Chiang Mai Attractions | Chiang Mai attractions and temples
Located in a grove, Wat Umong (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 Mengrai 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 U-Mong Maha Therachan).
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.
The attraction of Wat Umong, however, is not the buildings but its fifty acres of tree filled park and lake. Most of the trees have signs, written in Thai and English, of Buddhist exhortations. There is also a library with literature on Buddhism and a museum.
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.
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.
The bell shaped chedi above is reached by a stairway. From the chedi walk north above the Tunnels to see a fine Buddha image cast in the ascetic style.