There are a lot of temples/wats within old city in Chiang Mai. The main two temples are Wat Phra Singh and Wat Chedi Luang. We had walked to some of the temples the first day but we forgot to bring appropriate temple clothing, so we couldn’t go inside. No shorts allowed and shoulders need to be covered (although I saw many tourists in violation!).
Wat Phra Singh is known for their stone Lion Buddha image and Buddhist relics. It’s very beautiful inside and filled with Thais who make the pilgrimage here for blessings.
In a smaller side building, we got a peak into another ceremony that was going on. Three young novice monks were getting initiated and their families were there while they read prayers in front of the older monks.
In this temple, there were 6 really old monks on either side of the shrine, motionless in their meditation. Mike tried to see if they ever blinked, and we couldn’t catch a single blink! We swear! I was almost convinced they were wax replicas (which there are sitting in other temples).
I can’t even imagine sitting that still for so long. We were wondering if perhaps they were experiencing nirvana right there in their meditation while all these people were around them. Mike and I are curious now if we could do a long-term mediation practice. We keep thinking of fellow traveler Magnus from Nepal, who says you have to commit to a week of silent meditation for it to really break you down. What do you think? Could you do it?
Wat Chedi Luang is the biggest temple complex within Chiang Mai. There’s one main building and a lot of smaller temples surrounding the square. There was a ceremony going on in the big temple where a lot of people dressed in all white were sitting around the shrine and the monks were chanting. A long table with a series of small bowls was set up near the entrance and people went clockwise around the temple, dropping coins into each of the small bowls.
Within the square, there’s a ruined chedi that’s partially restored (not well, you can really tell which parts are the restored sections).
All over Thai temples are nagas, or water serpents. Mike was convinced they were dragons, but I knew they were nagas. =) They are usually seen behind Buddha images or on stairways and rooftops since they are seen to be protect the images and buildings.
It was a hot day of temple viewing, but well worth it! There are still a lot of Thais in the temples, so you don’t feel like you’re at a “Western” tourist attraction.