A forest temple
Set at the foot of Doi Suthep along the road leading to Wat Doi Suthep and Doi Pui village, Wat Umong is one of Chiang Mai’s most unusual temples and makes a worthy addition to a day trip up the mountain.
Definitely one of Chiang Mai’s most unusual and interesting temples, Wat Umong (or Tunnel Temple), is set in forested grounds near the foot of Doi Suthep. An artificial earthen mound in the temple grounds covers a series of underground passageways whose purpose has never really been explained, but which add to the temple’s mysterious air.
Near the mound lies a collection of old Buddhist statues and oddities collected from abandoned temples or donated by worshippers, while elsewhere on the spacious grounds you’ll find woods, gardens, numerous trails and even a lake. Wat Umong is a popular spot at weekends, when locals wander or sit by the lake and feed the resident catfish and turtles. It’s also an excellent spot for spotting birds and butterflies.
The temple itself dates from the 14th century but was abandoned for many years before being reoccupied in the 20th century, explaining the somewhat dilapidated parts of the temple and its rather, especially after the rainy season, overgrown look.
There are the usual wat buildings including a large, imposing brick stupa, and meditation areas where a Western monk leads occasional meditation classes in English.
This is an interesting spot to visit and a pleasant, tranquil site to while away some time. It is a bit far to walk but only a 10- to 15-minute tuk tuk or motorbike ride from downtown Chiang Mai and easily combined with a trip to Doi Suthep. You could also stop off at fascinating Don Phayam Market on the way.
Tuk tuks will probably ask for at least 150 to 200 baht and you might want to ask the driver to wait since they’re few and far between in these parts.
Address: Soi Wat Umong, off Suthep Road, Suthep
Coordinates (for GPS): 98º57'11.88" E, 18º47'0.24" N
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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.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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