The most tranquil and unusual temple in Chiang Mai is Wat Umong, also known as the Forest Monastery or Cave Temple. A large, beautifully shaded plot of land, surrounded by forest and a majestic pond filled with giant hungry carp and turtles. Wat Umong is most famous for a series of underground tunnels built hundreds of years ago. These three tunnels are open to the public for walk-through visits. At the back of one of the tunnels, you climb to higher ground to marvel at the splendid stupor.
It dates back to 1296 and according to local lore, a monk name Jam liked to go wandering in the forest. This irritated King Ku Na, who often wanted to consult with the sage to seek advice at any time. The King built the wat for the monk in 1380. Along with the temple, tunnels were constructed and decorated with paintings, fragments of which may still be seen today. The temple was abandoned in the 16th century and only re-established as a meditation center in 1948.
Today, it’s a magical place where monks visit during the day to prey, learn and meditate. The wat is also home to a library, meditation center and art/history center.
Open hours: 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Address: Wat Umong (Forest Monastery/Cave Temple) – Su Thep, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200
Tel: 085 033 3809