Wat Lok Moli: a beautiful Lanna ancient temple in Chiang Mai

Wat Lok Moli is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai. The exact date of its construction is unknown. The first mention of the temple appears in the 14th century, to be exact, in 1367.

Wat Lok Moli Chiang Mai

The history of the temple says: the twelfth king of the Mengrai dynasty, named Ket, or Phra Kaew Muang, invited ten monks from Burma to the city. Their purpose was to spread Theravata Buddhism in northern Thailand. It was these invited monks who founded Wat Lok Molee.

At one time the temple was of royal importance. The ruling Mengrai family took it under their protection and responsibility. After their deaths, the ashes of several members of the dynasty were buried in Wat Lok Moli in recognition of the temple’s high status.

In 1527, King Ketklao, also known as Phra Kaew Mueang, founded a large chedi pagoda with a high spire in the temple. The chedi has been restored several times over the centuries and is in very good condition. It is based on a large square base. Each side of the top of the chedi has its own niche in which there is an image of the Buddha. This style of Buddhist chedi is called Prasat.

The niches of the chedi are flanked on both sides by images of mythological celestial beings, known in Thai Buddhism as Tevada, who are revered by Thais. Also, the chedi contains the ashes of several kings of the Mangrai dynasty, who ruled the Kingdom of Lanna. Currently, the brickwork of the great chedi remains almost entirely bare, which distinguishes it from the other urban chedi, most of them covered with stucco.

The temple’s magnificent viharn (assembly hall) was built in 1545. It is the main building of the Wat Lok Moli Temple and has a north-south orientation, although most Buddhist temples in northern Thailand are oriented toward the east, toward the rising sun.

Monks chanted mantras here until Chiang Mai was invaded by Burmese troops in 1558. During the Burmese occupation, the temple was abandoned and restoration work only began in the early 19th century, when the Burmese lost power.

Noteworthy are the sculpted Nagas, large serpents that came into Thai culture from Indian mythology, and the wooden facade of the meditation room. The temple has very friendly monks and many interesting statues related to Buddhism as well as those borrowed from Hinduism. The entrance to the temple is guarded by two armed yaksha demons, so that only people with a pure heart and pure thoughts could enter here.

There is another interesting detail on the grounds of the temple Wat Lok Molee. It has to do with the Chinese calendar. Here are twelve small chedis of different shapes, which correspond to the twelve animals of the Chinese calendar, they are located for clarity next to each other. However, there is one difference. Whereas in the Chinese calendar, the last animal is the pig, here instead of the pig is… elephant! Don’t be surprised, the fact is that the elephant is the symbol of Chiang Mai. And, as you can see, there is a place for it in the local interpretation of the Chinese calendar.

In addition, the temple has many benches for visitors to rest in the shade, which is important in hot tropical weather. There are even big beautiful swings made of teak wood. And if you look into the hidden corners of the temple, you might find a large handmade teak panel with elephants carved on it.

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The entrance fee for Wat Lok Moli is free, so there are no fees associated with entering the temple.

Absolutely! Wat Lok Moli is home to many beautiful artwork, sculptures and murals, making it a wonderful place to explore and admire. It’s also a great place for meditation and spiritual reflection. So if you’re looking for a place to relax and find some inner peace, Wat Lok Moli is definitely worth a visit.

Wat Lok Moli has a modest dress code for visitors. Men should wear long trousers and shirts with sleeves, while women should aim for clothing that covers the legs, shoulders, and chest. It’s also wise to avoid wearing clothing with any logos or designs that could be considered offensive.

Wat Lok Moli is open daily from 8am to 6pm. There are also special events held at the temple occasionally that may affect the opening times.

If you are traveling in northern Thailand, you can rent a motorbike with us and check out our Northern Thailand travel guides.

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