Wat Pansao

Wat Pansao

Pretty temple, odd legends

More on Chiang Mai

The tiny but very attractive and photogenic Wat Pansao sees very few foreign visitors. It also happens to have some interesting legends attached to it.

Travelfish says:

Outside of certain religious festivals, Wat Pansao doesn’t even receive locals and most of the time you’ll have the entire place to yourself. Admittedly it is rather tucked away, situated down a quiet lane to the south side of Chiang Mai Ram Hospital, so you’re not likely to just pass by. Nevertheless, it's worth a look.

Just chill. : Mark Ord.
Just chill. Photo: Mark Ord

Wat Pansao has all the elements of a temple worth visiting: a pleasant garden, a classic Lanna-style main worshipping hall, a crumbling old brick chedi and a couple of interesting legends. The chedi is actually hollow, which makes it, at least to our amateur eye, perhaps Burmese influenced, seeing as how most Chiang Mai chedis aren’t, and most chedis we saw at, for example, Bagan are.

According to local legend, if you align yourself correctly with a gap in the partially ruined chedi wall, then the spirit inhabiting the interior—this is pure animism and nothing to do with Buddhism—will be able to see you and maybe, if you catch it on a good day, be inclined to grant a wish that you make while looking at the crack in the bricks.

Make a wish. : Mark Ord.
Make a wish. Photo: Mark Ord

Aside the grand old chedi, the temple garden also houses an interesting Ganesh sculpture. The Hindu elephant god is a frequent feature of local wats (indeed, check out our Mae Wang Ganesha Museum review—another example of not letting theological details stand in the way of a good bit of mythology). The small temple is otherwise surrounded by wooden and bamboo stalls and during certain significant dates in the Buddhist calendar the wat can get very busy with local worshippers, with the additional following legend being no doubt partly a reason.

If we’ve got this right, temple monks will sprinkle water droplets over worshippers. If they’ve accumulated enough Buddhist brownie points, if really lucky, the droplets may change into the ashes of the dead Indian prince himself—or, we were informed, one of his close associates such as his secretary. We didn’t realise Buddha had a secretary but some of this may well have got lost in translation. Now depending upon which part of Buddha’s body the ashes originate from, they may take the form of a certain coloured crystal or gem stone. One lucky worshipper apparently had water droplets fall into his shirt pocket and upon returning home discovered that his pocket was full of diamonds.

Classic lines. : Mark Ord.
Classic lines. Photo: Mark Ord

Samples of said gems are found in small wooden cases in the main worshipping hall. There’s an explanation under each shrine in Thai as to which one you should worship depending upon the desired outcome, such as good health, long life or a successful family.

The origins of the wat are obscure but the chedi has clearly been around for a while and may well date back to the 14th century, even if subsidiary buildings have been added in more recent times. Don’t go miles out of your way to see Wat Pansao, but if you are in the area it is well worth a look. If you wish to learn about these unusual local legends then do, as we didn’t, take a decent translator with you, otherwise just wander around the small but pretty and interesting spot—and don’t forget to make a wish.

Transport information

Walk south from Chiang Mai Ram or the intersection of the moat road and Kad Suan Kaew and it’s the second turning on the right after some 500 metres. You’ll find yourself down a leafy lane and the wat is immediately in the right.

Contact details for Wat Pansao

Address: Just off Boonrueang Rit Rd, Suthep
Coordinates (for GPS): 98º58'39.17" E, 18º47'31.35" N
See position in Apple or Google Maps: Apple Maps | Google Maps

Reviewed by

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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