28 Jul 2013

What's Wat in Chiang Mai?

Read our original post about Chiang Mai here but as promised, we wanted to share with you some of the delights...

There are over 300 wats (Buddhist temples) here and yet only 250,000 people, which is a crazy ratio of erm...quite a lot, but who are we to judge? We are guessing it gives them time to pray in peace and surround themselves with lots of shiny sparkling Buddhist paraphernalia? 

So far we have seen 6. Maddy read one travel blog where they'd managed 37 in four months. That's going some! We can't imagine having the time to do anything else! Having said that, they are beautiful and serene places (though watch out for the temple dogs).

We had no clue about Buddhism and it's been quite interesting to learn a little about it, so we thought we'd share what we've learnt with you, our dedicated readers! You may thank us later.

So the wat, aka the temple, is also a monastery. You can usually find orange robed monks pottering about carrying out their daily chores. This is everything from sewing their orange robes to changing the incense. The wats are hugely ornate large buildings with high ceilings and sloping roofs.

Dramatic entrance

You'll always see lots of Buddhas in varying sizes, mostly huge, both inside and outside the wats. Believe us, they simply can't get enough of them! 

As you can see, wats are not known for small and simple is best, but instead it's all about the grand, the gold leaf and the detail!

Maddy was in love with all the colour!

The gold leaf!
As with many religions, symbolism is a Big Thing. You'll see lots of dragons guarding the temples, symbolising enlightenment, positivity and creativity. The apparently Buddhist expression 'meeting your dragons in the cave' means facing your own fears. But we reckon its more to do with naughty children being sent to the temple to be told off by the monk, but we are both children of Catholic education, so we wouldn't really know about being bold. Down with that sort of thing!


And usually a few horses...this horse can travel across clouds, and circumnavigate the world three times in a day. You can place any and all wishes with the horse apparently! With Paddy's fondness for a flutter at the bookies, this sounds like the one to place your bets on! Or not, as is often the case with Mr Noble.

And what, we hear you cry, is the large gold pointy thing?

Gold 'chedi' next to sugar cube white cemetery
It's called a chedi or stupa. Sometimes gold, sometimes stone, but always large and grandiose, usually containing relics of important monks or royals and used for meditation by Buddhist monks.

Many of the wats are continually undergoing renovation
due to the large amounts of money donated to the wats (see also: karma)

Can you tell it's monsoon?!
Love this photo with the orange robes contrasting with the moody clouds covering the mountains in the background and the dramatic white cemetery

We've also spotted Lord Ganesha placed strategically around Buddhist temples and homes and have been wondering what a Hindu god is doing here in Buddhist territory? Is he lost? Well it turns out that the elephant-headed god is actually considered an incarnation of Buddha by Buddhists! So there you have it.

(As a side note did you know that the three wise men in the Bible were actually looking for a reincarnation of their Lord Buddha?)

Hope you enjoyed a little culture...!.

Lots of love,
Maddy and Paddy xxx