visit. Temple design and decoration and the ritual of daily temple life are spectacles that prove fascinating for the uninitiated. Simply put, temples offer a rich texture of sounds, smells and new experiences. They are places to enjoy that few visitors easily forget. 

Thai temples are well worth a visit!

Thai temples are well worth a visit!

 
 


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Wat Rong Khun
Tambon Pa-Or Donchai
Chiang Rai 57000
Tel: (66) 053 67-3579, 0-
Fax: extension 13
This magnificent gleaming temple is a must see in Chiang Mai. Designed and built by Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, the temple really stands out as it is entirely constructed in pure white and combines traditional Buddhist art with contemporary styles.

The project was started in 1997, using the artist’s own money and has cost more than 18 million baht so far. Designed to be seen in moonlight, the use of white stone and glass represents the Lord Buddha’s wisdom, shining over the earth and the universe.

Inside the main part of the temple, the walls, ceiling and floor are covered with paintings depicting Buddha. There is also a collection of Lord Buddha’s relics, the preaching hall and the contemplation hall.

There is a feeling of extreme peace and well being both inside the temple and around the complex, and this is a great place to visit to relax for a while.

On the roof are statues of animals, which represent the four elements of earth, water, wind and fire. The elephant stand’s for the earth; the naga stands for water; the swan’s wings represents wind; and the lion’s chest represents fire.


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Wat Phra That Doi Tung
Chiang Rai 
   
Possibly one of Thailand’s more interesting, scenic, and difficult to reach temples is in the most northerly province of Chiang Rai. 1800m above sea level at the peak of Doi Tung sits Wat Phra That Doi Tung.

The temple was constructed next to twin stupa that date back to about 910AD. The Lanna style stupa were built by the king of Chiang Sean in pre-Thai days. Whilst not the most architecturally impressive temple this one has the advantage of an exquisite setting and on a clear day from the foot of the stupas the view is simply breathtaking.

This has long been a popular point of pilgrimage for Buddhists from Thailand, China and Burma and, despite its remote setting, it can get crowded. As is customary there is a row of bells banged as pilgrims make merit.

The easiest way to get to Wat Phra That Doi Tung is with one of the many tour companies in Chiang Rai but for the more adventurous try motorbike hire. Hire a motorbike from Chiang Rai, buy a map and head for the hills.

The route up to the peak is narrow and winding and, unless you take the really scenic route, is surfaced all the way. A word of caution about going “off-road?. Though the situation has improved greatly in the last decade or so this is still an area known for poppy production and occasional armed skirmishes between rival factions from Burma. Travelling alone in or after dark is not always advisable.

Location: signposted “Doi Tung? about halfway along the Mae Chan to Mai Sai road.
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Wat Pa Sak
Tambon Wiang
Chiang Rai 
   
This interesting old temple the residence of King Saen Phu, who built the temple in 1295. At the time of construction, three hundred teak trees were also planted, and it is from these that the name Pa Sak – teak forest – comes.

Wat Pa Sak Is Located outside the city walls, approximately one kilometer to the west of Chiang Saen

The temple’s chedi is 12.5 meters tall with a base of 8 meters wide and is consider to be one of the most beautiful examples of Lanna architecture in northern Thailand. The chedi is believed said to contain a relic of Buddha brought there from Pataliputra the year it was founded.

Admission is 30 Baht for westerners.
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Wat Phra Kaeo
Trairat Road
Chiang Rai 
   
This is Chiang Rai's Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which claims to be the original Thai home of the Emerald Buddha. Wat Phra Kae is attributed as being the first royal temple of Chiang Rai.

Although no one can confirm the date of its construction, be is believed that the temple has existed ever since the city was founded. It was initially known as "Wat Pa Yia" which means the yellow bamboo forest in Thai as there was a lot of bamboo growing in this area.

The Emerald Buddha is believed to have been hidden in the chedi of Wat Pa Yia by King Mahabhrom in 1392 A.D. Legend tells that In the year 1434 A.D.the Emerald Buddha was discovered by chance when lightning struck the chedi. After this, the name of the temple was changed to Wat Phra Kaew. The Emerald Buddha remained in Chiang Rai for 45 years before being taken to Chiang Mai. However, the elephant carrying it refused to go all the way and the image was housed in a temple in Lampang for 32 years. Then in 1468, it finally moved to Chiang Mai where it stayed for 85 years at Wat Chedi Luang. In 1553, it was captured and taken to Laos where it stayed for 225 years. The Thais, under King Taksin, retrieved the sacred image and took it to Thonburi and then finally to its present location in Bangkok in 1778. A replica of the Emerald Buddha was created and can be seen in it’s original home in the Chiang RaiWat Phra Kaeo.

The temple contains many inteinteresting design and style featutures and is definitely worth a visit.
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