Chiang Mai: Stranded at Wat Phra Singh

After a leisurely morning on my own and then meeting up with Lori and Noe, we hit the temple circuit. We couldn’t remember which ones we had visited in 2012 (though it felt like all of them, even though we know it was nowhere close to that), so we started with the top pick in town — Wat Phra Singh — which also happened to be at the very end of the main avenue. From there, we’d slowly work our way back to towards the guesthouse, or up to the northern area of the Old City where we had Thai massage reservations at the place we went on our honeymoon.

Immediately upon arrival, we knew we had been here before, but only had very faint memories of the place. The entire complex surrounds two massive golden chedis, which I didn’t remember at all. Strange…you’d think something like that would leave an impression. But we did see so many stupas and chedis during our time in Southeast Asia, I shouldn’t be that surprised, right? But it still bothered me.

When I got back to the guesthouse later that day, I figured it out. The gold plating is a very recent addition. This is what the chedis would’ve looked like when we were here last:

Photo credit: Dennis Jarvis (wikimedia commons).

As spectacular as the golden chedis, the main attraction of the complex is the building on the left, which was constructed in 1345 and houses the Phra Buddha Singh statue, a significant Buddhist relic.

Our visit on this particular Sunday happened to coincide with Boun Awk Phansa (the end of Buddhist Lent). On this day, it is common for Thai people to visit a temple to make an offering, particularly in the place of their birth, and is a popular time for young men to be ordained as Buddhist monks.

In addition to be Awk Phansa, we saw many Thai people throughout the day wearing black (as seen above and below) — not generally appropriate for celebrating the end of Buddhist Lent (for which the celebratory color is white), but this year is very different. In the aftermath of the Thai king’s death, many Thai are choosing to wear black as a sign of respect to mark the long mourning period. Quite a contrast on this day.

This was Noe’s first official visit inside a proper wat in Southeast Asia, and as you can tell, he enjoyed his visit immensely.

And then, it began to rain. And rain. And rain. We ran for cover underneath an outdoor meditation hall. It was a bit tricky, because we had to take off our shoes to get up on the pavilion. We didn’t want to leave our shoes out in the pouring rain, but didn’t want to desecrate the religious area. S.A.P.! (Southeast Asia Problems!)

We waited. And waited. And waited, as the water level rose, bringing back memories of getting stranded at the Chinese Market in Bangkok. Other temple goers took the rain break in stride, using it to get caught up on Facebook. Or play Pokemon Go. Or whatever people do on their devices at Buddhist temples these days.

When the rain finally let up, we were on our way — and starving. Luckily, there just happened to be a world famous chicken place around the corner, with a Portland connection, nonetheless.

Leave a Comment