The forest temple Wat Ram Poeng is located four kilometers southwest of Chiang Mai’s Old Town. It is located in a wooded area at the foot of the famous Doi Suthep Mountain, not far from Wat Umong temple.
The temple was founded in 1492 by Phraya Yot Chiang Rai, ruler of the Lanna Kingdom, in memory of his father Thao (Prince) Bunrueang, the only son of King Tilokaraj who had been executed by his grandfather on suspicion of disloyalty. Its other name is Wat Tapotaram, which roughly means “the monastery of ascetic practices.”
The main chedi in the temple is also said to have been founded in 1492, but has been rebuilt several times. The temple also houses a large library with the texts of the Tripitaka, the main Buddhist writings, written down by students of the Buddha Guatama Shakyamuni. “Tripitaka,” literally means “Three baskets.”
The fact is that when the Buddha went to Nirvana, his disciples got together and wrote down the Guru’s words for posterity, and then divided them into three parts, according to the meaning of the teachings. The library keeps translations of the Tripitaka in Thai, English, Sanskrit, Sinhalese, Burmese, Korean, and Chinese.
For a long time, beginning with the Burmese occupation, this monastery was abandoned. During World War II, Japanese occupation forces also severely damaged the already ruined temple.
The modern reconstruction of the viharn (main assembly hall) began in 1971. In 1974, Phrakhru Pipatkanapibarn, abbot of Wat Muang Mang and the head teacher of the meditation school, moved to the temple to open another meditation school. The meditation course at Wat Ram Poeng began in 1975.
The temple is now known mainly for the international meditation center at the temple. The Fundamentals of Vipassana Meditation are taught here in English, and anyone who is seriously interested in Buddhism and has come to Chiang Mai can go to this temple for a retreat.
A full course of vipassana lasts for 26 days, but it is possible to enter the temple for any length of time, as the training here is quite individualized. All newcomers to the temple traditionally wear white clothing, which you will be given here.
Some novices in the temple practice a vow of silence and other ascetic practices. So be courteous to those around you and don’t disrupt someone else’s meditation.
Accommodation and instruction at the Wat Ram Poeng temple is traditionally free, but you must still leave a donation when you leave the temple.
The name of the temple means “Monastery of Memory” because King Yod Chiengrai founded the monastery in 1492 in memory of his father.
The other name of the temple is Wat Tapotaram, which means “Monastery of ascetic practice.” Also called the Northern Insight Meditation Center.
The approximate number of monks and novices is as follows: monks 60-70 people; novices about 20 people; nuns 60-70 people; laypeople 40-60 people, about half of them foreigners.