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Published: March 17th 2018
Woolly says – Our flight into Chiang Mai had been easy and in less than half an hour we were cleared through immigration, had collected the backpacks and were in a taxi to our digs. A good night’s sleep left me ready to take on the old city, the former capital of the kingdom of Lan Na (1296–1768) being this old I somehow expected it to have small cobbled streets and a certain quaintness, it doesn’t, but it has a whole heap of Wat’s. We had decided not to go anywhere in particular for the day and just see what we found, I set off eager to investigate. Our accommodation was just out of the older part of town and having walked a mere two minutes we had already found Wat Chomphu a gilded stupa with gold elephants, restored as a tribute to the king in 1999. It dazzled in the early morning sunlight and having admired its umbrellas and golden elephants we moved on. To get into the city you have to cross over what appeared to be a moat and pass thorough one of the gates, our gate of choice was the Thapae gate which although just a brick
built structure must have been incredible when first built. I was just getting into my guide stride when the group left me standing and disappeared into a shop called Elephant Parade I could hear the arrs and ooohhs from the pavement and before they started buying every elephant statue in the place I felt the need to intercede.
It was a wonderful shop filled with the most colourful elephants, with each one calling out to us, heart breaking at not to be able to buy but having admired and photographed nearly all of the shops inventory we begrudging followed the furry one towards the main road through the old city and to the next Wat. Woolly says – Wat Phan On was a small complex with a delightful wooden building and a dazzling golden stupa in its centre, the windows were a treat in themselves not to mention the gong which was immense. We sat for a while reading the inspirational texts that were attached to each tree, Jo pointed to one that said ‘Every tub must stand on it’s own bottom’ and gave me one of those ‘looks’, I grinned at
her and finished slurping my lychee juice, I sit on my bottom a lot so I wasn’t sure where she was going with the comment! The small temple held a golden seated Buddha as well as hundreds of newspaper clippings relating to the former and now deceased King of Thailand who we knew from our visit to Bangkok was much revered. The temple area might be small, but it certainly had a wow factor. I trotted off toward the next Wat, all of three minutes away, what do they use all these wats for? I wondered. We couldn’t enter Watsumpow but it was a lovely building with intricate window casings.
I’d already started to lose count of the Wat’s let alone their names, although the names were making us chuckle when pronounced in English! Woolly says – A few minutes later and we had arrived at our next one, they seriously were a lot of Wats to contend with in this city! Wat Phan Tao is one of the older temples of Chiang Mai built towards the end of the 14th century. Meaning “temple of a thousand kilns”, its name derives from
the ovens used to cast Buddha images for another temple, the Wat Chedi Luang, which is immediately next to the Wat Phan Tao. The wooden structure was the best yet, constructed from teak panels set on a stone base it might be simple, but it was stunning. A large golden Buddha sat at the front of the hall and although impressive my eyes kept wandering to the ceiling and floor tiles, having sat for a while admiring, Jo and I crept around the back of the image and found an ancient wooden structure that housed scared scriptures that was beautiful, we smiled at each other both knowing that you can have all the gold but we actually prefer the simple. We found the gold once the women had replaced their shoes, just behind the wooden structure and I had to grudgingly admit it was impressive for a stupa. With so much more to see I checked the map and set off once again.
I admired his eagerness, but we needed a drink and as we were next to a seven eleven store we spent our time enjoying their air con whilst selecting
a beverage. Woolly says – I stood tapping my paw and waiting for them to rejoin as I admired the next Wat which just happened to be next door to the last one. The Wat Chediluang Worawihan was the biggest Wat so far. The gateway itself was a work of art and having paid the mere pittance to enter and ensured that the women were suitably clad, I found myself in amongst some wonderful buildings. A small temple to the side looked incredible but didn’t allow women in, probably because they would make a mess although according to the sign it was due to a ladies issue, the queue of men to get in was long and not wanting to wait I trotted after the women to view the gold adorned temple next door, the doorway was guarded by two very fine jade elephants who I greeted warmly in passing, before heading inside. The area was large and from the far end the standing golden Buddha glowed, not as tall as some we have seen but he was impressive. On each side wall were mini Stupas of different shapes and sizes, I wandered over to look and
quickly realised that each one was significant to the animals of the Chinese calendar, as no one, including myself actually knows the year of my birth I have always chosen the year of the horse which seems to suit my character, Jo is a dragon and shall we just say that these things are very accurate!
Dragons are fine creatures and yes, I am the typical of the characteristics. Woolly says – Having waited for nearly twenty minutes for one women to have her picture taken we finally had the pictures in the bag and headed to the rear of the complex. A huge brick built temple faced us, one that oozed of many years past, construction was started in the 14th century, when King Saen Muang Ma planned to bury the ashes of his father there. After 10 years of building it was still unfinished and was later continued after the death of the king by his widow. Due to stability problems it took until the mid 15th century to be completed by which time it was 82 meters high and had a base diameter of 54 meters. In 1468,
the Emerald Buddha was installed in the eastern niche but in 1545 the upper part of the structure collapsed after an earthquake and the Emerald Buddha was moved to Bangkok. Plain and simple it might be, but it was a wonder, although trying to get to the top might need a rope and crampons. As we walked around it’s perimeter I suddenly realised that each of the four entrances was guarded by a serpent like creature and even better as we arrived at the northern entrance there were elephants coming out of the walls! Smaller buildings to the rear of it held wax monks in the sitting position in beautiful wooden buildings that housed a few more parts of the great man himself, which again begs the question of how many parts of Buddha actually got buried and how many are floating around the world! My paws were aching, and my trunk felt as though it hadn’t had liquid for years, the girls looked hot and sweaty and obviously hadn’t got the strength to argue about a drink and a snack, I led the way towards a bar having to pass …..yep another Wat!
wonderful sight but I had lost count of how many we had seen and just hoped that his furriness would want to stop for the day soon. Woolly says – A drink would soon perk them up before our last Wat of the day. We found a dimly lit bar with a rather forceful innkeeper who demanded that we sit where told and then pretty much told us what we were drinking, I was to tired to argue and instead sat back and enjoyed the fan on my fur. Another couple arrived and were promptly told what to do and when and having smiled in compassion we fell into conversation.
We had a lovely time comparing notes and adventures of travelling and found that they lived in Gloucestershire and had originally come from Bilston which isn’t a million miles away from Zoes’ birth place. Having wished them luck and enjoyment in their continuing stay Zoe and I followed the small one across the road and into another Wat. Woolly says – Talk about leaving the best until last, well we had managed that feat! Wat Phra Singh
had been built in 1345 and houses an important Buddha statue, the Phra Buddha Sihing which gives the temple its name. The origins of this statue are unknown but, according to legend, it was based on the lion of Shakya, a statue since lost which used to be housed in the Mahabodhi Temple of Bodh Gaya (India). The Phra Buddha Sihing statue is supposed to have been brought, via Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka), to Ligor (present day Nakhon Si Thammarat) and from there to Chiang Mai. The place name changes don’t half get confusing. It is alleged that the head of the statue had been stolen in 1922 and that the current head is in fact a copy. The gold and blue entrance to the temple and the fierce looking dragons were incredible as was the Buddha himself, the temple inside wasn’t much compared to many but there was certainly a lot of gold around. Having taken our snaps we made our way to the rear, rounding the corner I was nearly blinded by the sunlight reflecting off the golden of the many stupas that had been hiding from sight, it was eye watering to look at and an
incredible end to our first day in Chiang Mai.
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