Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Silver Temple

A monk prays in the Ubosot (Ordination Hall) at Wat Sri Suphan in Chiang Mai.

On Sunday, after I finished working on my drought stories, I went walk about in Chiang Mai. I've visited Chiang Mai several times and know the area within the city walls pretty well, so it wasn't so much to explore as it was to relax and see the sites. 

I was staying at a small guest house about a mile from downtown and I walked to and from downtown. On the way back to the hotel I heard traditional music coming from the speakers in the neighborhood so I followed the music to its source and ended up at Wat Sri Suphan, also known as the Silver Temple. 
A detail of the silver work on the outside of the Silver Temple. 

The temple is in the middle of Chiang Mai's old silversmithing neighborhood and the ubosot (ordination hall) is made completely of silver. Or at least it's covered in silver filigree outside and in. The viharn (prayer hall), a separate building next to the ubosot is in traditional Chiang Mai style and is constructed mostly out of teak wood. But the few tourists* who come here come for the ordination hall. 
The entrance to the ordination hall. It was an overcast afternoon but the building is strikingly beautiful. 

The temple was having a fair and ceremony to mark either the completion of the ubosot or its rededication (one person told me it was to mark the completion, another said it was a rededication). I arrived in the final minutes of the last day of the fair and missed most of the ceremony. 
Monks check out the ordination hall. 

I wandered the grounds of the temple and admired the ordination hall. Four monks, with layperson attendants, came in and admired the craftsmanship in the hall. I stepped to the back of the hall when the monks came in to give them some privacy and their attendant invited me to join them, so I took a seat on the floor and we chatted. The attendant translated for me but when we started talking about the drought, the monks all responded in English about the difficult situation farmers and rural people faced. At that point, the monks, the translator and I had a nice discussion about life in rural Thailand. 
A girl participates in a traditional dance in front of the temple. 

I was at the Silver Temple for about an hour. It's a lovely temple in the middle of an interesting neighborhood. I plan to revisit the temple the next time I go to Chiang Mai. I was there late on a Sunday afternoon and I would like to go back during the week when most of the shops are open. 

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* Women, including women tourists, are not allowed inside the ordination hall at the Silver Temple. Temple officials say it's because there are many artifacts and amulets, going back more than 500 years, buried beneath the ordination hall and that women walking above them may "deteriorate the place."