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  • Writer's pictureDavid Cheung

Wat Umong: The Unique and Serene Forest Temple in Chiang Mai

If you are visiting Chiang Mai, a city in northern Thailand, you will likely come across many temples (known as "wats") as it is home to over 300 of them. However, one temple that stands out from the rest is Wat Umong, a serene and unique forest temple located on the outskirts of the city.

Wat Umong, also known as the "Tunnel Temple," was built in the 14th century by King Mangrai as a place of retreat for Buddhist monks. The temple is situated in a forested area, surrounded by trees, and has a tranquil and peaceful atmosphere. The temple's most unique feature is the system of tunnels that run under the temple complex, which were used by the monks for meditation and reflection.

As you approach the temple, you will be greeted by a towering chedi (a Buddhist stupa), which stands at over 30 meters tall. The chedi is surrounded by prayer bells, and the sound of them ringing adds to the calming atmosphere of the temple. The temple grounds also contain several other structures, including a meditation hall, a bell tower, and several shrines.

The tunnels under the temple complex are an essential part of the Wat Umong experience. The tunnels are dimly lit, and the air is cool and damp. You will notice small openings in the walls that allow light to filter through, and some areas have wooden benches where you can sit and meditate. The tunnels also have several Buddha statues, and it is said that rubbing the statues can bring good luck.

One of the highlights of visiting Wat Umong is the chance to interact with the resident monks. The temple is still an active monastery, and you may see monks walking around the temple grounds or engaging in daily activities such as chanting or meditating.

You can also participate in a monk chat, which is a unique opportunity to ask questions about Buddhism and the monk's way of life.

Another unique feature of Wat Umong is the temple's connection to nature. The temple is set in a lush forest, and the grounds are home to several species of birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. You may also come across a small lake on the temple grounds, which adds to the serene atmosphere of the temple.

Visiting Wat Umong is a peaceful and refreshing experience that is different from the other temples in Chiang Mai. It is an excellent place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and immerse yourself in nature and Buddhist culture. The temple is open to visitors daily, and admission is free, although donations are welcome.

Wat Umong is a unique and serene forest temple in Chiang Mai that is well worth a visit. The system of tunnels, the towering chedi, and the peaceful atmosphere make it a must-see attraction for anyone interested in Buddhism or seeking a moment of tranquillity. Whether you are a seasoned traveller or a first-time visitor to Chiang Mai, Wat Umong is a temple that should not be missed.



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