For the new year holidays I went to Chiang Mai for the first time…yes I know that seems like ages ago but I am not writing this blog in real-time, I am writing it in ‘when-I-can-be-bothered’ time.
Chiang Mai (which translates to ‘New City’) was founded in 1294 by a man known as Mangrai (I see the connection!) and is the largest city in northern Thailand. The city sits along the banks of the Ping River and is surrounded on all sides by huge mountains including Thailand’s highest peak, Doi Inthanon (2,565 metres). Much of the old city is still surrounded by the ancient city wall and it’s famous for being the home to lots of temples…no really, LOTS. According to my extensive research (a quick 3 minutes search on Google) apparently there are around 300 temples in Chiang Mai – that’s almost as many as there are 7-11 convenience stores!
I knew before I arrived that I would be seeing plenty of temples but I was taken aback by the multitude of them. There seemed to be one around every corner, some of them large and imposing and some just small and unassuming, almost unnoticeable. Having dropped off my bag at the hotel I made my way out to explore and within minutes came across this temple.
The grounds around it were empty but I could hear sounds coming out of half-opened windows that suggested life was happening around me. It was almost eerie that I couldn’t see anyone and I began to wonder if I was even allowed in there. I could just see a glint coming from the Buddha inside so I stepped further towards the temple and made my way inside to be met with this view…
It was so beautiful, the wood, the Buddha, all of the flowers around the altar and the ambience which was so calming that I stopped hearing the roar and horns of the cars just 30 feet away. I promise you that the lady kneeling isn’t a paid actress flown in to help me take a nice photograph, she was perfectly silent and I don’t even think she heard me. I felt almost like an intruder and didn’t want to disrespect anyone or distract this lady from her prayer, so I slowly backed out and made my way on.
The following morning I made my way to a temple known as Wat Chedi Luang which is the historic centre of Chiang Mai. It was completed in the mid-15th century and at one time housed the Emerald Buddha which I have written about previously Here
It stands at 60 metres high and has a distinct aura…
Here is another side of the same building…
Well squash my plums and call me Bestsy! Isn’t it a sight to just stare at? Go on…stare at it, I’ll wait………Hi, welcome back, you were ages!
Its original height was said to be 82 metres but a huge earthquake struck in 1545 leaving us with what we see today. It’s really hard to see the scale of the temple in these photos, (because the actress I’d hired for the first temple had decided to leave due to artistic differences…she still owes me money but I can’t really say any more on the subject due to the ongoing court case), but it is absolutely mind-blowing.
To me this wasn’t a religious experience, I’ve mentioned previously that I am not a religious person, but I am a big history buff and seeing this building, knowing how old it was and imagining the ceremonies that would have gone on here blew me away!
I love the fact that the authorities haven’t tried to get rid of the plants and moss that are growing in its old crevices. I’m sure they must have to help preserve it from time to time but they’re not trying to hide it. Being slightly selfish, I would have loved to have gone up to the top but I think it’s understandable that they don’t let a sweaty British idiot clamber all over it!
By now I had a thirst to see more temples and I knew I wouldn’t have to wait too long or indeed walk too far before I stumbled across another one. It seemed that every road I walked along brought me to another temple. If I had a piece of cake for every temple I stumbled across in Chiang Mai, I’d be a rather large Brit, as well as a sweaty one. The following three photos were taken on the same site, they weren’t marked on Google maps and I stupidly didn’t make a note of any names to identify where this is.
There was no one here, I had this patch all to myself. If these two buildings were in the UK, it would be gridlocked with people. It made it all the more special though that I had these moments to myself. I found myself just standing still, the calmness of the place and the complete silence, taking everything in and just thinking ‘wow’. I don’t know how old this site was and I have no way of checking because, as I said, I didn’t even take note of where exactly I was (this is an outstanding bit of historical research isn’t it?!) but I think it was really old, even older than my fashion sense and that is well old (see, outstanding research!) Then I saw this and knew it was an old site…
Seeing things of such old age and beauty puts life into perspective for me. These temples and buildings have been here for hundreds of years, thousands of eyes over time have feasted on them. The human mind can make such wonderful things, it’s shame we use so much of our brain power worrying about the small things and the unimportant. If we could only focus more on making things of beauty we would all be in a better place.
As I was writing this blog post I soon realised that I could go on and on and post more photos of temples so I think I will go back to the top and add ‘Part 1’ to the title and write another one.
Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed it, and if you didn’t enjoy the words you at least liked the images 🙂
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