– Walk to Wat Chedi Luang – Chiang Mai –
Wat Chedi Luang translated as “Temple of the Big Stupa” dates back to the 14th and 15th centuries. It was once home to the Emerald Buddha one of the most sacred objects in Thailand. The Emerald Buddha is now displayed in Bangkok at Wat Phra Khaew, which is the first temple, I ever visited in Thailand and was an experience that has great significance personally to me.
My first visit to Wat Phra Khaew was on my second day ever in Thailand and it marked a new beginning that opened my eyes to a whole new culture for me. It sparked a desire to learn and experience more about cultures other than the ones I am already familiar with. It’s even more special to me now that I know a little more history about it.
The temple chedi suffered some damage due to an earthquake, around 100 years after it was built and a few years after the earthquake the Emerald Buddha was relocated to Luang Prabang, Laos by the King of that period. The statue even spent a few hundred years in Vientiane before it was reclaimed by King Rama I and brought to where it has been kept until this day in Krung Thep or more commonly known by foreigners as Bangkok.
As for Wat Chedi Luang, the Burmese occupied Chiang Mai and the temple was never rebuilt. The viharn or “assembly hall” is beautiful and massive and is the first structure you will see when you enter temple grounds. The viharn was built in 1928 and has a large standing Buddha called the Phra Chao Attarot.
About 2 weeks after I’d arrived in Chiang Mai, I had to turn in my motorbike for a tune-up. They want you to bring it in at least once a week, if you are renting it monthly. I had about an hour to wait, so I decided to go for a walk to Wat Chedi Luang. It is in the center of the old city of Chiang Mai. I heard about it before, but I had only glimpsed the top of it while riding through the streets of Chiang Mai. I realized later that I had actually passed by its entrance already a few times without realizing it during Sunday Night Street Market.
When I set off walking, I wasn’t even sure exactly where it was, but I had an idea so I figured I would find it eventually.
As I walked down the block, I passed a few coffee shops, smoothie stands, restaurants, and other shops. I eventually came up to a school yard where a speaker system was blasting some music that definitely had a reggae dancehall influence. As I peered through the gate, I could see a group of very young schoolgirls dancing a routine to the music. I pulled out my camera and then a bunch of kids approached the fence. A few said “Hello!” in perfect English and the rest completely dismissed me. They were way too busy playing games to pay a nosey foreigner any attention. The girls dancing were adorable, and I will hopefully eventually post some of that video on this site. I didn’t take video for long, because, I thought that might seem a little creepy. I was just intrigued by the recess activities in a local elementary Thai school.
I continued walking in the general direction of the temple where I saw the top of it in the sky, and I found the entrance a few minutes later. I stopped to take off my shoes at the entrance and a group of young women from Spain and their parents were about to enter the temple in their short-shorts, but were directed to grab some sarongs. I was wearing shorts, but I guess they passed, since they covered my knees a little.
I took some video after I entered the viharn and only a few pics. There was a moment when some monks entered and kneeled down to pray and everyone kneeled down around the same time, so I put away the camera and took a moment to pray and just be silent.
Shortly afterwards a group from China asked to take pictures with me. After a few pics, one of the girls offered to take a pic for me with my camera. They asked me a bunch of questions of course and we had a few laughs with communicating and trying to understand each other.
The temple ruins were pretty grand as well. I spent another hour or so walking around the temple grounds taking pictures. Although it was a very hot day, I still enjoyed witnessing all the daily activities going on in and around the temple.
There was another school next to the chedi and it appeared all the kids had just gotten out, so they were running around and some were grabbing snacks from street side vendors.
Young monks were walking about and a few of us tourists were walking around snapping photos of the beautiful ancient and modern architecture.
After, I finished taking pics, I headed back to the motorbike shop and on the way I passed this small temple called Wat Pakhao. I just happened to look in and it was beautifully landscaped. I took a pic at the entrance and I took a pic of the sign, when this monk approached me. He told me to come in and look around.
His English was very good and told me that he had actually been to America before. We spoke for a while and I am glad that I had that moment to actually speak with him. Because that rarely happens. I think I only had that opportunity one other time with these young monks from Burma who were getting their immigration papers at the same time I was.
I did tell him, that I loved the sign at the front, and he said I am always welcome to come back to speak with him and the other monks.
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