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The Top 7 Reasons to Visit Wat Umong in Chiang Mai

The Top 7 Reasons to Visit Wat Umong in Chiang Mai

We all want to get our money’s worth even when travelling abroad. When in Thailand,  you can visit one special temple to keep you and your family enthralled for hours and it’s called Wat Umong or the “tunnel temple”.

Here, you can experience numerous cultural and historical sites that we’re sure you’ll never forget. We’re going to give you the top reasons to visit Wat Umong so read on and get excited about this wonderful temple located in Chiang Mai!

Go beneath the tunnels

Website:  N/A

Address: 135 หมู่ที่ 10 Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand  

Contact details:  +66 93 278 7733

Operating hours: Monday to Sunday, 5:00 AM to 8:00 PM

Wat Umong is also referred to as the “tunnel temple” and for good reason. This site is home to tunnels that have been dug out from mounds. 

Here, you can check out the statues and shrines dedicated to the Buddha and marvel at the intricate details of these statues. This tunnel is a popular site for pilgrims and monks as well so expect to see a number of them walking around the tunnels to pay their respects to the Buddha.

Pro tip:

  • These tunnels are considered sacred sites by monks, pilgrims, and Buddhists alike. 
  • As such, you need to make sure that you observe the solemnity of the place by keeping your voice down and by wearing modest clothing (no short shorts please!)

Take photos of the damaged Buddha artefacts

Some of the Buddha structures you’ll see in Wat Umong will be much worse for wear compared to their well-maintained counterparts. But we’re not talking about those for this entry.

Instead, we are referring to actual damaged Buddha structures scattered around temple grounds. You’ll find this near the tunnel mounds where a trail goes around and between the trees.

On the said spot, you’ll see some damaged Budhhas with some statues with just their heads left. These damaged statues came from other temples and were placed in this location, giving you and your loved ones the chance to take pictures of and with them!

Pro tip:

  • Don’t just take pictures of these damaged statues! Take a selfie with them and show them off to your friends to let them know the deep historical significance of this temple (Wat Umong) you just visited.

Read inspirational quotes hanging from trees and bushes  

Wat Umong doesn’t just give you wonderful temples and shrines to marvel at. It can also give you inspirational quotes to lift your spirits up and inspire you to choose the right path – all done with a unique and surprising twist!

You see, instead of giving you inspirational quotes on sheets of paper (like a fortune cookie), Wat Umong has inspirational quotes that you can read while hanging from trees and bushes.

If you want to see these life-changing sayings, follow the pathway leading to the lake and look for those trees and bushes with little rectangular boards displaying a quote. These quotes are both in English and in Thai and some of them that we gathered are:

  • Detachment is a way to relax.
  • All things arise, exist, and expire.
  • The thing that is liked or disliked just appears to exist for a moment and expires.
  • Nothing is permanent. Things go in and go out.
  • Love is divine. Lust is a devil.
  • Today is better than tomorrow.

Pro tip:

  • You won’t have any trouble reading these quotes as they have both English and Thai translations. Send a photo to your friend if you think it applies to them (for example, send “Today is better than tomorrow” to a procrastinator).

Enjoy the allure of the temple’s bell-shaped chedi

One of the most photographed features of Wat Umong is its bell-shaped chedi and it’s no surprise why. One look at the structure and you’ll see how large and imposing it is.

Upon closer inspection, you’ll also see the intricate details carved into it. This is all thanks to the Lanna-style architecture used when the chedi was first created.

While it may be old, you’ll find that it still stands the test of time thanks to it being recently restored. You should stand right next to or beside the chedi when taking your pictures so that you can include the forest behind the chedi as your background. 

If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the monks here as their living quarters are scattered across this forest.

Pro tip:

  • Don’t forget to check out the fasting Buddha near the chedi. It’s quite unique as the Buddha here is coloured black, is thin, and is doing the ascetic style of Buddhist pose.

Be amazed at the copy of an Ashoka Pillar

Here’s another interesting feature you need to check out at Wat Umong if you or any of your family members are history buffs. 

A copy of an Ashoka pillar can be found on temple grounds and its history can be traced back to when the temple was founded in the 13th century. The Ashoka Pillar actually started out because of the orders of King Ashoka of India in the 3rd century BC.

During this period, the king sent monks to spread Buddhism to different continents– from Asia to Europe. To achieve this, the monks erected inscribed pillars (Ashoka Pillars) detailing the spread of this religion which made its way to Thailand.

Fortunately, we still have a copy of the said Ashoka Pillar to enjoy and see for ourselves. Don’t forget to pose right beside the pillar together with your family for that picture-perfect moment at this historical sight!

Pro tip:

  • Use your camera or your phone’s zoom function to check out the top portion of this chedi. You’ll see a Dhamma wheel and four (4) lions adorning this magnificent pillar.
  • This Dhamma wheel is also called the “Wheel of Law” and is crucial to Buddhist teachings as it symbolises the Buddha’s teachings.

Relax near the pond and watch the pigeons and catfish

It’s not just Buddhas, temples, and shrines here at Wat Umong. If you or any member of your family is into wildlife or animals, then the temple grounds can give you something to look forward to as well.

There’s a pond within temple grounds right in the middle of the forest where you just sit back and relax while taking in the beauty of your surroundings. What’s more, you’ll see different wildlife here ranging from turtles, ducks, pigeons, and catfish.

If you want to feed these friendly animals, you can buy some animal food from the vendors here. Take your camera or phone out and take pictures or videos of them while feasting on the treat you just gave them!

Pro tip:

  • The food usually sold here for animals is bags of white bread. Just pay around 10 THB for one (1) bag and start giving your animal companions here a treat.

Reflect at the Wat Umong Meditation Centre

The temple grounds of Wat Umong are perfect for those who want to reflect and think about life and our existence. However, there’s a specific spot here that is ideal for actual meditation– it’s right in the middle of a natural lake located within the woods.

You’ll find that this area is actually the place where all that sound of monks chanting and praying is coming from. In fact, this is also the location where the temple activity known as the Dhamma Talks is conducted.

These talks are done every Sunday from 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM at the Chinese Pavilion near the pond. You can easily join in as the talks are held in English and will commonly discuss concepts related to Buddhism. 

The monks will also talk and teach you about the Anapanasati meditation method which mainly focuses on deep breathing techniques. 

We suggest that you wear comfortable (and stretchable) clothes if you want to attend this session as some of the activities may require you to sit in a yoga position to do these deep breathing exercises.

Pro tip:

  • Before joining any of the Dhamma Talk sessions, check with temple staff if the one to be conducted on your scheduled visit will be held in English.
  • During these sessions, you’ll have the opportunity to ask the monks questions pertaining to Buddhism.
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