Over 300 temples and historic sites in Chiang Mai are preserved in complete condition, each with their own distinctive identity. This is no surprise though as governors and townspeople have always placed great importance on maintenance and renovation in order to preserve these cultural gems. One example is Wat Chiang Man, the city’s oldest temple at just over 700 years. The temple features Chedi Chang Lom, an ornate spire with a base surrounded with elephants and a gilded peak typical of Lanna architecture. Similarly, at Wat Lok Moli there are castle-shaped Chedi and a teakwood Vihara carved with intricate patterns and decorated with unusual stained glass on the pediment. Aside from being the sanctuary of the sacred Phra Phuttha Si Hing (Phra Singh), a highly treasured Buddha image in ancient Chiang Saen art of Lanna kingdom. Wat Phra Sing Worawihan is the only place where mural paintings of Suphannahong can be found. The adjacent Wat Chedi Luang Worawihan, exhibits an enormous chedi base on which the former largest chedi in Chiang Mai used to stand before it was destroyed in a massive earthquake.
Another temple that cannot be left unmentioned is Wat Phan Tao, whose name stems from when the site operated as a production source of thousands (Phan) of ovens (Tao) used for Buddha image casting. When “Phan Tao” is pronounced in the local dialect used by the people of Chiang Mai, it sounds remarkably similar to another phrase which means “a thousand times over”. As a result people believe that a merit-making trip to this temple will result in them receiving a thousand times the normal amount of merit.
For a deeper understanding of Chiang Mai and its culture, remember to visit Lanna Wisdom School where “Lanna comes alive”. Here, visitors can take part in Lanna related activities such as writing in the Lanna script, making lanterns and tungs (triangular flags) weaving baskets, wood carving, metal engraving, folk music, traditional dance and northern style cooking under the supervision of local experts who are well versed in these ancient crafts. It is hoped that by taking part and having hands-on experience tourists can see the enormous amount of skill and patience that go into producing these crafts and the absolute need to preserve them for future generations.