Window to Chiang Mai Thailand
See location at Google Maps: Wat U-Mong Suan Putha-tham
(Suthep Road, Soi Wat U-Mong - south turn 1.5 km.)
Located in a grove Wat U-Mong (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 Mangrai 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).
On occasions, however, the monk was thought to be a little "eccentric" because he preferred the solitude offered by the forest retreat to Chiang Mai temples.
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.
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. The Venerable favored the natural environment of the forest over human construction. As a result the modest temple buildings are surrounded by trees.
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.
The temple grounds also extend to cover an open zoo on the side of the mountain. The front entrance lies up a short lane on the south side of the temple.
The zoo has an inner fenced area connected to the main temple compound by a small back gate in the west fence. This inner area contains kuti for monks in the classic forest tradition.
Tame deer wander the park and the park sanctuary is a good site for bird watching.
Wat U-Mong Suan Putha-tham