The Temples of Mae Sariang
Table of Contents
Introduction to the Temples of Mae Sariang
The small town of Mae Sariang has a number of interesting temples in the town and outside the town. Some of these are located on hill tops, offering great views on the verdant valley of the Yuam River. Below is a personal selection of the most interesting temples.
Wat Jong Soong (Wat Uttayarom)
Shan monks and lay people constructed Wat Jong Soong (วัดจองสูง) in 1838. After that a devasting fire in the town also damaged the temple. Local people reconstructed the temple, which they finished in 1896. After the reconstruction they renamed the temple Wat Jong Soong. For some reason they changed the name to Wat Uttayarom in the period of World War Two.
The temple has three Burmese-style pagodas of which the oldest dates back to more than 100 years. The Wat Jong Soong is right next to another, very different temple: Wat Sri Bunruang.
Wat Sri Bunruang
This temple in Mae Sariang originally was known as Chong Mak Kaeng because of a large tamarind tree that is on the compound. In 1887 people renamed the temple Wat Sri Bunruang (วัดศรีบุญเรือง). It is a beautiful temple with Shan (Tai Yai) and Burmese influences, located not far from the Yuam River and right next to Wat Jong Soong. The Burmese temple architecture of Wat Sri Bunruang is stunning.
Wat Supan Rangsri
People know this temple also as Wat Chong Kham or Wat Jongkham. I recently noticed a large meeting of Christian Karen people at Wat Supan Rangsri (วัดสุพรรณรังษี (วัดจองคำ). The temple has a beautiful chedi and is located on the Yuam River.
Wat Chom Thong
The Wat Chom Thong (วัดจอมทอง) is another temple in Mae Sariang that is worth a visit. This temple is just outside of town on a hill overlooking the Yuam valley and the town. American anthropologist Charles Keyes made a number of photos of this temple in 1967/68. On his pictures only the two old chedis are visible. Since then they have added a sitting Buddha statue with a Naga staircase and a viharn. The temple offers nice views.
Wat Phrathat Chom Mon
The Wat Phrathat Chom Mon (วัดพระธาตุจอมมอญ) is outside of town on a small hill. A Naga staircase covered with moss takes you to a lovely white chedi. On our most recent visit in December 2020, we noticed that reconstruction of the staircase was underway. The staircase has 349 steps.
According to information at the temple, it dates back to the period of King Naresuan the Great, who ruled the Ayutthaya Kingdom from 1590 until 1605. Mon people established this temple. In 1914 Karen people built a new pagoda on top of the original, now ruined pagoda. In 1997 another reconstruction took place. From the chedi, you have some great views of Mae Sariang and the surrounding rice paddies. At the ground level, there is an old wooden viharn.
Wat Tham Phra (Wat Tham Ngow)
I visited this cave temple about ten years ago. It is about 5 km outside of Mae Sariang. A narrow road leads to what is becoming a major complex. Wat Tham Phra (วัดถ้ำพระ) is also known as Wat Tham Ngow (ถ้ำเหง้า), which translates as the temple of the cave of rhizome, which is a kind of subterranean plant.
Ten years ago it was a sober cave where a couple of solitary monks were living. Since then they have added statues and buildings. During our most recent visit, we noticed major construction going on. A viharn surrounded by Buddha statues is almost finished. Although the romanticism of a cave temple has been lost completely, the temple is worth a visit if you have the time. You can enjoy some lovely views of the countryside.
The Wat Kittiwong (วัดกิตติวงศ์) is architecturally not the most interesting temple in Mae Sariang. It is the place though where the Red Cliff manuscripts are being kept. Charles Keyes took part in an expedition in June 1968 to find old manuscripts that were supposed to be hidden in a cave along the Salawin River.
By foot and by elephant a group including Keyes traveled to the cave where they found six large wooden boxes filled with “bai laan”, which palm leaf manuscripts. They took with them as many as they could back to Mae Sariang. At Wat Kittiwong a group of monks studied these manuscripts and found out that most of them were about 200 years old.
Keyes wrote an article titled “New evidence on Thai frontier history” for the Siam Society Journal in 1970. The boxes with the manuscripts are stored behind the main altar in the viharn of Wat Kittiwong. The manuscripts are written in the old Lanna alphabet, which is also used to write the Tai Lue and Tai Khün.
Wat Phra That Chom Kitti
The Wat Phra That Chom Kitti (พระธาตุจอมกิตติ) is about 5 km from Mae Sariang, on a small hill. It is most likely a Thai temple as opposed to many Shan and Burmese temples in Mae Hong Son province. The road leading to the temple is short, narrow, and very steep. About halfway you will see two sitting Buddha statues. There is a small white chedi at the end of the road. The main attraction of the temple is the view over the Yuam valley and the mountain scenery. According to information at the temple, it is almost 300 years old. There is a standing Buddha statue a bit higher up and some other buildings.
References for this article
I have been numerous times in Mae Sariang, a place I dearly love. I have visited all these temples at least once and most of them several times. The most important resource: