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Wat Phan Tao วัดพันเตา , Chiang Mai

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Recess time at Wat Phan Tao (24 October 2006)

Wat Phan Tao (GPS: , Thai: วัดพันเตา ), also written Wat Pantao, is a Buddhist temple at the junction of Rachadamnoen Road and Phra Pok Klao Road. The name Wat Phan Tao means "Monastery of a Thousand Kilns". The name is believed to refer to the casting of the numerous Buddha images for its even bigger neighbour, Wat Chedi Luang, located right next door.

Wat Phan Tao has a beautiful viharn. Built of teak wood, it is a majestic structure that is today one of the few remaining all-wood buildings in Chiang Mai. The viharn was originally the ho kham which mean the palace (or literally, the "gilded hall") of Chiang Mai's king, Chao Mahawong, who ruled from 1846 to 1854. This magnificent building was reassembled here and today functions as a monastery.

The wall of the viharn of Wat Phan Tao is an excellent example of the central Thai style of wall. It comprises panels. This is incorporated to the Lanna design for the door and windows, which has intricate Lanna-style carvings. The carvings are gilded and inlaid with colored glass. They were then attached to the gables. Over the central pelmet is a magnificent gilded panel featuring a peacock straddling a curled-up dog. The dog is featured here because it happens to be the zodiacal animal representing the year that Chao Mahawong was born. The pelmet, which forms "double eyebrows", features a lotus motif.

The viharn of Wat Phan Tao has a three-tier roof. Unlike most Lanna temples, where the roof reaches close to the ground, over here it is much taller. The bargeboards are in the form of stylized nagas while the lower finials are like three-headed nagas. The eave brackets were painted red, as are the supporting pillars of the viharn. I learn that the building was originally standing on those pillars, but now have been strengthen with a masonry base.

Wat Phan Tao does not have an ubosot, so the viharn acts as an ubosot as well. At the time of my visit, the novices were just finishing their class. Their coming out of the monastery for recess provided a wonderful photo opportunity to me.

What to see

Without a doubt, the viharn is the main attraction. The front façade is simply exquisite. I could say it is one of the most magnificent buildings in Chiang Mai. The front entrance is guarded by Burmese-style lions, or singha in Thai, or chinthe in Burmese.

Getting there

Wat Phan Tao is located in the middle of Chiang Mai, on the south side of Ratchadamnoen Road, at the junction with Phra Pok Klao Road. It is across the road from the Lanna Architecture Center. The entrance faces Phra Pok Klao Road.

Guardian lion of Wat Phan Tao (24 October 2006)

Viharn of Wat Phan Tao, formerly the ho kham, or palace, of Chao Mahawong (24 October 2006)

Front facade of Wat Phan Tao with the peacock panel (24 October 2006)

Novices at Wat Phan Tao, the attentive and the not (24 October 2006)

Wat Phan Tao has a very beautiful viharn. (24 October 2006)

The cho fa, or roof finials, in the form of stylized naga. Note the line of 'swimming ducks' on the roof ridges (24 October 2006)

Wat Phan Tao on Google Street View

Wat Phan On (May 2017)

Wat Phan Tao is on the map of Chiang Mai

List of Wats in Chiang Mai and Wats in Thailand

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