It was Gaun’s birthday on the 12th and as it was our first together I wanted it to be a special day. I don’t know if birthdays are generally supported in Thailand but certainly they aren’t in Gaun’s family and I suspect the wider Isaan community. Gaun has only had one birthday celebration in her life and she doesn’t even know when her younger sister’s birthday is!
I had done a pre-birthday expedition on my own to get the planning straight. I wanted to get some jewellery so that was researched and I also wanted to take her out for a lunch that was a little more upmarket than unusual. Thapae or Tha Phae Road, the main road leading to Thapae Gate and the well known Sunday Night Markets, provided the solution to both of these needs.
The day didn’t go quite as planned because I had heard Gaun telling me that she wanted to visit a “nice” temple for her birthday. Luckily there was one in Thapae Road that we had been to before and I knew she liked it, so all good and scheduled into the day. It was only on the day that my misunderstanding became clear and we were on the road to find “nine” temples, nine is a lucky number in Thai, not one “nice” temple. So this post is as much about a selection of Chiang Mai temples as it is about Gaun’s birthday!
So the day’s plan was five Wats before jewellery shop and then lunch with four Wats to follow. Pizza for the evening, one of Gaun’s favourite farang meals and bubbly.
You can see the area we were to cover in the map below. The 1001, “our” road in from the Moo Baan is in the top right hand corner, the wide white line next to + Tony. We drove to Thapae Road briefly via the 11, the yellow road and what’s called the Superhighway or inner ring road, and then peeled off onto the 106 this side of the Ping River. If you follow the 106 down you will see that a turn to the right at the bottom of the map takes you across a bridge into Tha Phae Road, as it’s spelt here.
Temple One – Wat Fa Ham:
This Wat is on the 106 and we only happened to find it because it is next to a roadside eating spot that Richard and Sam wanted to try in February. The Wat itself hasn’t got a lot going for it in architecture or surrounds but it does have an active and lovely monk in residence who will give you a Buddhist blessing in exchange for a donation. When we visited with Richard and Sam after the blessing he disappeared out the back and came back with set of wooden bead wristbands for us all to wear for good luck.
The monk was around when Gaun and I turned up and we got our first blessing of the day. It is great having Gaun because he likes a chat afterwards and wants to know where I am from and what we are up to.
It was just before 11.00 am so these monks in training were getting a meal in before the 11.00 am Buddhist cut-off for the day’s eating. Set up in the corner of the temple building itself.
Wat Two – Wat Ket Karam
The next Wat was one I had seen signposted but never visited also on the 106. A small narrow little Soi leads into the temple grounds and you have to look hard to find it.
This is what the entrance to the Wat looks like. The temple is back to front so you are seeing the rear of the building in this photo. Almost immediately on the left as you walk in is this museum, which we didn’t look at as we still had seven more Wats to go! but will do next time.
Once you get through the narrow entranceway you enter a large and very well maintained temple complex consisting of the main Wat building, another temple which was closed, a large stupa and good sized timber building which could have been accommodation or some other function at the back.
May 13 is Vesak day in Thailand, coinciding with the full moon. Sometimes spelled “Visakha Puja,” this day commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and passing into Nirvana of the Buddha. There was lots of activity happening as the monks and others prepared for the next day’s festivities.
Moving on we drove to Thapae Road and parked almost immediately over the bridge in the temple grounds of Wat Uppakhut. We have done this several times before as it is right at the top of Thapae Road and means that you are assured of a parking space. Thapae Road is one way so if you don’t find one you are into the chaos of the main road that runs around the moat of the old town.
Temple Three – Wat Uppakhut:
We have never explored Wat Uppakhut because it doesn’t look much more than a car park but I was surprised to find there was a decent temple to explore. Walk through the carpark to the back and you pass this monk. I don’t know what he’s up to here but it is certainly different from the normal meditative pose you see in these effigies:
Inside is very unique and quite unexpected given the fairly shabby look to the temple grounds:
Leaving Wat Uppakhut behind we headed down a very hot Thapae Road with another four possible Wats to cover. The first one was Wat Saenfang,which was closed so that didn’t count – bugger.
Temple Four and Five – Wat Bupparam:
Across the road is Wat Bupparam, which I had originally picked out as the original “nice” Wat and our only temple experience of the day!
Part two of this temple is in the form of a smaller wooden structure on the right hand side. This was Wat number five. Phew, two Wats in one.
The next possibility was also closed so we were up to five with four to go.
So we were doing well but on a hot and slightly humid day it was time for a break. I had selected the Raming Tea House for lunch, which I had discovered by accident when looking for a jewellery shop.
I knew Gaun would enjoy it because it had a lush and peaceful garden at the back, a total contrast to the glare, heat and traffic in Thapae Road.
The history of the Tea House can be seen HERE. It is a lovely space and now top of my list of things to do in central Chiang Mai.
A little more expensive than elsewhere with a main course with rice costing $5.00, still not exactly outrageous, but absolutely worth it. Our two main courses, a beer and smoothie cost around $16.00.
Rested we headed back into the heat to tackle the remaining four temples. They were all in the old town as we had done all the available temples in Thapae Road. We walked back to Wat Uppakhut, collected the car and drove the ten minutes to the old town and parked. It is an area we know quite well so we had temples already picked out. Three in one street and one in the next street over.
Temple Six – Wat Baan Ping:
This is a Wat we hadn’t visited before. It was one of the least impressive of the day and I wouldn’t recommend adding it to your Chiang Mai Wat extravaganza tour. Still a Wat is a Wat and it was open so Gaun could make her respects.
Temple Seven – Wat Phan On:
In contrast to the previous temple this is one of the more impressive Wats I have seen from the inside.
Temple Eight – Wat Umong Maha Thera Chan:
This temple was closed for renovations but there was a place outside where Gaun could make an offering so that was counted towards our nine Wats.
So we were down to the last Wat and one of my favourites.
Temple Nine – Wat Phan Tao:
This is a lovely wooden Wat situated on one of the roads that becomes part of the famous Chiang Mai Sunday walking markets. If you are doing the markets make sure you pop into this Wat.
Make sure you give a small donation and get a bowl of coins to distribute in these pots. Make a wish for each coin placed or just focus on the giving.
Gaun’s birthday was finished off by a pizza evening out followed by a great night at a local Thai cowboy nightclub set in a huge lotus pond to the side of our Moo Baan as you do. Thank goodness the band didn’t play any C&W music but there were cowboy hats! A topic for another post. Happy Birthday Gaun.
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