Wat Lok Molee

Quirky and overlooked

What we say: 3.5 stars

Wat Lok Molee is an attractive and often overlooked little temple that’s recently received a facelift, and while not being one of Chiang Mai‘s most well known temples is well worth including on any temple tour of the downtown area.

Wat Lok Molee main worshipping hall.

Wat Lok Molee main worshipping hall.

If we grade wats by the number of photos we take in them, then Wat Lok Molee is at least a 30 — pretty good by our standards — not so much for the main viharn, pictured above, which is a fairly classic design, but for some of the oddities and curios we came across scattered around the small, interestingly cluttered grounds.

When visiting any of the city’s temples (or anywhere else for that matter), it’s always worth poking around in the corners or peeking behind things since that’s where you often find the most interesting bits. (During our 30-minute visit we saw several foreign tourists whiz into the carpark, take a couple of shots of the main building, check out the principal Buddha and then shoot off five minutes later.)

For reference, here is the principal Buddha image in the spacious yet low-key, and pleasingly un-kitsch for a change, viharn.

Seated, gold Buddha

Seated, gold Buddha.

Some interesting mosaics and reliefs adorn the hall’s walls — no gaudy murals in this one — showing the eight different Buddha positions of the week. The one below is Wednesday morning (the Buddhist calender has six days plus two Wednesdays, morning and night).

Wednesday morning Buddha

Wednesday morning Buddha.

More intriguing still were the eclectic range of subsidiary statues and images to be found in various corners of the garden such as the Brahma below. (Well, it’s officially Brahma but manages to combine aspects of Shiva — the third eye — as well as holding attributes more commonly associated with Vishnu.)

Brahma in the garden

Brahma in the garden.

And continuing the Hindu theme we also came across this fun Ganesha shrine in another corner.

The Ganesha shrine

The Ganesha shrine.

Also fairly unusual, and we reckon pretty striking, was the shrine housing a sort of fusion image of the traditional Chinese goddess Guanyin or Kuan Yin with Lokesvara-type multi arms.

The goddess Guanyin, a bit of a handful?

The goddess Guanyin, a bit of a handful?

In fact though she is not normally depicted in this way she is often considered to be the female incarnation of the Bodhisattva Lokesvara or Avolokesvara, so that kind of makes sense.

Lokesvara, Banteay Chmar, Cambodia

Lokesvara, Banteay Chmar, Cambodia.

The temple is thought to date to the 14th century though its origins are somewhat obscure. The viharn, which as we mentioned saw a major overhaul in recent times, and the large brick stupa were constructed in the early part of the 16th century by the Lanna king of the time, Phra Muang Kaew, and indeed the stupa now houses the ashes of both himself and his wife.

Viharn roof with chedi in background

Viharn roof with chedi in background.

The above shows the upper part of the chedi while below is one of the Chinese-style guardian ceramic lions.

Somewhere inside lie the king's ashes

Somewhere inside lie the king's ashes.

If you get bored looking at the religious buildings and images then alternative offerings include wooden elephant statues …

Odd, not very religious looking, wooden elephant

Odd, not very religious looking, wooden elephant.

… or a random old Mercedes displayed next to the monk’s quarters.

Monk-mobile?

Monk-mobile?

Perhaps of more interest is the aluminium workshop at the rear of the temple, next to the massage area, where craftsmen painstakingly hammer away at slabs of metal for weeks on end. A craftsman informed me that the upright relief seen partially at the rear left took him a year to finish. The piece he was working on in the photo is for a new door to the main viharn.

fascinating stuff

Fascinating stuff.

As we mentioned there is a massage area where you can be pummelled, or try the rather good and cheap coffee shop …

Iced mocha - 40 baht!

Iced mocha -- 40 baht.

… or watch the birdlife?

red-whiskered bulbul

Red-whiskered bulbul.

More details
North side of the moat road, down from Chang Puak night market and close to Computer Plaza.
Last updated: 20th September, 2013

About the author:
Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.
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Wat Lok Molee
North side of the moat road, down from Chang Puak night market and close to Computer Plaza.
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Sights in Chiang Mai