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Golden chedi and umbrella
Wat Doi Suthep

Thailand is unique in that it’s the most Buddhist nation on Earth, with around 95% of the population identifying as practicing Theravada Buddhists. This fact permeates daily life in a number of ways, from monks walking the streets for collect alms, to festivals tied to auspicious dates, to, of course, the buddhist temples.

There are an estimated 40,000 Buddhist temples in Thailand. Thai temple architecture, while sharing influences with other Southeast Asian styles, is also unique. Typically comprising a multi-building complex, Thai temples, or wats, feature a tall, bell-shaped stupa, ordination and sermon halls, a space for shrines and Buddha images, and a residence for the monks. Temple roofs are often quite striking, with multiple tiers and gables ending in long, thin ornaments called chofahs.

Many temples are open to tourists — just be sure to dress appropriately (closed-toed shoes, shorts/pants that cover the knee, no bare shoulders) and act respectfully (no hats, sunglasses, smoking, gum chewing, or overly loud talking, and remember to remove your shoes before entering worship areas and to wield your camera thoughtfully).

In North Thailand there are many buddhist temples. Most of them are Lanna style but there are also Shan (Tai Yai), Burmese, Mon and Chinese temples. Some of the most famous temples are Wat Prathat Lampang Luang in Lampang, Wat Prathat Haripunchai in Lamphun and Wat Prathat Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai.

There are numerous other temples that are worth visiting. We think of the Shan temple Wat Ku Tao with its characteristic “Watermelon Stupa” or Wat Srisuphan aka the “Silver Temple”, both in Chiang Mai. Towns like Mae Hong Son have Burmese influenced temples such as

Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu and the twin temples on the lake, Wat Klong Chang and Wat Chong Kham.

Another gem is Wat Ban Den near Mae Taeng, which is one of the largest temple complexes in Chiang Mai.