Umong Temple is one of the highlights of Chiang Mai. If you are tired of the temples in the old city, this peaceful area is a must see. The temple offer meditation class for those who need to refresh the mind. Surrounding with big tall trees and cool air from the Suthep – Pui national park.
Located in a grove UMong Temple (Tunnel Temple) is a practicing meditation temple. The origins of the temple, which are traced to the 14th century, are obscure. The temple may have been founded by King Mangrai himself to accommodate some forest monks from Sri Lanka.
One legend relates that King Ku Na may have developed the temple in the 1380’s to accommodate a celebrated monk called Therachan. The king used to consult the monk on various problems when the monk was in residence at a temple in the old city (Wat UMong Maha Therachan).
On occasions, however, the monk was thought to be a little “eccentric” because he preferred the solitude offered by the forest retreat to Chiang Mai temples.
Records suggest the temple may have become deserted as early as the end of the reign of King Tilokarat (1487). The site only became a monastery again in 1948.
A strong influence on the temple has been the Buddhist philosophy of the late Buddhadhasa Bhikkhu, one of Thailand’s most celebrated 20th century monks. His statue stands on an islet in the lake to the south of the chedi. The Venerable favored the natural environment of the forest over human construction. As a result the modest temple buildings are surrounded by trees.
A path from the main entrance leads up past a Buddhist museum. It continues between a kuti and a “spiritual theater” which contains murals depicting Buddhist wisdom. The path then reaches a raised area with walls of brick. Tunnels lead to meditation cells and a venerated Buddha image. Some of the oldest murals in Thailand used to be visible in these tunnels, but they have now disappeared.
On top of the mound is a large, circular bell shaped chedi. The Lanna style chedi has recently been restored. From the chedi walk north above the Tunnels to see a fine Buddha image cast in the ascetic style. The kuti, the monks living quarters, are scattered in the forest.
The temple grounds also extend to cover an open zoo on the side of the mountain. The front entrance lies up a short lane on the south side of the temple.
The zoo has an inner fenced area connected to the main temple compound by a small back gate in the west fence. This inner area contains kuti for monks in the classic forest tradition.
Tame deer wander the park and the park sanctuary is a good site for bird watching.
There is a pool nearby. The lake is peaceful and you can sit and relax and feed the birds and fish. You can buy food for a small amount and its really worth it to see these fish move to the surface. The spot of this place is surounded by big trees, butterflies and the sound of birds and roosters.
How to get to the Umong Temple
The Wat Umong is located just West of Chiang Mai city near Doi Suthep mountain. The temple is found about 1,500 meters South of Suthep road, just West of the Chiang Mai outer ring road. You can get there by private tour, taxi, tuk tuk, songthaew or samlor. Since the temple is a bit out of the way, it can be difficult to find a ride for the return trip, so it would be advisable to book a round trip and have the driver wait.
The most comfortable way to get there is by private tour. Most hotels can book one for you or contact travel agency in Chiang Mai to book car rental with driver for your group.
Opening hours and Entrance fee : The temple opens daily from 6 am until 5 pm. Admission is free.
Note : Not accessible for wheelchair user
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