Chiang Mai Walking Temple Tour 

Posted: June 2013

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You could pay a tour company about 490 Baht for pretty much the same as we’ve written, or just walk along at your own pace and spend the money on a massage and lunch! There’s a digital map to support this walk. There are more temples, but we found this to be the most structured route offering a mixture of styles and structures.



Elli xx

Our start point is Tapae Gate - the eastern gate to the old city.

Tapae Gate

Tapae Gate is Chiang Mai's main entrance to the old walled city. In days gone by it was the gate through which traders, diplomats and visiting monks passed when they had business in the city proper. As the main entry route to Chiang Mai was from the Mae Ping River and down Tapae Road to the gate, this was the main thoroughfare of Chiang Mai.

From here head west into the city along Rachadamnoen Rd to our first temple stop is Wat Phan On.

Wat Phan On

This beautiful temple was built by King Phra Muang Kaeo's reign in 1501. It was constructed when Lanna was prospering with arts and culture.

Formerly there was another minor temple called Wat Chedi Khwan located nearby on the western side. Later, the two monuments that you find here today were combined into one temple. You can view the exquisite sculptures and traditional art and culture of Thailand at Wat Pan On, Chiang Mai.

Out of the main entrance and cross the road to Wat Samphao

Wat Samphao

From the road you'll think that this is just offering a Thai massage service, but the grounds are worth the effort of crossing the road. Wat Sam Phao was built during the Mangrai Dynasty (1260-1578).  The name refers to a gold model of a Chinese junk which is said to be enshrined in the chedi. Notable are also the decorations on the gable's of the Viharn. Inside the temple building is a set of four Buddha images on the altar behind a curtain.

Back out of the main entrance and turn right, continuing west until the second junction with Prapokkloa. Cross the road to Wat Phan Tao.

Wat Phan Tao

You'll know you are here because there are so many signs up telling you to be careful of peopling falsely offering tour services. Wat Phan Tao means "The Monastery of a Thousand Kilns”. The building was originally constructed not as a monastery, but as a royal palace building (ho kham) for the ruler of Chiang Mai, Chao Mahawong, who used the structure from 1846 to 1854. It originally stood on stilts, but these were removed when the building was refurbished as a monastery in 1876. Some traces of Chao Mahawong's habitation can still be seen; for example, the front gable end is decorated with the image of a peacock standing over a sleeping dog. The dog is the zodiac symbol of Chao Mahawong's birth year. The dog image is also present in the pediment of the left window on the front facade, though it is absent on the right side.

Exit and continue south a few metres to Wat Chedi Luang.

Wat Chedi Luang

After 1 year, 10 months and 19 days on the road in Asia and two trips to see the many temples of Myanmar, we both thought that the chances of being impressed by another Buddhist were slim. This one took our breath. Walk around the outside the main building as you enter anti-clockwise, taking in the view of the ancient and reconstructed Chedi at the rear. Dating from 1441 it's clear to see where it has been repaired. To the right you will see the monk’s accommodation. You can meet with monks here - just look for the amusing "Monk Chat Club" sign. It's also rumoured that the emerald Buddha that is now housed in the Bangkok Palace area was sat in the eastern niche of the Chedi.

To the rear you see the first of the elephants that have been repaired. Behind the chedi is a reclining Buddha draped in a golden dress and rather interesting tale of a rather obese monk that was once confused with Lord Buddha himself. Carrying on you'll find it hard to miss the shrine to one of the most revered forest monks that has ever lived in this area. A most meritous monk. Back towards the main entrance an inside. Some of the most detailed statues we've seen.

Exit, turning left (north) back to Rachadamnoen Rd, turning left again and walk westerly until you reach Wat Phra Singh.

Wat Phra Singh

Wat Phra Singh is an important temple and a major monastery, housing 700 friendly monks who often approach tourists to practice their English. The largest building is Viharn Luang (viharn = assembly hall), rebuilt in 1925 on the site of a 14th-century original. The three-aisled interior is impressive, its high red roof supported by round white columns. It houses Phra Chao Thong Tip, a large image of the seated Buddha cast of gold and copper in 1477.

Head back in an easterly direction to the first junction of Rachadamnoen and Soi 7. Turn left (north) and walk up to the second junction for the Women’s Prison.

Women’s Prison

Technically a rehabilitation centre for women. There are several schemes that have been put in place by the governors to help rehabilitate the offenders and raise them some funds as well in readiness for parole. This was probably the best massage I have ever had. And having been in Thailand twice now I can say that that is a lot. The ladies are extremely friendly and really seem to know what they're doing. Also, as it's part of the correctional institution it is very cheap. Not that any other place is particularly expensive. The atmosphere is very relaxing, with dimmed lighting and traditional Thai decor. They even give you tea at the end of it.

Lunch! You can dine at the prison or alternatively, head south on Jhaban Rd and Intrawarorot Rd for the local food shops. A selection of local food shops.

Khoi Soi

Soft noodles in a fragrant sauce similar to Masamam curry (without the cashew nut flavour), served with a stewed chicken’s leg and topped with crispy noodles. For 40 Baht you will be back here again and again. And if you haven't tried a Masamam curry, well I'm sure you will after this! Be sure to get here before the shutdown at 1400hrs.

Continue east along Intrawarorot Rd to ???? Temple.


Closed when we tried to visit but peering into the grounds, if it's open then pop in for a quick look as you walk by.

Continue east along Intrawarorot Rd taking the left onto Prapokkloa Rd the Three Kings Monument.

Three Kings Monument

The monument to the three kings, King Mengarai, King Ramkamheang of Sukothai and King Ngam Muang of Payao. According to legend the three worked on the layout and design of the city.

Continue north turning right onto Soi 13 (Thai Airways is just at the junction) to Wat Chiang Man.

Wat Chiang Man

Wat Chiang Man is a Buddhist temple built during 1296-1297 A.D. by Phya Mungrai. Wat Chiang Mun was the first royal temple built in the vicinity to Chiang Mai's ancient city, on the former Wiang Chiang Mun Palace donated by Phya Mungrai. The temple houses several valuable artefacts, the most significant are the white quartz Buddha image of "Phra Setangkamanee" or "Phra Kaew Khao" in Lanna style which Phya Mungrai brought from Hariphunchai and also a stone Buddha statue in the posture of sub-during the elephant "Nalakiri", carved by craftsmen of the Pala school. If you enter the temple from the eastern doorway you can follow the story of Lord Buddha's life. Although written in Thai, the pictures tell you enough. Start from the left hand corner as you enter and walk around clock-wise.

The 700 years old chedi "Chang Lom" or elephant-surrounded stupa is the oldest and most significant stupa within the temple compounds.

Out and head south on Ratpakinai Rd to Wat Lamchang.

Wat Lamchang

Wat Lam Chang is a small but quite delightful Temple with a long history. During the construction of Chiang Mai, King Mengrai stayed in an area which is now Wat Chiang Man. Near this was a large wooded area where the elephants used to transport the King into the city were kept. Sometime later, a Temple was built there and was named Wat Lam Chang. The name Lam Chang means "shackled elephants". Today, a large elephant statue stands guard over the Temple and there are many other elephants all around the temple including a statue of Ganesh, The Elephant Headed God. The remains of the original chedi can still be seen.

Head south again turning left onto Rathithi Rd. Great spot for a coffee! Continue east to the main road. Right (south) and stop at Wat Dok Kham.

Wat Dok Kham

Black and gold on outside and really does stand out in comparison to some of the other temples on todays route.

Continue south back to the Tha Pae Gate. Cross over heading east along Tha Pae Rd. Next stop is Wat Mahawan on the south side of the road.

Wat Mahawan

The wihan and Chedi designed by Shan and Burmese artisans. There are no two guardian deity sculptures are alike; the whimsical forms include monkeys and dogs playing with lions, and various mythical creatures.

Back out the gate and staying on the south side of the rd, continue east towards Wat Bupparam.

Wat Bupparam

This is one of the finest temples in Chiang Mai. It is closely connected with former Chiang Mai royalty. it was built in 1496 by  King Phra Muang Kaeo on the site of a palace of King Thokarat his Great-Grandfather in the 19th century.

Chiang Mai ruling princes and the people restored it. In 1819 King Thammalangka had the small Wihan built in Lanna style. The big wihan was built in later by King Kawiloros.

The library was built in 1996 as an act of merit for King Bhumibul Adulyadej on the 50 anniversary of his reign.

Intricate carvings inside the main temple. Jade and Teak Buddha. Mad animals and Daffy Duck eating noodles! Burmese style stupa on the right.

Exit and cross over and head back to the gate (west) to our final destination Wat Chetawan.

Wat Chetawan

This temple, like neighbouring Wat Bupparam and Wat Mahawan, was originally built in the late nineteenth century outside the city walls and moat by Burmese teak merchants. As a result these temples incorporate several Burmese elements in their design and decoration. At Wat Chetawan the three chedi (the Thai word for stupa) in particular were built along classical Burmese lines: a square base of several recessed terraces followed by one or two octagonal terraces upon which sits a circular bell-shaped dome that extends upward into a conical, ringed spire. Only the four staircases, one on each side that would give access to the base of the dome are missing.

We hope you enjoyed the tour. We finished off with a cold beer at John's Place on the roof-top bar looking out at the walk we'd done.

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