The most atmospheric wat of Chiang Mai, Thailand [Wat Phan Tao]

The chanting of the few dozen of monks, dressed in their traditional orange robes, continues. The monks pray, their voices low in the large and dark atmospheric prayer hall made of teak that is decorated with flapping orange flags. They remain seated motionless, with their lower legs folded underneath their thighs, and the soles of their feet pointing away from the massive golden Buddha statue that is radiating in front of them.

The enormous statue is framed by elephantine teak pillars that are hundreds of years old. 26 other pillars support the rest of the dark wooden roof above us.

In the bustling heart of the walled city of Chiang Mai, one of its oldest and lesser known wats never fails to provide a quiet and meditative heaven that extends to its picturesque garden and reflective pond. The chanting of the monks only adds to this peaceful atmosphere.

Wat Phan Tao is adjacent to the larger and more famous Royal Wat Chedi Luang, of which it used to be part of. More sober than many of the wats of Chiang Mai, Wat Phan Tao was built with recycled teak wood from a formerly dismantled palace. The temple is a welcoming place where one can chat with monks, join a prayer and stroll the garden in which the perfectly still surface of its pond reflects the wooden structure of the temple, the stupa and an orange Buddha statue. During different ceremonies, monks light up the garden with candles adding a magical touch to this well maintained holy ground.

Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen (text & photographs)

Travel tips:

  • Make sure to respect the Buddhist religion and dress properly before entering the temple. Shoulders and legs should be covered. Temples can only be entered barefoot, and one must make sure one’s soles never points towards the Buddha nor any other person.
  • Joining the 6 p.m. prayer that is open to the public makes for a wonderful moment.
  • Check out this interactive map for the specific details to help you plan your trip and more articles and photos (zoom out) about the area!

7 thoughts on “The most atmospheric wat of Chiang Mai, Thailand [Wat Phan Tao]

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