Thailand travel - Chiang Mai attractions - U Mong Buddhist Temple and the fasting Buddha
The fasting Buddha of U Mong Temple
On the outskirts of the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai, nestled at the foot of Doi Suthep mountain, lies an old Buddhist temple called Wat U Mong (U Mong Temple). It dates back at least 700 years, and contains many interesting Buddhist statues and relics. The setting is peaceful with extensive forested grounds. There's also a lake populated with fish, turtles, tortoises and a variety of waterfowl and other birds. It's a very relaxing place, and, as with most Buddhist temple grounds, it has a serene and inviting quality.
Wat U Mong is a popular retreat for locals as well as visitors, and there are some refreshments stalls near the entrance, but the temple grounds still retain their tranquil atmosphere.Smoking isn't allowed here because of the very real danger of forest fires, especially during the dry season.
The statue of the so-called, Fasting Buddha, also known as the 'Emaciated Buddha' found within the grounds of Wat U mong is a well known Buddha image found in only a few locations in Asia. The image represents Buddha's unsuccessful attempts at achieving enlightenment through extreme ascetic practices, such as fasting. He eventually abandoned this approach after finding it counter-productive. (just in time too, if the image is an accurate depiction of how he looked).
If you're in Chiang Mai, this temple is well worth a visit. Walking through the forested trails is a pleasure in itself.
Getting there is most conveniently done by taking a red songthaew (passenger service vehicle) from anywhere in the city. The fare from the centre of Chiang Mai city is anything up to about 100 baht, depending on your negotiating skills, as well as which part of the city you start from. Tuk tuk taxis (three wheeler motorised vehicle) are also willing to take you, but they tend to ask for more.
If you're intending visiting with your own transport, e.g., hired motorbike, you can see its location in the bottom left hand corner of the map below, just off Suthep Rd, and to the south of Chiang Mai University.
Note* There is another temple in Chiang Mai, called Wat U Mong Mahaterachan, located within the old walled city. Make sure the driver knows which one you want to go to. Wat U Mong Mahaterachan is a pleasant enough city temple, but not really worth going out of your way to see.
Also of interest are the tunnels that lie beneath the main chedi. Old Buddhist images are placed in alcoves, where devotees can pray and make offerings. Make sure to leave your shoes outside the tunnel entrances
The constant burning of incense in these enclosed spaces, and lack of adequate ventilation can make it uncomfortable to stay for long in the tunnels, but they're interesting to walk through - and they're short enough that there's no possibility of getting lost.
Wat Umong Meditation Centre
Wat Umong Meditation Centre is a popular retreat within the temple grounds of Wat Umong for those with more spiritual leanings - or who simply need to sort themselves out mentally. You can opt to stay over several days and pay a donation to cover food and accommodation. The centre is run by monks and there are rules to follow, such as no smoking, drinking of alcohol or use of other recreational drugs.