The Most Beautiful Teak Viharn in Chiang Mai

Wat Phan Tao

Wat Phan Tao Chiang Mai was originally built up in the 14th century and was used as the living quarters for the monks of Wat Chedi Luang which is next door. Its name means“Temple of 1,000 kilns” due to the ovens here used to cast Buddha images, or one other translation simply has it as “to increase 1,000 times”.

Afterwards, from 1846 to 1854 Wat Phan Tao was used as a royal palace by the ruler of Chiang Mai, Chao Mahawong of the Chao Chet Ton Dynasty that ruled Chiang Mai and the former Lanna Kingdom after it became part of the Siamese Chakri Dynasty of Bangkok from 1775 after the Burmese were expelled from Siam.

In 1876 the royal residence was demolished and new buildings of Wat Phan Tao Chiang Mai were constructed. The teak from the old palace building was used to construct the current viharn.


Thai Lanna wooden monastery Wat Phan Tao


The teak wood viharn

The plaque near the entrance of Wat Phan Tao Chiang Mai states that the viharn is“the most beautiful teak viharn in Chiang Mai”. The walls are made up of square panels with small windows with thin wooden bars. The gabled end is decorated with King Mahawong’s plaque who was the last royal resident until 1876. It features a beautiful peacock decorated with a colourful, gilded mosaic of coloured glass tiles. Below it is dog said to be King Mahawong’s zodiac, birth animal, and around it, forming an arch, are four nagas, with hamsa bird figures at the corners.

The tiled roof is three-tiered and split into two sections with simplified nagas decorating the barge boards. Darkness encourages pious worship and respect, and inside it’s dark enough as a teak building. One leading guidebook describes the viharn as“without doubt the most atmospheric wat in the old city”. The thick teak columns have a pleasing, natural appearance, having been left without adornment in keeping with the rest of the building.

The main image is one of the most photographed in Chiang Mai and is certainly impressive having an aura of serenity. It will not be hard to meditate in front of this image, that is, if you can ignore the crowds of tourists inside the hall. In addition, there are four other sitting Buddha images in the same premises.


Peacock decorated on the wall


Other Highlights

Wat Phan Tao temple also contains a large white chedi, which has undergone a transformation. It used to be principally of dark, almost black, stone with a maroon-coloured bell, and the spires or small chedis around the base were also dark.

The chedi is surrounded by a dazzling array of more, gilt mini-chedis numbering around 20, over 10 feet tall, and the red fence around the ambulatory also has next to it many mondops on pillars, creating a forest of spires and towers around the base of the chedi.

There is also a fine, octagonal pavilion near the front entrance which is dedicated to a respectable monk with two images either side which are covered in thin pieces of gilt which have been donated by worshipers.


Chedis at Wat Phan Tao


How to get to the Wat Phan Tao

Wat Phan Tao is very close to the center of the old part of Chiang Mai city just South of Ratchadamnoen road. The main entrance is on Phra Pok Klao road going North to South through the old city. The temple is situated just next to the better-known Wat Chedi Luang. You can get there by tuk-tuk (settle on the price before departure) or rent a bicycle.

Opening hours and admittance charge
Wat Phan Tao is open from 6.00am to 5.00pm. Entry is free. No temple massage available.