Undoubtedly, the numerous temples in Chiang Mai are some of the region’s main attractions. It’s also understandable that visitors flock to the larger and better-known ones such as Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, but in focussing solely on these popular attractions, you risk missing out on some real gems, and Wat Pa Daeng is one of those.
Just one kilometre from the Aleenta Retreat, Wat Pa Daeng occupies a quieter, more peaceful space than some other more prominent temples. As you approach the temple complex, the road narrows with more vegetation, roadside stalls and local families going about their daily chores, taking you out of the hustle and bustle of the Chiang Mai tourist trap.
The name Wat Pa Daeng translates to ‘red forest temple’, indicating the surrounding landscape of forest and natural vegetation. The location lends itself to meditation and relaxation, which is quite possibly why the Aranyavasi sect of forest-dwelling monks settled here all those centuries ago and set up their religious centre. This restorative power of nature plays a significant role in mindfulness and meditation.
The temple dates back to the 13th century, although some buildings have slightly later origins. Among these are the viharn and chedi, which are some of the main features of the temple grounds and can be traced to the 15th century. The chedi is inlaid with several Buddha images, while some other buildings feature more ornate gold statues of Buddha in different poses. The buildings have traditional sloping roofs, with gold-gilded decorations and carvings in both wood and stone, while the temple gardens are well-maintained and encourage peace and relaxation.
Other Attractions Close to Wat Pa Daeng
Just a short trip in any direction from Wat Pa Daeng, you will come across other interesting attractions, things to see and do, and places to sit and enjoy some traditional Thai refreshments. If your day is about visiting temples, several are close to Wat Pa Daeng.
Wat Ram Poeng
Wat Ram Poeng dates back to the 15th century, and despite having an interesting yet chequered history, the temple is deserving of a visit. The temple complex has several impressive structures, each constructed with intricate attention to detail and containing various relics and Buddha images.
The primary function of Wat Ram Poeng is as a Buddhist mediation retreat catering to locals and visitors to the area. The centre offers Vipassana Meditation courses of various lengths. Each class focuses on connecting the mind and body, providing the tools for true mindfulness. The surrounding landscaped garden, with its ponds and local wildlife, inspires peace and relaxation, promoting mindfulness.
Chiang Mai Zoo
If your children have joined you on this cultural visit to Wat Pa Daeng, you may need to feed their enjoyment appetite with a visit to the Chiang Mai Zoo. The zoo is about 3km north of the temple in the foothills of the Doi Suthep mountains and covers around 200 acres, making it one of the largest zoos in Northern Thailand.
The zoo is divided into several zones, each with a specific focus, including the African Zone with its mix of wild animals, including giraffe and zebra, the Nakornping Bird Park that houses nearly 2,000 birds, and an aquarium with an array of marine life. There are ample places to stop and rest or grab a bite to eat, and where the young ones can expend excess energy without disrupting the wildlife. The layout makes the zoo easy to navigate and ensures you don’t miss out on exciting attractions.
For a break from sightseeing, why not treat yourself to some retail therapy on Nimmanhaeman Road? Often referred to as Nimman, this area is just over 2km from Wat Pa Daeng and covers more than one road. It incorporates around 1km of backstreets and lanes, offering the casual tourist an experience that is not to be missed.
Nimmanhaemin road is a window shoppers paradise with plenty of shops selling high-quality designer gear and artisan products. But it also caters for bargain shoppers who love browsing the array of market stalls in search of the perfect find.
What Nimman lacks in international coffee chains, it more than makes up for with its vast choice of quirky coffee shops and cafes. There are many local flavours, whether you stop for a quick brew, a traditional Thai dish or an evening cocktail.
A visit to Wat Pa Daeng and the surrounding local attractions is a guaranteed way to enjoy a day out in Chiang Mai before heading back to the Aleenta Retreat for some well-earned rest.
- Wat Lok Moli
- Wat Pha Lat
- Wat Ram Poeng
- Bhubing Palace
- Exploring Wang Bua Ban Pha Ngoep and Surrounds