Wat Mon Phaya Chae, a remote temple

Staircase with dragons Wat Mon Phaya Chae

Wat Mon Phaya Chae, a remote temple

Wat Mon Phaya Chae, a remote temple on the mountain

Even though I have visited Lampang many times over the past 5 years I had never heard of the Wat Phra That Mon Phaya Chae. A Facebook friend posted some old pictures of this temple which looked absolutely awesome. I couldn’t wait to go. See the picture below.

I did some research online but there is not much information. It is usually spelled as Wat Mon Phaya Chae instead of the longer Wat Phra That Mon Phaya Chae. The addon of “Phra That” indicates the presence of a relic of the Buddha in the chedi of the temple.

View of temple in the forest Wat Mon Phaya Chae
Aerial view of Wat Mon Phaya Chae. Picture posted by K.Manaspee Dacha

The history of the temple

According to a Thai language Wikipedia page, this temple dates back to the year 1810 (Buddhist calendar: 2353). The location must have been remote. It is in a forested area about 5 km from highway no.1 from Lampang to Chiang Rai (the Pahonyothin Road). Until 1956 there were no monks living in the temple. King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit visited the temple in 1972 with their children. I just guess they only visited the temple buildings at the ground level and didn’t walk up the long  Naga staircase to the chedi and the assembly hall. There must have been a dirt road because only in 1981 local authorities constructed the current sealed road. Two years earlier they dug the reservoir behind the temple to supply monks with drinking water.

Aerial view of temple Wat Mon Phaya Chae
Aerial view of Wat Mon Phaya Chae. Picture posted by K.Manaspee Dacha

Visiting Wat Mon Phaya Chae

Wat Mon Phaya Chae is easy to find. I drove highway no.1 for a couple of km until the turnoff to the right. Soon after you will get to an irrigation canal, which you have to cross. Just drive straight until you reach the temple. A Trip Advisor reviewer mentioned a large number of stray dogs along the way. Yes, I noticed them which affected my mood. I am very fond of dogs and it saddens me to see these homeless and loveless animals on the side of the road. Poor souls.

Panorama Wat Mon Phaya Chae
View from Wat Mon Phaya Chae

Mom guardians

There are a number of buildings at the ground level. There was a parked car and more evidence of the presence of people but I didn’t meet anyone. Next to the Naga staircase, there is another staircase with two four-legged guardian statues, known as “Mom”. After my visit to the temple on the mountain I followed these steps. This trail passes several kutis (monk’s living quarters) and leads to the reservoir. You can walk around the reservoir but swimming is probably prohibited.

Two animals on pedestal
Mon guardians at Wat Mon Phaya Chae, male on the right, femaile on the left.

The fantastic Naga staircase

The staircase has three sections. After the first section, you encounter a small sala with a Buddha statue. The staircase has 582 steps which makes it almost twice as long as the most famous Naga staircase: the steps leading to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. I stopped several times along the way to enjoy the silence and the experience.

Staircase with dragons Wat Mon Phaya Chae
The Naga staircase
Inside the viharn of Wat Mon Phaya Chae
Inside the viharn

A serene atmosphere

Having arrived at the temple I headed first to the viewpoint. At first, I thought I was looking at Lampang but I realized that the buildings in the far distance were too far away. After some research, I think you look at the Mae Moh lignite mine complex which is about 32 km east of Lampang. Whatever it is, the view is very nice. I was fortunate that the clouds gave way a bit so I was able to take some nice pictures. There was only one person sitting in front of the chedi in meditation. Apart from that, there were two friendly dogs.

In old pictures, the surface of the chedi appears to be stucco. Some time ago they have gilded the chedi. The viharn, the only other building, shows its age. It is a small, sober building with two Buddha statues and the statue of a monk inside.

Panorama Wat Mon Phaya Chae
View from Wat Mon Phaya Chae

How to get to Wat Mon Phaya Chae

The temple is only about 8 km from Lampang but the only way to get there is by chartered transportation. Just check with the hotel or accommodation what is the most convenient way.

Please dress respectfully. I recommend wearing good shoes.

References for this article

I visited the temple in early July 2021. The pictures K.Manaspee Dacha posted on his Facebook page inspired me.

The only information I could find about this temple was a Thai language Wikipedia page and a Trip Advisor review. There is some information available at the ground level of the temple.

For information about Buddhist temples in Lampang go here.

Man in front of staircase
Frans Betgem about to ascend the Naga staircase of Wat Mon Phaya Chae