During the past weeks we have spent in Thailand, we have visited several different wats. In Bangkok, we visited the Grand Palace, which included one of the most famous temples in the whole country. Here in Chiang Mai province, we have visited Wat Phra Singh, Wat Lok Molee, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, and many others. A “master monk” presides over each wat. The “master monk” is responsible for the well-being of hundreds of village children, giving small Buddhist-style sermons, and making sure the temple’s activities run smoothly.
My favorite wat so far has been Wat Tham Pha Plong in Chiang Dao. Buddhist proverbs and sayings lined the way to provide enlightenment and encouragement during the steep climb up over five hundred steps. The physically demanding walk became easier as glimpses of the temple could be seen through the trees—it was truly an amazing sight. The lower half of the temple was partly inside of a cave. It was lined with Buddha images, dragons, and photographs of different monks. As we ascended to the upper half, the only sounds were those of nature—birds and many bugs—and occasionally the soft steps of our shoeless feet. At the very top, we enjoyed a rewarding view of the entire forest that brought peace and an inner sense of calm. Wat Tham Pha Plong not only continues to be a religious retreat for those in need of meditation, but also one of the most beautiful and peaceful places in all of Thailand.