In the northern Thai dialect, “chedi" means a “stupa” or mound. Wat Chedi Luang (The Great Stupa) is one of the most venerated temples of Thailand which holds a history of 700 years to its credit. The towering chedi built in the 14th century is one of the finest testimonies of the earliest Lanna architecture and culture and one of the most hunted tourist spots in Thailand. It is arguably the largest work of architecture in ancient Chiang Mai which housed the famous Wat Phra Kaew (Emerald Buddha) in its eastern niche until 1475. What is visible to the spectators is a jade replica that replaced the original one.
On the main sanctuary, one can witness the statue of Standing Buddha (Phra Chao Attarot) flanked by his two followers. At the rare compound of the temple, there resides The Reclining Buddha and The Seated Buddha in Chinese features. In the teak pavilions of the chedi, there are chapels and statues that will remind you of the bygone Lanna kingdom. The viharns (worship hall) of the chedi are decked gorgeously with intricate wood carvings on the frontal facade, three-tiered golden roof, colossal columns to support the roof and lofty stairways guarded by giant Nagas.
The Sao Inthakin which was placed in the site of the temple is another major attraction of Wat Chedi Luang. The embracing serenity of the place exuded by the Dipterocarp trees in the precincts of the temple allures tourists to pay their visit. Apart from these, there is a lot to see and experience in Wat Chedi Luang as it is the site of the erstwhile flourishing Lanna kingdom.
Location: 103, Prapokklao Road, Tambon Si Phum, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai- 50300 Thailand
Timings: 8 AM- 5 PM
Distance from Chiang Mai: 13 Km.
History of Wat Chedi Luang
Wat Chedi Luang stands as a milestone of Lanna architecture in Thailand and one of the revered religious sites of Thailand. In the Thai language, “wat" means temple and “Luang" means large. According to the historical documents, the construction of the iconic temple was started in 1391 by King Saen Muang Ma and was completed in 1475. The temple earned its name owing to the towering height of the pinnacle of its “chedi" (pagoda) which rose well above 80 meters from the ground in the bygone time. Later, due to some catastrophic phenomena (earthquake or canon fire based upon diverse opinions), the original “chedi" was destroyed and the present one measures only 60 meters from the ground. The damaged pinnacle could never be reconstructed to its original look as nobody had the notion about how it really looked. However, the renovation of the temple was done in 1900 jointly financed by UNESCO and the Government of Japan. The newly constructed temple followed the Central Thai architectural pattern instead of its original Lanna style architecture.
The massive temple consisted of two more edifices namely Wat Ho Sam and Wat Sukmin that later were merged into the main temple. Wat Chedi Luang was the site of one of the most venerated Buddha shrines “The Emerald Buddha” which was later shifted to Luang Prabang in Laos after almost a century and is now moved to Bangkok.
Wat Chedi Luang Traveller's Tip
Here's a list of essentials for the first time visitors to Wat Chedi Luang:
- Chiang Mai is well connected with Bangkok by air, road and rail network. Also, flights ply on a regular basis to and fro to other Asian countries from Chiang Mai. You will be really spoiled with an abundance of options for your accommodation. From luxury hotels to cheap hostels Chiang Mai provides you accommodation that fits into your budget. But, staying in the old town lets you have easy access to the local markets, explore the exotic nightlife and is a perfect crossroad for starting your sightseeing
- You can explore the old town of Chiang Mai on foot or by a rented orange bicycle for a few bucks and use it till your stay at the city. Also, you can hire a Songthaew (red taxi) for touring around the city for a few extra bucks as an outsider.
- Thailand is a country of festivals and events that keeps the locals in high spirits. Before backpacking, check on the calendar for the festivals and holidays to witness them in person.
- Carry some anti-diarrheal medicines on your trip as diarrhea is common in Thailand. Also, keep a watchful eye to what you are eating out.
- Thailand experiences a warm climate for most of the months in a year. So, it's recommended to wear a comfortable outfit suitable for summer. While visiting the temples cover your shoulder and knees according to the Thai cultural tradition.
- Smoking e-cigarettes in Thailand is a strict No-No.
- Dengue and malaria are common across Thailand. Sleeping under a mosquito net and wearing covered clothes are strongly recommended.
- Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand is more budget-friendly as a tourist spot compared to the cities of South Thailand. For a few Euros, you can avail decent accommodation and a sumptuous Thai platter in North Thailand.
Attractions in Wat Chedi Luang
The Sao Inthakin (City Pillar) - Sheltered within the precincts of a small house, the Sao Inthakin or City Pillar is considered as the protector of the city of Chiang Mai. The guardian spirit which is believed to be the carrier of the Sao Inthakin from heaven is housed in a small shrine near the City Pillar.
Chedi (The Great Stupa) - The chedi of Wat Chedi Luang stands tall at a height of 60 meters with a base of 44 meters. One has to negotiate with each of the four niches through a mammoth stairway which is guarded by mythical stone nagas (snakes). Midway up the platform is an elephant guard which is a major attraction for the visitors.
The original chedi was destroyed due to a massive earthquake occurred during the 17th century. However, the other side of the story says the destruction was caused due to the cannon firing of King Taskin to deprive the Burmese invaders in the 18th century. In the later years, the chedi was reconstructed as it stands today.
Viharns- Wat Chedi Luang consists of two viharns that add to the architectural attraction of the sanctum sanctorum. The first large viharn comprises of a lofty ceiling which is supported by two rows of tall, round columns. The triple-tiered roof and the golden frontal facade of the viharn make it stand out among the other historical buildings of the city. Opposite to the entrance, the earliest relic of Phra Chao Attarot (Standing Buddha) will inevitably draw your attention by its massive size and surreal charm. The statue was cast towards the end of the 14th century.
The second viharn is smaller than the first and is decked with intricate wood carvings on its frontal facade that enhances the appeal of the viharn. The stairway leading to the entrance is safeguarded by large mythical snakes that evoke one's awe and veneration.
Next to the viharns, is a small pavilion built in Burmese style which is also an attraction of Wat Chedi Luang.
Monk Chat- If you have a spiritual bent of mind, sitting at the company of the Thai monks will enlighten you about the ethos of Buddhism, Thai culture, the journey of a monk's life and many more engaging topics. Ladies should not try to touch a monk as it is considered a taboo in Thailand.
The Monk Club on the northern side of the ground remains open from 9 AM- 6 PM.
How to reach Wat Chedi Luang from Chiang Mai?
Wat Chedi Luang is located about 5 Km from Chiang Mai airport and is convenient for the tourists to figure out its exact location. If you travel by air, the most feasible option to visit the magnificent tourist site is to book a hotel in proximity to the airport.
You book a taxi or a red songthaew which runs from north to south of the city plying between Changpuak Gate and Chiang Mai Gate. As you travel across Prapokklao Road, you can spot the stunning edifice of the temple from a distance. Its main gate is located at Ratchadamnoen Road.
Best time to visit Wat Chedi Luang
Based on the climatic conditions of Thailand between November and mid- February Wat Chedi Luang draws the maximum number of tourists as this is the best time of the year to visit the place. During this time the climate remains cool and dry and therefore sightseeing is a pleasurable activity for holidaymakers. Also, you can witness the Loy Krathong festival in November and the flower festival in February.
But, if you want to avail of accommodation at the cheapest rate, the best time to visit is from late April till late October when the rush of tourists is low. The flight price during this time is also quite low.
Places to stay near Wat Chedi Luang
Here is a list of some of the hotels from budget to luxury near Wat Chedi Luang you can check out:
Holiday Inn Chiang Mai- It is located about 2.9 Km from Wat Chedi Luang. The place is preferred by tourists for its tranquil ambiance.
Bodhi Serene Hotel- The hotel is a blissful asylum with luxury amenities. It is located at 0.4 Km from Wat Chedi Luang.
De Lanna Hotel- Located about 0.6 km from Wat Chedi Luang, De Lenna is a boutique hotel that guarantees you of a plush accommodation at an affordable price.
99 The Gallery Hotel- In keeping with its name, the boutique hotel is decked in typical Lanna style in the form of an art gallery. the hotel is equipped with 53 rooms, suites, private balcony, and other modern amenities. It is located just a few steps away from the market area and from Wat Chedi Luang its distance is 0.85 Km approx.
Kavil Guesthouse- The prim and proper budget guest house is located about 0.4 Km from Wat Chedi Luang. With high-speed free Wi-Fi, complimentary breakfast, laundry service, etc. you can enjoy a comfortable stay in a homely environment.
Lamphu House- If the distance is your issue book your accommodation right away at the Lamphu House which gives you the best-staying experience in Chiang Mai. It is located at a distance of 0.1 km from Wat Chedi Luang. The amicable service of the staff, gourmet food and beverage, poolside amusements and the balmy ambiance of the hotel will be worth your money.
Viangluang Resort- The romantic charm and personalized service of the staff of the Viangluang Resort will certainly catch your fancy of the place. Located at a striking distance (0.1 km approx.) from Wat Chedi Luang, it is the choicest retreat of the tourists. The other important landmarks such as Wat Pan Tao and Wat Phakao are located within 0.3 Km from the hotel.
Tamarind Village- Located at a stone's throw distance (0.3 Km approx.) from Wat Chedi Luang, the boutique property ensures comfortable stay within a relaxing ambiance. The major attractions viz. Three Kings Monument, Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang, and Thapae Gate are just at a walking distance from the hotel.
Villa Sirilanna Hotel- Located in the heart of the old city of Chiang Mai and about 0.4 Km from Wat Chedi Luang, the hotel boasts of its exquisite interior in traditional Northern Thai style and an array of comfort amenities for guests. You can enjoy reading in the cozy ambiance of the hotel library.
Thai Akara- Lanna Boutique Hotel- The boutique hotel at the heart of Chiang Mai is a perfect hidey-hole that takes you close to the Lanna culture. The seamless blending of Lanna architecture with modern amenities is a perfect place to relax and enjoy your vacation time. The hotel is located about 0.4 Km from Wat Chedi Luang.
1. When was Wat Chedi Luang built?
The construction of the massive temple and the largest at Chiang Mai started in 1391 under the reign of King Saen Muang Ma. It was completed in 1475 during the rule of King Tilokaraj who dedicated the chedi to Emerald Buddha- one of the iconic statues of Lord Buddha in Thailand.
Unfortunately in the year 1545 during the reign of Queen Mahadevi, the chedi was terribly damaged following a massive earthquake in Thailand. In 1900 the UNESCO and the Government of Japan collaboratively undertook the restoration work of the historical temple to retain some of its former glory. The viharn (worship hall) was built in 1928.
2. What is unique about Wat Chedi Luang?
The oversized bust of Emerald Buddha (official name is Wat Phra Sri Rattana Satsadaram) carved out of a single block of black jade is the most unique feature of Wat Chedi Luang. It is the most revered idol of Lord Buddha and an important cultural asset of Thailand which dates back as early as the 15th century. The original statue of the Emerald Buddha which was made in Lanna architectural pattern existed there six years after the earthquake. Later, it was shifted to Luang Prabang (in today's Laos) and a replica is sited in its place which was donated by the then king. One can see four Buddha figurines on the four niches of the chedi.
3. What is the dress code for Wat Chedi Luang?
The dress code for Wat Chedi Luang should reflect your respect towards the religious culture of Thailand. Females should wear dresses that fall beyond their knees. Clothes with revealing shoulders are a strict No (e.g. halter neck or tank tops, shorts, midi skirts). The temple management provides robes to the visitors free of cost if their dress code is not in keeping with the temple etiquette and need an extra pair for covering themselves up. For men, there is as such no dress code. But they should dress according to the norms of the time covering their knees, shoulders, and midriffs.
4. What are the operating hours of Wat Chedi Luang?
Wat Chedi Luang remains open for visitors every day from 8 AM -5 PM. The temple remains open at all the days of the week.
5. What is the history behind Wat Chedi Luang?
Wat Chedi Luang (The Great Stupa) was built sometime between the 14th and 15th centuries and was the tallest and one of the most venerated temples of Chiang Mai. Its construction started under the governance of King Saen Muang Ma who wished to enshrine the ashes of his father Ku Na in the temple. The succeeding kings took charge of the construction of Wat Chedi Luang in the following years until its completion in 1475.
According to the history of the city, the pinnacle of the chedi was toppled due to a severe earthquake. Later during the Burmese invasion, the architecture of Wat Chedi Luang was also massively impaired. The restoration work of the temple started in 1900.
6. What is a chedi?
Chedi is the Thai version of a stupa or pagoda. In Thailand, a chedi or pagoda is considered as the central and sacred part of a wat (temple). Though a traditional chedi is usually conical in shape, they can be found in different outlines and variants. Initially chedis were built to house the relics of Lord Buddha but later on, they enshrined the remains of an important king or a monk.
In Thailand, the most popular form of chedi visible is the bell-shaped one whose shape is likely derived from an ancient entombment mound. Thailand houses the largest chedi (Phra Pathom Chedi) in the world which stands at a height of 127 meters in Nakhon Pathom province near Bangkok.
7. Why is Wat Chedi Luang also known as Inthakin City Pillar?
Traditionally city pillars (made of wood and stone) were installed at the heart of the cities across Thailand. The Inthakin of Chiang Mai was established by King Mengrai in the year 1296 inside the Wat Sadue Muang temple just after Chiang Mai was declared the capital of the Lanna kingdom. In 1800 the city pillar was permanently shifted to Wat Chedi Luang where it stands today.
During the month of May (sometimes in early June), every year the Inthakin Festival is held to memorialize the Inthakin (city pillar) which is believed to be the protector of Chiang Mai. The festival draws thousands of spectators every day who throng at the venue to pay their tribute and make merry.
8. What is the entrance fee of Wat Chedi Luang?
In earlier times there was no entry fee to pay your visit to the temple. At present, the entry fee for adults is 40 Bahts (88INR approx.) and 20 Baht (44INR approx.) for children. Locals are exempted from the entry fee.
However, you can make donations for the cause of the temple if you wish.
9. What are the other temples in Chiang Mai?
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep- The temple has been wearing the crown of being the most revered, most visited and most celebrated temples in Thailand since antiquity. It holds an exalted place among the Thai folks as a glaring specimen of the ancient Lanna culture. The 79 ft. golden chedi, ceremonial parasols, set of rakhangs (temple bells), impressive murals on the interior walls and the sprawling promenade overlooking the spectacular city below cast an enduring mystical spell on the visitors.
Wat Pa Pao- Built in the year 1880, the temple stands as one of the finest specimens of Burmese architecture in Chiang Mai. In the local dialect, “pa" means jungle and hence the name Wat Pa Pao is fairly justified as it was originally built amidst a grove of pao trees. The architectural feature of this temple stands apart from the other temples of Chiang Mai built in Lanna or Thai patterns.
Wat Chiang Man- The temple was built 1297 and is one of the earliest temples of Chiang Mai. The temple houses two famous shrines of Lord Buddha- one is the Crystal Buddha and another is an impressive statue of brass relief.
Wat Jed Yod- One of the hidden gems of Chiang Mai, which is often overlooked by the tourists. “Jed Yod” means seven peaks corresponding to the seven chedis. Wat Jed Yod was built during the 15th century and the architectural flair is uniquely different from the other temples of the Chiang Mai although it has a close resemblance with the Mahabodhi temple in India. During February and March, a grand traditional festival is held on the temple ground which is attended by many tourists.
There are about 300 temples across Chiang Mai and counting each one unique in its own features and religious association. Some of the best-known temples of Chiang Mai that are worth your visit are Wat Phra Singh, Wat Lok Molee, Wat Umong, and Wat Jed Yod.
10. What are the two viharans in Wat Chedi Luang?
Wat Chedi Luang comprises of two viharns (worship hall) which is a must watch inside the temple. The first viharn is a large building built in 1928 which houses the Standing Buddha (Phra Chao Attarot) in the Abhaya Mudra (hand gesture which shows dispelling of fear) position. The statue made from mortar and brass alloy belongs to the 14th century when Wat Chedi Luang was built.
The second viharn is comparatively smaller in size and has an elegantly decorated frontal facade. The stairway at the entrance is guarded by giant mythical Nagas (snakes).