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Wat a temple!

Arriving in Chiang Mai and finding a guesthouse to stay right opposite a Wat, we thought we were lucky until we walked around the city and found we were tripping over temples. You will find one in even the smallest alleyway!

We have visited four in the past four days and not even scratched the surface. Wats are peaceful places with an occasional ringing of bells breaking the otherwise pin drop silence in the huge monastic spaces. The Buddhas are usually large and made with gold though there is a fair sprinkling of other Hindu Gods. There is a lot of stonework with what looks like ruby and jade.

We went to Wat Chedi Luang which also has a Monk University attached to it. There is an area dedicated to ‘Monk Chat’, for people to go and talk to monk’s so they can practice their English and you can ask them about their lifestyle. The only question I would have is “Why?”, so I abstained.

In the interests of time as well as not getting too jaded (ha, did you see what I did there?) we decided to see the most ‘interesting’ wats first.

Yesterday morning we headed to Wat U Mong on the Western outskirts of the old city. This was built a few hundred years ago by the then king for a brilliant but eccentric monk who had the habit of wandering out of the city and into the forests for weeks on end. Wat U Mong is underground (inside a hill more like), so all you see above the hill is the dome.

After that we jumped on our bikes and headed further west into the mountains to see the highest watt in Chiang Mai, Wat Phra That is 15 kilometres of a zig zag road up in Doi Suthep after which there are 309 steps up to the temple. Or you can take the funicular.

Legend has it that the king put a relic on a white elephant and let it loose. The elephant stopped at a place, laid down and died and that’s where the temple was built in 1368. The view from this temple is outstanding – you can see the whole of Chiang Mai laid out below you.

Our favourite memory of this temple will be the huge bells and gongs, some of which vibrate for minutes after you bang them. Amazing!

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