For the first time on a trip like this, when I went to Chiang Mai I went without a helper to accompany me. This was because Phra Supachai had already offered to help me get round when I was there, and it seemed it would be possible to manage.
Little did I know when I was planning the trip just how many other people would offer to help me once I was there, but they did, and that enabled me to get to some of the out-of-the-way places, as well as visit Chiang Mai itself.
On the first couple of days of my visit the Chief Monk of Wat Sri Suphan, the temple I was staying at, Phra Kru Pitat Sutthikoon, piled us all into his van and took us around to some of the Temples outside the City. We first visited Wat Thon Kain, where this photograph was taken:
Outside Wat Thom Kain
Myself, Phra Kru and Ven Saddhasiri
Photo by Ajahn Suthep
If I remember what he told us rightly this is the oldest wooden Temple in Chiang Mai, it appears to date from 1218. As you can see if you look closely the door to the Temple is locked, and we were not able to find anyone to open it, so in the end I didn’t get enough photos to make an album.
On another day we went to Maung On Cave complex, but it was hot in the afternoon and the climb looked so daunting, and my strength so diminished that I gave it a miss, and instead spent a relaxing hour overlooking the beautiful countryside and drinking tea.
We also went to the Red Cow Temple, and although it doesn’t sound so great, the Viharn which was festooned for some event that was either coming or just past, was quite worth seeing, and so were one or two of the other buildings.
Not long after that Supachai went to Bangkok and Pkra Kru went to Supanburi. Fortunately I had already got in contact with Chanya Depaul through Facebook, and she was able to help me for the next couple of days.
We met on Thursday night along with a couple of Chanya’s friends from the University of Chiang Mai, and the next day together with a young Karen monk, Ven. Wichai, we went out to Wat Buak Krok Luang, east of the City on the road to San Kamphæng, where there was a village Temple with some 19th century murals I was interested in seeing.
When we got there the Temple was deserted and the the Viharn with the murals was locked. That’s when it pays to have a local around to help. Chanya asked around and found that the moks had gone to a house dana, so she chased after them, and succeeded in persuading one of them to leave the dana and return with a key!
Well, from my point-of-view, of course, it was worth it, as there were many good murals in the Viharn which belong to the Burmese-influenced Shan school of painting and date from around the 1840s.
The next day we went up to the most celebrated of all Chiang Mai’s temples, situated on the top of the mountain Doi Suthep, to the west of the City.
I had heard that the temple was always crowded and it didn’t sound like it would be too easy for photography, but the day we went there were not too many people around, perhaps because it was not high season, being cloudy and cold.
The Temple is actually a complex of buildings, much like a Burmese Temple, with Viharns of varying sizes, bell-towers as well as free-standing sculptures and open air carvings.
Ven Wichai and Giant Bell at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
The main building to see though is the very individual Chedi, which is heavily redented at the base, gold-plated and set off with an attractive dark-red railing around it. It started to rain while we were circumambulating the Chedi and the view out over the countryside, which is often praised, was obscured by clouds and haze.
There were a number of other Temples we visited in the vicinity of the City and all but one of them – the best one if you ask me – are online now, and can be found by following up this link. The final Temple, Wat Sri Suphan itself, I hope will be published soon.