Dr. Seuss Meets Wat Ban Den Temple in Chiang Mai Thailand’s

Elephant dragon holding flowers at Wat Ban Den

Situated 45 km north of Chiang Mai, Wat Ban Den Temple is undeniably one of the city’s most extraordinary temples. I arrived, not knowing what to expect. I thought it was going to be just another beautiful temple. But I was mistaken. Some say it’s like a blend of Buddha and Dr. Seuss, and after seeing it for myself, I’d say that’s pretty spot on. The temple is a feast for the eyes, with intricate and whimsical designs that are a joy to behold. These temples are so colorful and magical that you can spot them from quite a distance. It isn’t easy to describe how grand it is because the complex has many buildings and structures, including temples, halls, monk quarters, a meditation hall, and 12 stupas representing the zodiac signs.

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Renovations at Wat Ban Den Temple

The temple went unnoticed until 1988, when a new abbot took charge and decided to renovate it, seeking community donations for support. During his birthday celebration, thousands gathered and contributed 39 “money trees,” each holding 100,000 Thai Baht on his 39th birthday. Donations have been pouring in, fueling the renovations at Wat Ban Den Temple ever since. The abbot aimed to attract more people to the faith and introduce them to Buddhism through the temple’s enhancements. It seems to be working, as I’m here to see it, right? Despite gaining popularity among locals, it remains relatively unknown.

Naga Serpents and Singha Lions

Within the temple complex, numerous buildings are decorated with stunning wood carvings in the distinctive Lanna style. These carvings often portray mythical creatures and leave a strong impression. Colossal Naga serpents protect some structures, while others feature impressive white lion statues known as Singha, representing strength and nobility. These embellishments and figures lend an exceptional and mystical cultural essence to the temple complex. Specific sculptures, like the one above, left me in awe—depicting Naga serpents coiling and consuming each other’s tails, a mesmerizing sight. What does it mean?

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In Buddhism, the dragons symbolize (Ouroboros) the eternal nature of the spiritual journey or the cycle of birth and rebirth– with no clear beginning or end. Isn’t this similar to which comes first, the chicken or the egg?

Both concepts invite contemplation on the nature of existence, time, and causality. Both agree that some things have no clear beginning or end. They suggest that life is an endless loop without a definite starting point. So, in a way, they both make us think that some things might not have a precise “first” moment.

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Reclining Buddha and Buddhist Teachers

I apologize for not knowing the names of the buildings or the people at Wat Ban Den Temple. That’s something you can easily find online. However, their beauty left me in awe, so I didn’t focus on their names or specific purposes.

One moment that will stay with me forever is when I entered the building with the Reclining Buddha. I didn’t expect it, and the sheer size of the Buddha statue amazed me. I sat on the floor to admire the statue’s intricate details and the room’s other features. The red and gold ceiling was particularly striking.

Another statue that left a deep impression on me was the one above. He was a highly respected teacher, known to my friend Suwat, who brought me to Wat Ban Den Temple. Suwat mentioned that this teacher was so inspiring that he cried when he passed away. I was moved by the fact that I felt drawn to this statue.

Twelve Stupas

Wat Ban Den Temple features a remarkable collection of 12 chedis or stupas. According to an ancient local belief, when individuals pass away, their spirits are believed to remain in the chedi that corresponds to their Zodiac animal sign. Across Thailand, there are dedicated temples for each Zodiac sign, and it’s customary for people to visit the temple associated with their character during their lifetime. Thanks to the abbot’s vision, Wat Ban Den Temple has become a convenient one-stop destination, ensuring visitors can connect with their Zodiac temple within this enchanting complex regardless of their birthdate.

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Wat Ban Den Temple
5X5H+39X, Inthakhin, Mae Taeng District, Chiang Mai 50150
+66 5304 6565

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