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Wat Umong, Chiang Mai

  • (worth a detour)
  • NA
  • Easy
  • NA
  • 2 hours
  • 2 2

Wat Umong - "The temple of tunnels" is a certified meditation and Buddhist teaching center

Thailand is famous for its street food but this part of the city also offers a lot of variety in terms of international cuisine. Finding western restaurants such as Burger King and Star Bucks is really easy though it is best to stick to the local food which is delicious and pocket-friendly. While here, you should definitely try the Pad Thai and Khao Soi. The former happens to be a favourite in the whole country however the latter is a well-known specialty of Chiang Mai.
Wat Umong is also a centre for meditation and Buddhist tecahings. If you would like to be apart of a short term or long term meditation program, every Sunday , between 03:00 Pm and 06:00 PM, there are session of Dhamma talks (in English) at the Chinese pavilion close to the pond. The temple is also known as Suan Buddha Dhamma meaning “Garden of Buddha’s Teachings”. The temple practices Anapanasati meditation method. The centre also offers Vipassana courses. To know further or to attend, visit their website http://www.watumong.org/ or email umongmedcenter@yahoo.com.
Thailand is one of the cheapest countries not just in Asia but also the whole world. A delicious meal of Pad Thai with sea food should not cost more than 40BHT. A can of Singha or Chang (Thai local beer) costs between 39-45BHT. Travelling within the city using the songthaews is really cheap as well. (it takes me 20 BHT from San Patong to Chiang Mai which is approx. 26 km). A bottle of water costs 7BHT and using public convenience can cost 3-5BHT. Entrance to the temple is free.

Literally meaning the “temple of tunnels” (umong is Thai for tunnels), Wat Umong is definitely if not one of the most popular then one of the most unusual temples in Chiang Mai province in Thailand. The temple is located at a strategic place with the famous Doi Suthep forests as the backdrop.

 

The temple’s full name is Wat Umong Suan Phutthatham, which translates to “Temple of the tunnels and Buddha Dhamma garden”. The temple gets its name from its underground tunnels. the purpose of which are not exactly known, but it gives the temple all the more reasons to retail its mysterious element. However, legends have it that the temple was built for a highly revered monk who was nonetheless a little “off”, which is why the tunnels were given a maze like structure to prevent the monk from wandering off.

 

Another version of the story involves a highly revered monk named Thera Chan whom the King regularly consulted. The monk used to meditate inside a tunnel in peace and quiet, however, as the city slowly began to get crowded and noisy, it became difficult for the monk to meditate in that tunnel. In order to accommodate Thera Chan. the King ordered the construction of a series of criss-crossed tunnels under a big man-made mound.

 

The temple was built in 1297 by King Mangrai of the Lanna dynasty. However, it was abandoned during the 15th century and it wasn’t until 1948 that the temple was restored. A year later, the temple was declared a site for meditation and Buddhist teachings. Most of the old temple has been restored, although most of the old paintings and statues have disappeared. On top of the mound is the huge Lanna style chedi which has been restored recently. Near the chedi, is a black effigy of Buddha who is very lean and denotes a fasting Buddha.

 

Also, within the temple premises is a replica of the Ashok Pillar similar to the one at Vaishali (India). Atop the pillar are four lions and a Dhamma Wheel. The four lion head is also the National Emblem of India and can bee seen on Indian currency.

 

Additionally, within the temple grounds, you can feed fish, turtles, and ducks and gain wisdom from the “talking Trees” which give words of wisdom in Thai as well as English.

 

“Nothing is permanent. Things go in and go out” ; “All things arise, exist and expire”; and “Detachment is a way to relax” are some of the Buddhist proverbs that hung from the trees.

Opening hours

6:00 - 17:00

How to get there

The nearest airport is Chiang Mai which is connected to many cities and countries but it is a better idea to arrive at the Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport as it has better connectivity to the rest of the world. You can take a flight further from Bangkok to Chiang Mai or avail the night bus or train. The temple is located very close to the Doi Suthep Mountain, in the west of Chiang Mai city and close to Chiang Mai university. It can be reached via private cabs, tuk tuks, and songthaews . Keep in mind, the temple is a bit out of the way so it may be a better idea to book a return trip as finding transport to return could be troublesome. Private taxis are the most easy and convenient way to visit temple and these can be booked via your hotel/hostel or you can negotiate with one of the many tuk tuks and songthaews parked all along the roads. A one way fare to the temple should cost approx. 250 BAHT depending upon the distance between your hotel and the temple. If you are on budget, then take a songthaew which costs around 70 Baht one way.

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