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How to Avoid Temple Burnout in Chiang Mai

Posted By in Thailand, Travel Tips | 20 comments

How to Avoid Temple Burnout in Chiang Mai

Temple burnout: I think anyone who has traveled in Asia has reluctantly experienced it at some point. Every city has temples, and they’re often ranked among the top attractions in each place. At first, they’re mesmerizing; all gold-leaf-coated Buddhas and exotically-pointed stupas. Then, slowly, you realize that the memories of each temple you’ve already seen are blurring together, and you find yourself quietly admitting that all these temples are getting a little…well…boring.

I wouldn’t be the first person to experience temple burnout in Chiang Mai, where there are over 300 temples in and around the city. Lately, however, I’ve started exploring the city at night. I was mainly doing it to avoid the intolerable day-time heat, but it’s also how I discovered that some of the city’s temples are illuminated after dark. And it’s magical.

When I visit temples during the day, I’m always brushing against the sweaty arms of other tourists; breathing in air that feels thick with humidity; and squinting against all those shiny gold surfaces that seem to magnify the effects of the heat. It’s a quick road to temple burnout from there. But at night, the atmosphere feels calm, quiet, and cool. The temples have this reverent energy, and I feel an understanding of the intangible qualities that make each of these buildings special.

Wat Sri Suphan: The Silver Temple

Most people have heard of the famous White Temple in nearby Chiang Rai (which, sadly, was damaged during a recent earthquake), but few know about Chiang Mai’s Silver Temple, Wat Sri Suphan.

Wat Sri Suphan the Silver Temple chiang mai thailand

The temple was originally constructed in the 16th century, although it has been destroyed and rebuilt numerous times since then.

Wat Sri Suphan the silver temple chiang mai thailand

From what I’ve read, most of the building is composed of alloy and zinc, with the actual silver saved to create the temple’s holy images. At night, the spotlights change colours occasionally, causing the temple to glow red, then blue, then yellow.

Wat Sri Suphan the silver temple chiang mai thailand

The silverware created in this area of Chiang Mai is known for its raised textures, and the more you look at this small yet impressive temple, the more you notice all of its incredibly intricate details. Unfortunately, women aren’t allowed to enter the main ordination hall, but the temple’s exterior is unusual enough that it’s still worth a visit, regardless.

Wat Sri Suphan the silver temple chiang mai thailand

Wat Sri Suphan is also home to an important silver-working school, where age-old silversmith techniques are passed down to young artisans, preserving their traditions.

Wat Sri Suphan the silver temple chiang mai thailand

The temple is located on a side street off Wualai Road, which is where Chiang Mai’s Saturday Night Market takes place. You can easily combine trips to the market and the temple for a pretty awesome evening.

Wat Pan Tao 

Wat Pan Tao was originally built in the late 14th century, along with the more famous temple found next door, Chedi Luang.

Wat Pan Tao chiang mai

It’s among only a handful of wooden temples left in the city, and I really loved its understated simplicity. The current structure was supposedly built in the late 19th century using teak wood reused from an old royal palace.

Wat Pan Tao chiang mai

Brent and I visited the temple at night during the rainy season, and when the monks came outside to light incense and pray, there was this feeling of electricity in the air that always intensifies just before the rains begin. We were the only ones watching them, and everything was completely silent aside from the sound of bats wings fluttering overhead

Wat Pan Tao chiang mai

We watched the monks quietly until, almost simultaneously, a few other tourists arrived and the first few drops of rain began to fall – the moment was over.

Have you experienced temple burnout in Asia? How did you cure it?

20 Comments

  1. Steph (@20YH) August 1, 2014

    One of our favorite times to explore Chiang Mai's temples was at night too! I know we definitely stopped by a few that looked incredible when illuminated that we probably wouldn't have even given a second glance during the day. I never thought to apply this principle to other locations, but it is a great way to shake up your temple viewing experience!

    • waysofwanderers August 2, 2014

      Totally! Plus it makes it easier to gets clear photos without other tourists in them, which is a bonus.

  2. Naomi August 1, 2014

    It was similar with Mayan/Incan sites in Central and South America but I imagine being able to see the sites at night would indeed be a different story. I've always preferred seeing places at night, I think that's when they come alive!
    My recent post How to… Find an Internship in France

    • waysofwanderers August 2, 2014

      Agreed! Most places seem to have a little more romance and mysteriousness at night.

    • waysofwanderers August 4, 2014

      Definitely check it out! I'm really surprised it doesn't seem to get grouped in with Chiang Mai's other "must-see" temples, because it's one of the more distinct ones I've seen around here.

  3. Peter Korchnak August 4, 2014

    A friend has labeled the church burnout that travelers experience in Europe the ABC Syndrome, short for Another Bloody Church Syndrome. I avoid it by visiting churches during concerts (yes, you have to buy a ticket) or during mass to blend in with the locals (no you can't take pictures). Alas, churches in Europe tend to be closed at night, except for Christmas or other big holidays.
    My recent post How much we spent traveling the world for a year

    • waysofwanderers August 4, 2014

      Ha, Peter, I think I remember hearing about ABC Syndrome somewhere before. I agree that going during mass can make it feel a little more interesting. I find that visiting temples at night allows the calmness I need to understand their culture significance a bit better – I think going during mass would achieve the same effect.

  4. rebecca August 5, 2014

    wow some beautiful photos! I love being a tourist at night, whilst everyone else is sleeping, having dinner or out partying , you have the best parts of the town at the best times 🙂
    My recent post Lets party up in East London

  5. Yalanda@Laugh Anyway August 22, 2014

    This is a fantastic idea. I've recently moved to South Korea and upon visiting three temple in less than that many weeks, my husband and I looked at each other and decided, we need to take a break! We too came to the conclusion that visiting at night and with the change of seasons may be more interesting. They start to blur together!
    My recent post Friday Round Up: Come to Korea if…

  6. Suki F September 10, 2014

    I didn't have time to visit enough temples to get bored. I really enjoyed the experience.

  7. wentworthcatherine November 14, 2014

    Taking photos of the Wats at night – what a brilliant idea. I was just at the Silver Wat today.

    "there are over 300 temples in and around the city"

    Does anyone have this list? I've been reading the figure of 300 for years but cannot find the actual list (I even stopped by every Thai bookstore in Chiang mai).
    My recent post Loi Krathong / Yee Peng: An Unexpected Pleasure in Chiang Mai

    • waysofwanderers November 15, 2014

      I've never seen a complete list either. I've seen this figure in a few places, and it seemed believable considering there seems to be a temple on every corner.

  8. wentworthcatherine November 15, 2014

    I imagine many of them are just piles of bricks – but I'm game to check them out.

  9. Alex Harbour November 25, 2014

    I definitely got temple burnout when I went to Bangkok, hence why I didn't go to any when I went to Chang Mai for a short stint in my visit, opting to go on a jungle trek instead. But seems I missed out on some real treats! Maybe a good excuse to go back… 🙂

  10. phuket sightseeing December 30, 2014

    Well, there's always a corner in the temple that will not be crowded, have few moments of your own there, observe the locals, they are not there to see the statues they are there to offer prayers. Watching them will be a treat in itself. The silver temple is sure a part of my itinerary when I will be in Phuket, Bangkok and Chiang Mai in March.

  11. Ellie January 23, 2016

    My 25 year old daughter is currently traveling solo in Thailand. Will have 8 days to travel after spending 8 days in Chang Mai and other central Thailand places. Could I trouble you for some suggestions in Bancock or near by. She is not a seasoned traveller and asked me for help when she realized she was "in over her head"
    Thanks for your thoughts
    Ellie

    • waysofwanderers January 23, 2016

      Hi Ellie,

      What kind of suggestions is she looking for? Feel free to email me, if that's easier.

  12. Joseph February 18, 2016

    In addition to this post about the Reading Room. I aacltuly went out to the Nawarat Bridge where to investigate the Governor’s Mansion to see if in fact, it has been opened to the public as a museum or tourist attraction. It is not. The mansion seems to be closely monitored with security. There is an Tourist Information and Assistance desk at the front entrance before crossing over the bridge. That’s about all I got so far.

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