Category Archives: Competition

More chedis in Chiang Mai

I have to admit I am not a very diligent traveller: I don’t dive very deep into my guidebooks. I usually enjoy ancient monuments, temples, ruins and other buildings for their atmosphere and architectural beauty, not for the tales from olden days that they tell to an eager listener. I cannot imagine what life must have been like around here 50 years ago, let alone 500. I didn’t grow up with legends and anecdotes about the local kings and common people, about tigers roaming Doi Suthep – nothing highlights my outsider status more than trying to understand local history and failing to grasp anything.

So, you can say it is not surprising at all that I was rather surprised to find out about the royal connections of some of the chedis I have been taking pictures of in the past few years.

Wat Lokmoli

For the first few months of my new life in Chiang Mai, I passed by Wat Lokmoli every day on the way to work. The imposing height and solemnity of the chedi never failed to impress me.

Wat Lokmoli regained royal status in 2002, when reconstruction started, and the new prayer hall was erected in traditional northern style. The windows and some of the walls are carved from wood but look more like fine lace, with intricate floral patterns. Even though I know wood does not last for centuries in the realm of the termites, this small temple has a “medieval” feel.

Wat Lokmoli is the home of cultural events such as traditional music and dance performances lasting several days at Thai new year and loy krathong.

The chedi itself dates back to 1527, when the bones of the last Lanna king, Ket Chettharatwas were interred here. His rule had been dominated by controversy, and eventually he was assassinated by his own court officials. Soon afterwards, the Lanna kingdom became a vassal state to the Burmese. The ashes of the last queen from the Mengrai dynasty, Wisuttha Thewi, were also buried at the royal chedi at Wat Lokmoli in 1578, then the temple was abandoned and fell into disrepair under the Burmese rule.

Wat Chang Kham

Recently, I posted some photos of Wat Chedi Liem on the southern edge of Chiang Mai. The Wiang Kum Kam historical park has another working temple: Wat Chang Kham. The ruins had been covered by silt and were almost forgotten until amulets and ruins were found in the 1980s during the construction of a playground.

King Mengrai, the founder of Wiang Kum Kam as a settlement, is said to reside at the temple grounds in spirit form. The chedi containing his remains has not been found to date.

Wat Kutao

Wat Kutao is famous for its unique watermalon-shaped, five-tier chedi, which is currently being renovated – or, at least, it has been scaffolded for months, there is no work going on at the moment. There seems to be a lot of money pouring into this temple: there is a brand new prayer hall east of the chedi, so glittering and perfect that it reminds me of a Catholic cathedral – definitely not the usual dilapidated Lanna temple with torn carpet. The Buddha image is dressed up and decorated as a true prince.

There are two theories concerning the origin of the stunning chedi. The five tiers of the chedi and the Chinese-style ceramic decorations seem to suggest Yunnanese origins. However, it is more often attributed to the Burmese. According to the plaque at the temple, the ashes of the most glorious king of the Burmese rule over Chiang Mai, King Nawrahtaminsaw were most probably buried at the base of the chedi in 1607, joined later by the remains of his wife and sons.

The temple is a focal point for the Shan community, along with some smaller temples in the area.

Wat Phra Singh

Wat Phra Singh is one of the main temples in Chiang Mai, which all visitors pay a visit. It is always very busy during Buddhist holidays, especially at songkran. The prayer hall was recently renovated and is more impressive than ever when illuminated at night, with perfect proportions and glittering colours.

The temple is known for the famous Phra Singh Buddha image, housed in a small, ancient-looking temple with bright wall paintings at the back.

The chedi is gleaming white and supported by four elephants. The orange holy cloth around the spire is changed every year: people line up to write their names on the fabric for a small donation. With the help of a simple system of pulleys and bamboo tubes, you may also pour water over the top of the chedi, which is considered a form of making merit.

At the base of the chedi, the bones of King Kam Fu were buried in 1337; the structure was renovated in 1920.

Wat Phra Singh

Tomorrow is the first day of the rainy season retreat: the rains are definitely here. Hopefully the sky will clear up for the candle processions on this auspicious day. It is a great time for visiting Thai temples and learning about local traditions.

Sister chedis from ancient times

Long before Chiang Mai was founded some 700 years ago, the Mon people set up the legendary kingdom of Haripunchai in the area that is today known as Lamphun.

Wat Chammathewi (also known as Wat Kukut) dates back to the 8th century. The spire on top of the chedi is said to have been lost during an earthquake, hence the alternative “nickname”. According to the chronicles, the founder Queen Chammathewi is enshrined in the magnificent five-tier Suwanna chedi itself. Some of the Mon-style Buddha images are in good condition, showing the posture known as “dispelling fear”. They are more robust than later depictions, and the robe somehow appears transparent.

There is a smaller, octagonal chedi beside the temple hall, which is about 700 years old. Respectable old age at this climate – even if you consider all the maintenance and restoration needed over the centuries.

It is a peaceful temple with a beautiful garden, approximately one kilometre outside the town moat.
Lamphun is less than thirty kilometres away from Chiang Mai, easily accessible as a daytrip by local bus, train or songthaew. There are few tourists around.

In the Chiang Mai area, ruins of temples and chedis with Haripunchai influence can be visited in the Wiang Kum Kam historical park. Even though it is only a few kilometres south from the city’s bustling night bazaar, it is like a little village, with herds of goats munching on the grass surrounding the ruins of ancient chedis and horse carts taking visitors from temple to temple. All the ruins were found under a thick layer of silt just a few decades ago, long lost and almost forgotten after the river suddenly changed its course during the Burmese occupation.

Wat Chedi Liam (Liem) is a replica of the chedi in Lamphun, constructed during the Mengrai era (13th century), when the city itself was founded. It was renovated in the 1980s.

You may clearly see from the photo that the sixty Buddha images are relatively new and intact; however, it does not take away from the ancient feel of the monument. The photos were taken shortly before sunset, when the images almost come alive in the strong, colourful light. This is my favourite time to take pictures, the only problem is that it is over very quickly.

Wat Chedi Liam is for some reason really difficult to find. All signs to “Wieng Kum Kam” take you to Wat Chang Kham, the other major temple in the park. I would never have found the chedi without locating it on a map before setting off. The best way to approach it is from the superhighway. The turnoff is about 200 metres before the bridge (you need to approach from the east), with a large sign saying “McKean hospital”. Go straight ahead and ignore the “Wiang Kum Kam” signs trying to send you off to the left, and you will be in front of Wat Chedi Liam within two minutes. It is actually right on the eastern bank of the Ping river.
I posted a map at the forum.

As for Wat Chammathewi, my favourite route to Lamphun goes on the western bank of the Ping river. It is a scenic road with surprisingly little traffic, passing by plantations, villages and offering great views of the meandering river. The turnoff to Lamphun is not signposted, you need to keep an eye on your meter and cross a bridge after 30 kilometres or so, then drive straight ahead. The road passes by Wat Chammathewi as you approach the town centre. It is also easy to proceed straight on after visiting and reach other sights of interest, including the Haripunchai National Museum, which gives a great overview of the era that gave us these two “sister chedis”.

Pictures of Old Siam


When historians study old photographs and read through old documents, they have to do their best to decide what is fact and what is fiction. Take the above as a good example. The illustration on the left is a drawing from the book “The English Governess at the Siamese Court”. On the right is the original photograph by John Thomson. In the past, it wasn’t possible to reproduce pictures in books. So, a wood engraving had to be made. This was made by someone who wasn’t at the actual event and so therefore might embelish or alter some key features. Also, the picture editor then might make up the caption on what he thinks it looks like rather than what it really is. In this case, the picture editor labelled this one “Presentation of a Princess”. How wrong he could be. It was in fact the Royal Tonsure Ceremony for the boy who would late become King Chulalongkorn (King Rama V)!


I have blown up the original photograph. You can now see that the illustrator mistook the fittings of the ceremonial hat as curly hair and made the “prince” a “princess”. Standing at the back is King Mongkut (King Rama IV).


This next picture shows the same ceremony for the cutting of the top knot. Though this time it is the children of King Rama V. This cermony is no longer held, but you can still see this pavilion today. Where do you think it is? Can you give me the exact location?

Win the Thailand Fever Book

Over the last week, I have given you a couple of extracts from this book. Now we are giving you a chance to win yourself a copy in this easy to enter competition. All you have to do is answer this question:

Q. What does “nam jai” mean?

You will find the answer in one of my recent blogs. Send your answer to my e-mail address above before Saturday 23rd July.

You can buy this book at

Win Thai Music

This is the sixth of our weekly competitions to win a Thai Music CD full of the best songs from the year 2004! All you have to do is answer the following question:

Question 06: Which animal did Nang Songkran sit on during this year’s parade?

Send your name, nationality and answer to:

The deadline is the evening of Saturday 23rd April 2005. The winner will be announced the next day. You can only enter the competition once. However, if you don’t win, you can enter the new competition next Sunday.


QUESTION 05: Question 04: Where can you see miniatures of famous places from around Thailand and from around the world?

ANSWER 04: Mini Siam

The WINNER was Amanda Yap from Malaysia.


The competition is sponsored by our sister site at