WAT PHA LAT, A SECRET JUNGLE TEMPLE IN CHIANG MAI
Wat Phra Lat was originally used as a resting place for people on the pilgrimage up to worship to Doi Suthep up on the mountain. Then the location developed into a meditation retreat and a monk residence.
This is a temple on the way to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep that is seldom visited by tourists. The temple and trail are now getting a bit busier, but it is still a really nice hike and experience. Doi Suthep is the most famous temple and among the most beautiful in Chiang Mai; but Wat Pha Lat, while smaller and less opulent, has a setting that rivals Doi Suthep’s overall beauty.Wat Pha Lat is nestled in the forest just a few kilometers down the road from Doi Suthep. There are no crowds, no shops or food stalls, no unwanted distractions.
The temple was constructed during the reign of King Kuena (1355-1385). History said that the king’s white elephant stopped and knelt down at this place whilst walking up the mountain. The animal continued his journey but then died when arriving at the top of the height. King Kuena ordered the construction of Doi sutep temple at the very place elephant died. Later he also ordered the construction of temples at the three other spots where the white elephant had rested, One of these being Wat Pha Lat. Those place were considered holy places.
In 1934, a wealthy Burmese wood salesman took it upon himself to start the restoration of Wat pha lat. The original was almost gone, with the only roof and wall standing. The new temple buildings were built on the opposite site of waterfall not to far from the road up to Doi Suthep.
There is a small bridge crossing the steam. Standing on the middle of the bridge you can see the old temple plus, straight ahead, an unforgettable view of Chiang mai city. Fascinating of the contrasting image of the old and new.
At Wat Pha Lat, the Burmese influence in architecture can be seen especially at the main temple. On one side of the roof there is a drawing of a peacock which is a symbol of Burmese people. The other side shows a drawing of rabbits, which is a symbol of the birth year of the monk who was in charge of the temple on that time.
The giant Singh (Lion) guard the chedi anf the entrance to the temple, representing typical Thai temple architecture. It is very impressive. The temple sits by small waterfall, nested in to the hillsid, surrounded by rock and beautiful tree. Many Buddha image are stuck into and on to rocks around. At Wat pha lat you get a feeling of peace ; with the shadow of trees, the sound of the river and the magnificient view down the stream. It very relaxing.
In this temple you will see Buddha image everywhere and the images of the white elephant as well. You also can find a path, used by monk walk to Chiang mai city.This path continued up to Doi Suthep.
HOW TO GET TO WAT PHA LAT
Wat Pha Lat is a hidden gem in the middle of the jungle. The start of the monk’s trail is only 15 minutes drive from Chiang Mai old city. Drive all the way to the end of Suthep Road, just after Chiang Mai university, then turn right at the cross roads then go up past the rear entry of the zoo. Go up, then when you see the red and white radio antenna to your right, there you are. You’ll see a map indicating the trail to the temple. Once you enter the trail, follow the trees beautifully wrapped in orange robes.
It’s a pretty easy 40 minutes walk up to Wat Pha Lat, although with the heat, it can be tough. Don’t forget water and mosquito repellent –there a LOTS of mosquitoes in the forest, but believe me, it is worth the itch. And of course, as you’re hiking to a Buddhist temple, proper clothing, short to the knees and covered shoulders -not necessarily during the whole hike, but at least when you are exploring the temple.