I visit the ancient Tunnel Temple of Chiang Mai
I had thrown some complaints offhand to one of my professors that, with all of our class time, I did not have time to visit Wat Umong, Chiang Mai’s beautiful tunnel temple. Apparently my complaints hit something, because the professor decided to take the entire class on an excursion to the site.
The temple grounds were large, with multiple places sectioned off for meditation. Roosters pecked at the ground and often crowed.
Neon green silk worms could sometimes be seen hanging from invisible lifelines. One area had a bridge leading to an island on a small lake, with an option to feed pigeons.
One building was full of murals depicting fairy tales/legends/myths/religious stories. There were hundreds of painted signs hung on trees throughout the temple grounds, each with a different proverb. Every once in a while, we would stumble across a badly translated one.
There was also a very odd section of the temple that had posters depicting dogs doing drugs, gambling, etc, with irrelevant inspirational quotes underneath.
I also explored a garden full of deteriorating Buddha figures, which was beautiful.
The main attraction of the tunnel temple, as its name would suggest, was the temple of tunnels. A massive sienna chedi loomed high above the temple grounds.
The Chedi was, itself, very large, but it also sat atop a large mound of land. The land was carved out with a network of narrow tunnels. Most of which weren’t quite tall enough for me to stand straight up in.
At the ends of some tunnels were shrines with golden Buddha figures, with offerings of lotuses and burning incense.
There were also tiny Buddha figurines in little carved-out alcoves.
I spent a fair amount of time exploring Wat Umong with bare feet. I enjoyed reading every proverb that I stumbled across. The Wat and its surrounding grounds were definitely some of the most peaceful that I had seen while in Asia.