Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Chiang Rai (Wat Phra Kaeo)

Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Chiang Rai (Wat Phra Kaeo)

Next stop on our tour of Chiang Rai was the original Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

History of the Emerald Buddha

The first references to the Emerald Buddha come from 1434. The story goes that when lightening struck a building in the Wat Pa Yia monastary in Chiang Rai, they found a Buddha covered in stucco. The abbot realised that the stucco was peeling off, revealing a green stone beneath. When the stucco was removed, they found a Buddha carved from Jade. It became known as Phra Kaew Morakot or ‘Emerald Buddha’ in English. ‘Emerald’ refers to it’s colour, not the stone it’s carved from.

The Buddha has subsequently been moved to various cities and even the surrounding countries. You can read about it’s travels here. Eventually, a new temple was made for it in Bangkok, and on 22 March 1784 it was moved there. This is where it is still housed today.

The Temple of the Emerald Buddha Chiang Rai

Although smaller than the White Temple, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha Chiang Rai is still worth visiting.  There’s a replica of the original Buddha, also carved from Jade.

Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaeo)
Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaeo)

As with many Buddhist temples, you walk up a set of steps, flanked by ornamental dragons to enter the temple. After taking off your shoes, you go into a dimly lit room, with the Jade Buddha on a plinth in the centre, surrounded by offerings.

The Emerald Buddha

The Emerald Buddha is really beautiful. It’s carved from a piece of dark green jade, and then dressed in delicately crafted gold ‘clothes’. These clothes are changed throughout the year – for example, in the Winter the Buddha will be dressed more warmly, with a gold shawl.

The interior of the temple

The only illumination in the room is from the green lights around the edge.  The lights are essentially mosaic picture frames, which house beautifully drawn Thai paintings.

Artwork inside the Temple of the Emerald Buddha
Artwork inside the Temple of the Emerald Buddha

The effect was very cool, though. I liked this temple a lot. The green illumination made it feel almost otherworldly.

This temple had a very different mood from some of the others I’d visited. Perhaps because the Buddha felt small. Perhaps because there were fewer tourists, so it was quieter and more sombre.  Many temples have enormous Buddha statues, or even multiple statues in the centre. Contrast this one, which is small but incredibly ornate and valuable. It forces you to pay attention to it in a way that you don’t necessarily get with some of the huge statues. I also found myself drawn to the artwork around the edge, which doesn’t always happen.

Every aspect of the temple felt detailed, beautiful and valuable. I’m very glad I went.

Temple of the Emerald Buddha entrance fee: Free

Other things to do in Chiang Rai

White temple (Wat Rong Khun)

The White Temple in Chiang Rai (Wat Rong Khun)

Black house Chiang Rai

The Black House (Baan Dam) Chiang Rai

Secret area off to the side of the path

Khun Korn waterfall, Chiang Rai, with kids




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