I discovered Wat Dubphai in Chiang Mai in the best possible manner. I stumbled across the small wat while idly wandering through Chiang Mai’s streets one day. Good thing, too. Had I relied on a guide book or even Google, I’d never have found the place. It gets almost no mention on the internet. In fact, Google suggests some place in Dubai may be of more interest to you.
What little I did find leads to me believe this temple is one of those places the locals want to keep secret. It is believed that by making merit and bathing from the temple’s water at Wat Dubphai, you wash away the flames of illness, bad luck, and other misfortunes. Seems to me if that was a better known bit of info they’d have lines of people waiting to get onto the temple’s grounds.
But then on my visit the entrance to the temple was decorated with large flags bearing the likeness of a rather creepy looking centipede. They would tend to frighten off the more casual visitor I’d think. Finding little about the wat on the internet I thought I’d hunt down the reason for all the centipedes, but that information goes from one extreme (all bad) to the other (not as bad).
My best guess is that the centipede is important to the Mon people, a tribe that stems from Burma and is now well-represented but not necessarily integrated throughout Thailand. According to legend the centipede represents the Buddha’s teaching and it’s claws show that the Mon people will never be afraid of their enemies. The centipede is also a popular tattoo in Northern Thailand, called Yant Dtakhaap, and as many scared yants are is supposed to protect and ward off evil. So maybe there is a tie-in with the wat’s rep for washing away merit maker’s ill fortunes.
Ugly human-sized insects aside, Wat Dubphai is a delightful little temple. It’s small scale wiharn, located just inside the temple’s gates, is a glittering edifice flashing greens and blues with vividly painted murals of the Buddha’s life on its forecourt as well as adorning its interior walls. To its left is a large hanging drum, and behind the wiharn is the wat’s golden, but not very towering chedi. But tucked even further away at the back of the grounds are the monk’s quarters and a sweet little secondary chapel whose steep Naga flanked staircase leads up to an altar with the main Buddha sitting below an a trompe l’oeil mural of the famous bodhi tree and his moment of enlightenment.
Located along Singharat Road a few blocks from the more famous Wat Phra Singh, Wat Dubphai is well worth a visit. Its grounds are not so extensive that the temple requires much of your holiday time, though I ended up spending longer at the temple than planned trying to catch the perfect Monk Shot! (and let me tell you Wat Dubphai’s monks are highly skilled at using the surrounding trees and foliage to dart behind whenever a camera is pointed their way!) A visit to Wat Dubphai coupled with seeing Wat Phra Singh would make for a good afternoon’s tour; its smaller, more intimate grounds provide a nice counterpoint to the massiveness of the more famous and much more visited Wat Phra Singh.
Now that I know so little about the temple, I plan on visiting again next time I’m in Chiang Mai. Hopefully I will be able to discover more about its history – the only bit of info I found on-line noted it was a ‘recent’ temple in the old town. And I really need to look into its claims of ridding you of your bad luck.
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