Published: May 5th 2012May 5th 2012
During my visit to the Cultural Center and Museum in Chiang Mai I learned that there are twelve very important temples in Thailand, and each is associated with a particular birth year of the Chinese zodiac. I was born in the year of the Dragon; Wat Phra Singh, an important temple in the city of Chiang Mai, is the temple associated with the Dragon, and 2012 is the year of the Dragon. Auspicious signs all around so I figure a visit can’t hurt.
This place is truly impressive. I was in Viharn Luang, the main hall, in awe of the beautiful art, when half a dozen men (and one woman) in uniform came in and shooed everyone out. The monks were allowed to stay, but everyone else, Thai, foreigner, temple worker had to leave. Something was up, I just didn’t know what.
Outside the temple buildings, just inside the walls of the compound, are several small shops and open-air coffee stands. There were people standing around there, so I headed in that direction. I found a gentleman who spoke English, and asked him what was going on.
“The wife from King’s son is coming,” he answered. Soon, several
mini-vans appeared with members from all the branches of the Thai Armed Forces. They spread out and kept everyone away from the temple buildings, but if you stayed by the shops they didn’t bother you. Next came members of the Thai version of the US Secret Service, complete with earpieces. They were followed by two Thai Highway Patrol cars escorting a maroon Mercedes with a discrete royal crest.
HRH Princess Srirasmi, third wife of HRH Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, emerged from her limousine, shaded from the sun by an umbrella held by a visibly nervous Army officer. Now the Princess, who is twenty years younger than her husband and very beautiful, is known to be a bit of a wild child. Perhaps that explains her visit to the temple in a tank-top, carrying her poodle, rather than having her shoulders and arms covered. I was surprised. No one was allowed to take photos while the Princess was in the wat. She had official photographers with her, but I haven’t been able to find any published photos of her visit. Of course, lese majeste is the law in Thailand, making any insult to the royal family a crime.
left, life at the temple went back to normal, and the local police finally relaxed.
Construction of Wat Phra Singh started in 1345, and in 1367, the statue of the Phra Buddha Singh was brought to the temple and gave it its present name. The viharn Laai Kham, or sermon hall, which holds the Phra Buddha Singh is also home to some fantastic murals of life in the Lanna kingdom painted on the walls of the viharn.
This compound also contains one of the more important Buddhist temple libraries in Thailand and is built in the classic Lanna, or northern Thailand, style of architecture. Wat Phra Singh deserves it place as one of the twelve important temples.
There are more photos below