Wat Chedi Luang

A favourite.

What we say: 3.5 stars

Wat Chedi Luang translates as ‘royal stupa temple'; there are quite a few similarly named temples around but we’re referring to the old Chiang Saen one, so named since it’s thought to have been the principal temple of King Mengrai’s former capital. Located in the northwest of Chiang Rai province on the banks of the Mekong near the Golden Triangle, the city’s ruins are scattered throughout the modern town of Chiang Saen. Wat Chedi Luang is situated near the old west gate and next to the Chiang Saen Museum.

View from scenic carpark

View from scenic car park.

The temple is thought to date from the 13th or 14th centuries and, according to people who know about these things, the octagonal base of the imposing 18m-high chedi itself is classic Chiang Saen style.

See - we told you it had an octagonal base!

See, we told you it was octagonal!

It’s got a nice balance of ancient/ruined/slightly overgrown and a still active/lived-in feel which is why we particularly like it. (We’re not so keen on the gaudy modern ones or the manicured ‘historical sites’.) A temporary roof has been built over the ruined viharn (main worshipping hall) and a more recent, but nonetheless attractive, seated Buddha image installed allowing locals, and visitors, to worship and make offerings and monks to officiate.

Seated Buddha of Wat Chedi Luang

Seated Buddha of Wat Chedi Luang.

Some walls of the outer enclosure of the temple still remain. Below is the overgrown east gate with sacred boddhi tree. Numerous other adjacent ruins indicate it must have been an impressive construction in its heyday.

East gate - former main entrance

East gate, the former main entrance.

This is a very attractive site and indeed the relatively untouristy town is well worth a visit, with its numerous other ancient temple sites, the old city walls and moat and its leafy lanes providing a great setting for a walk or cycle ride. It might be a bit too far as a day trip from Chiang Mai but you can find plenty of decent accommodation in town or in nearby Chiang Khong.

'Bang a gong, get it on' - what too young to remember?

'Get it on, bang a gong' -- what too young to remember? (Ed: I have no idea what you are talking about.)

So we’ll leave you with this video link which has nothing whatsoever to do with Chiang Saen but something to do with gongs even if would probably have King Mengrai turning in his grave.

Last updated: 31st August, 2015

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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