Thailand / November 19, 2013

Wat Palad: The Secret Jungle Temple in Chiang Mai I Shouldn’t Even Tell You About

I shouldn't even be telling you about this place. It's that special.

Wat Palad (or Wat Pha Lat) is a temple in Chiang Mai that is tucked away in the heart of the jungle. If you desire to be a typical tourist in Thailand, I urge you to go to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. There, you'll find hundreds of touts and vendors pushing a melange of souvenirs and fake Thai food. I mean, that's the root of real culture, isn't it?

As a matter of fact, I'll tell you now: don't even bother going to Doi Suthep. Temples aren't about entry fees and shiny steeples. They represent something more meaningful.

Go here instead.

Wat Pha Lat is a secret jungle temple hidden in Chiang Mai

Wat Palad is a secret jungle temple hidden in Chiang Mai

I sauntered into Wat Palad under the cover of tall greenery. “Another temple,” I thought. Asia is full of them.

But I moseyed further, and what I encountered was magical. I had been directed into a temple built within the jungle, enshrining elephants and dragons, the worldly and unworldly side-by-side. Streams poured out of the hills, culminating into a large rock waterfall overlooking the Chaing Mai skyline. Dogs roamed freely and, above me, a large spider clung to its capacious web. Small bridges and footpaths joined statues of Buddhas, dragons, worshipers, candle holders and stone carvings.

I could sense the connectedness of this temple, its people, and the earth. It had been built under the pretense of harmony, and I could feel it.

Wat Pha Lat is built within the forest, not in spite of it

Wat Palad is built within the forest, not in spite of it

Sometime around the age of 15, during those really awkward years when I was still struggling to understand my own belief system, my mother produced a number of books on Buddhism, which I found interesting and quickly devoured. I never meditated and I never became a Buddhist in practice, but I did appropriate many of the Buddha's teachings into my life.

Baby Buddha is very happy!

Baby Buddha is very happy!

I took to understanding the beauty in the impermanence of life and accepting its inherent transience. I realized that toxic mentations came from a place of desire, in which I wanted things in life that I simply could not have. Buddhism, however, teaches to clear ones being of wants, vices, and desires because suffering stems only from these virulent deliberations. I learned that I would only be able to find peace within myself and not through the world or others.

Statued Monks at Wat Pha Lat

Statued Monks at Wat Palad

These teachings were significant to me in that they literally shaped the way I see the world. But, as time passes, and ten years go by, sometimes we forget about those defining stages of our lives. Stepping into Wat Palad, though, memories of these beliefs and teachings hit me straight upside the head. Somehow, this temple that I didn't even know existed one hour prior, elicited remembrance. And then peace.

Making an offering

Making an offering

In fact, it's one of the most peaceful and enchanting places I've ever been. This beautifully crafted temple in the middle of the jungle in Chiang Mai is the one place on this earth where, for me, true peace can still exist.


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