Wat Chiang Mun

Ohhh found another Chiang Mai temple I had forgotten about! The beautiful Wat Chiang Mun with its incredible, multi coloured wall murals.

P1150182  Photo frenzy!!!!!! The temple has gorgeous delicate red and gold paintings.

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The murals were repainted in 1996 and depict the founding of Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai

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Chedi Chang Lom is the Elephant Chedi – the oldest construction within the temple complex

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The more modern, colourful murals in the second smaller wiharn in Wat Chiang Mun depict the Lord Buddha’s life and the last ten lives in the Jataka Stories.

These are stories that tell about the previous lives of the Buddha, in both human and animal form. The future Buddha may appear in them as a king, an outcast, a god, an elephant—but, in whatever form, he shows some virtue that the tale  explains.

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The murals are a technocolour riot of fun. Here’s just a few snapshots of them in all their glory!

Finally here’s a painting of Phra Setangkamanee on the left of the outer wiharn wall and painting of Phra sila on the right of the outer wall.

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Thai Temple architecture

Here’s a final look at the colourful joy that is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. So let’s take yet another look at some of the sparkly gold, red, green and blue decorations.

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In the guise of this blog being semi educational (and not just LOADS of my holiday snaps!!) here’s a bit of a breakneck tour about some of the most commonly occuring elements of Thai temple architecture for you.

Buddhist temples in Thailand are known as wats meaning ‘an enclosure’. A temple has an enclosing wall that divides the secular and the spiritual worlds.

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Multiple roof tiers are an important, instantly recognisable element of the Thai temple – above is a typical example. Two or three tiers are most often used, but some royal temples have four.

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Most decorations are attached to the bargeboard – the long, thin panel on the edge of the roof at the gable ends.The decorative structure is called the lamyong. Above to the right is a spectacular shiny example.

The lamyong is made into a undulating shape evoking the serpentine nāga. Its blade-like end, called bai raka, are apparently suggestive of the feathers of Garuda – a large mythical bird or bird-like creature that appears in Hindu and Buddhist mythology.

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During the 10th century, Thai Theravada Buddhism and Hindu cultures merged, and Hindu elements were introduced into Thai iconography which is why you’ll see a mixture of both.

Popular figures include the four-armed figure of Vishnu; the garuda – half man, half bird; the eight-armed Shiva; elephant-headed Ganesh; the nāga, which appears as a snake, dragon or cobra; and the ghost-banishing giant Yaksha.

An example of a Yaksha is below and is a common, colourful theme in Thai temple architecture. You can see huge, epic versions in the Grand Palace in Bangkok.

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Below you can also see a pair of golden Apsara, another frequent decorative motif. These are the female spirits of the clouds and waters who appear in Hindu and Buddhist mythology.

They specialise in dancing and can be found decorating temples in countries such as Cambodia and India.

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Doi Suthep 2

Doi Suthep is an astonishing temple complex, perched high on the mountain side. Its site was established, according to legend, by a white elephant, bearing a sacred relic of Buddha, choosing the site.

Whatever the reason it is a cornucopia of architecture, colour and glitz. With delicate detailing covering every inch of the buildings.

It’s a temple lovers dream! Here’s some pics of the gorgeous detailing, including a replica of the original Emerald Buddha that used to be housed in the temple.

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As you wander the temple complex you’ll come across lots of unusual and eye catching details. The central chedi is a blindingly gorgeous sight.

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It’s surrounded by other beautiful details such as red and gold patterned wood

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There are also prayer bells where people write their heartfelt wishes on the delicate dangling decorations.

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The temple complex is a mix of Buddhist and Hindu mythology so you’ll see a variety of different religious iconology.

Below are temple offerings of money, a Hindu multi armed Ganesh style god and a large prayer gong.

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The temple relies on donations in order to keep going and to help the monks who live there all year round. So you’ll find plenty of places to place your spare change.

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These range from delicate silver cups to adorable mini monks!

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These pair have more than a passing resemblance to my erstwhile travelling companion . .

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Doi Suthep

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a Theravada Buddhist temple perched high on a mountain side .

The temple is often referred to as “Doi Suthep” although this is actually the name of the mountain it is located on. The temple is about nine miles out of Chiang Mai and it’s a sacred site to many Thai people.

To reach the temple you have to take an incredibly steep, winding mountain track with amazing views as it’s about 3,500 feet above sea level .

Then you can either climb up the 306 steps to reach the temple or whizz up in a tram . . . here’s the ornate Naga steps

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The temple is stuffed to the gills with gaudy, glittering ornamentation, from towering demons to a sacred jackfruit tree wrapped in colourful cloth to pay tribute to the spirits.

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According to legend a relic, believed to be part of Buddha’s shoulder bone, was put on the back of a white elephant which was released in the jungle.

The elephant is said to have climbed up Doi Suthep, at the time called Doi Aoy Chang (Sugar Elephant Mountain), trumpeted three times before kneeling. It was interpreted as a sign and King Nu Naone ordered the construction of a temple at the site.

One of the main sights is the blinding, glittering golden Pagoda of the Holy Relic that houses the relic of Buddha. Worshippers circle the pagoda to pay their respects.

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A white elephant statue, the symbol of the elephant who carried the Buddha’s relic to the hilltop, guards the pagoda and welcomes the visitors. You can see it below, along with the sacred jackfruit tree, wrapped in colourful cloth.

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Because there’s so much to see. I’ll continue in another post!

Hmong hill tribe

During our stay in Chiang Mai we took a few trips to the surrounding areas. One of these was a trip to the holy site of Doi Suthep. A shining temple on the mountain side.

On route to the temple we spent some time at a nearby Flower Hmong hill tribe village. The Hmong can be found in several countries but are believed to originate from Southern China.

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The village was pristinely manicured – not sure if the people really live there or whether it’s just a tourist pit stop.

Either way it was incredibly pretty with water falls, immaculate flower beds and colourfully dressed villagers.

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Wooden huts cling to the hill side and Neil tries to sneak into one unnoticed.

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Although it looks bright and sunny, it’s actually quite nippy! Neil heads off in search of a hot coffee and they wheel out a pot of hot coals for him to toast himself on.

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Meanwhile I slope off to the labyrinth of market stalls and take snaps of the colourful Hmong women (although I suspect the two girls below may well be tourists!)

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Of course, the obligatory markets were calling me . . . . here’s a few snapshots in case you feared I was losing my love for them . . .

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The older woman in the middle is one of the villagers, wearing the gorgeous traditional costume of the Flower Hmong tribe.

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It is characterised with the use of many striking colours, embroidery, beaded fringing and silver jewellery. All culminating in an incredible display of vibrant colour, pattern and texture.

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Amalfi coast – spectacular

Neil surveys the view at the pretty coastal town of Amalfi. It is indeed Salad days . . . .

Here’s a different view of Amalfi, a gorgeous little piece of paradise.

A speciality of the region – delicate, ornate little painted tiles. Next to the obligitory moped!!!

Here’s another of the beautiful little villages on the Amalfi coast – Positano. Where houses tumble down the hillside to the beach.

Next we visit Pompeii, a huge site in the shadow of the brooding and treacherous Vesuvius.