What’s a Wat?
(Forgive me, I’m sure that isn’t a very original pun/title, but I couldn’t help myself …)
The things I love most about being in Thailand, in no particular order, are:
- the food
- the weather
- the people
- the motorbikes
- the wats (Buddhist temples)
The wats. Are. Gorgeous. Along with the food (and the weather and the people and the motorbikes), I don’t think I could ever get tired of them.
I was speaking with a traveler the other day, marking places on her map that she should stop by, and pointed out some of my favorite temples. (Fun fact: there are more than 300 temples in Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is more than 700 years old, there has been a lot of time to build wats…within the city of Chiang Mai they’re like Starbucks in Seattle.) After I marked a couple, literally two out of the 300, she said, “You know, I don’t really care about going to any of the temples, I’ve seen so many already.”
Whoa, whoa, whoa…what….? You’re surrounded by beautiful, ornate, exotic, intricate buildings – you’ve been here a couple weeks – no way can you be sick of them. Let me just mark the Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald’s for you…
I’m sure some people might start to think they’re all the same and feel like, once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all – but not I. No, no. I love them. To me, each one is equally beautiful and interesting. Two particularly pretty wats that are very different in terms of size, color, decoration and popularity are Wat Phra Doi Suthep (just outside of town on the mountain to the west) and Wat Pan Whalen (on the south side of town within the city walls).
Each have their own unique feel – one standing massive on a hill, steeped in red, gold and sunlight, and the other more modest, tucked away behind plumeria trees with accents of emerald green – yet both convey serenity, acceptance and beauty leaving you with a sense of stillness and appreciation.
Wat Phra Doi Suthep
Wat Pan Whalen