The name of the walk will become clear later. This walk will take us from Tha Pae Gate to Sri Phum (Poom) bastion in the northeast corner of the old city wall but will navigate through the lanes and alleyways either side of Chang Moi Road. The original gate at Tha Pae, which means ‘raft landing’ was built in 1296 when King Mengrai founded Chiang Mai. It was then known as Chiang Ruak Gate after a neighboring village. Tha Pae was the name given to the eastern gate in the city’s earthen ramparts near Wat Saen Faang. This temple can still be found further east along Tha Pae Road at the junction with Rajchawong Road. Later the two gates became known as ‘outer’ and ‘inner’ Tha Pae Gate and when the ‘outer’ gate was taken down in the nineteenth century the current name came into use. The gate we see today was reconstructed in 1986 and is based upon historical records and a photograph dated 1899.
Standing facing away from the old city, head towards Starbucks and Tha Pae Road and take the first left into Chiang Moi Kao Road. Pass the Gecko and Backstreet bookshops and shortly after walking to the rear of the Amora Hotel you will come to Wat Ou Sai Kaam on your right. The buildings here are unremarkable but inside the wiharn are several magnificent jade Buddhas and a collection of jade blocks that can be handled. With jade being so prominent here it is no wonder that this is now known as the Temple of the Jade Buddha.
Backtrack to the Amora Hotel and take the small lane to your left and enter a quiet residential area that still has some traditional wooden houses. When you reach the T-junction turn right then almost immediately left. You will see a large wiharn behind a wall and 25 meters will take you to the rear entrance of Wat Chetawan. Built between 1442-1488, during the reign of Tilokaraj, it was named after the ancient monastery at Jentawan Wanarama in India where the Lord Buddha spent much time. You pass the monks dormitories and a bell tower on your left before entering a courtyard which, located just off the busy Tha Pae Road, has unfortunately become a car park. The wiharn is richly decorated and beyond that are three exquisite chedis, showing their age but full of character with the sunlight reflecting from the colored glass that adorns their tops. They are built in Burmese style probably by laborers of the British logging companies that were prevalent in Northern Thailand at the end of the nineteenth century.
Exit through the rear gate, turn right then left and after approximately 100 m you will reach the busy Chang Moi Road. Walk to your left and you will pass small furniture shops and Traditional Thai Medicine and then take the first right after about 100 m Shortly you will pass the inviting entrance to Karinthip Village. The site of this resort was once located on the bank of the Ping River, before it deviated its course over the years, and an elephant pier was constructed here to enable these magnificent animals to work, loading and unloading river boat cargoes. The name ‘Karinthip’ means an elephant from heaven as a reminder of this history.
From the entrance to the resort the golden stupa of Wat Chompoo is clearly visible. The temple here was originally built by King Gue Na at the request of his mother and named Wat Mai Pimpa after her. She believed that Wat Prathart Doi Suthep was too far away and too difficult for old people to visit and wanted something similar nearer to hand. The temple was later renamed after a monk, Chompoo, who was believed to have magical powers and often resided here. In 1998, to celebrate HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s 50th year on the throne and Chiang Mai’s 700th anniversary (1996), it was decided to renovate Chedi Tong Janggo and it now looking at it’s best.
Retrace your steps and then turn left into the lane before Karinthip Village. Turn right when you reach the fork in the road and enter another quiet residential area with more traditional housing. After 50m take the small alleyway to your left and discover the crumbling remains of an old red-brick chedi. I have not been able to discover the name of the temple to which it was associated but note that even in its redundant state the locals still leave offerings here as a mark of respect. Continue along the alley and turn right when you reach the lane. Shortly before coming to the main road you will encounter a larger and similarly redundant red-brick chedi also with recent offerings. Turn right at the chedi then right again onto Sitthiwong Road. Continue for 100 m passing small shops and bars and a turn to your left just before you reach the row of three-storey shophouses.
This corner marks the location of the former Chang Moi Gate or ‘Gate of the Drowsy Elephant’ that formed another part of the city’s outer earthen wall as the ‘outer’ Tha Pae Gate had also. The gate and wall here were removed between 1910-1915 but at the same time an opening was made in the brick ‘inner’ wall and given the same name; Chang Moi Gate. Later this new gate was also demolished and now only Chang Moi Road still carries the ‘drowsy elephant’ name.
Descend briefly down a small slope and you will reach a narrow footbridge - also used by motorcycles ! - over the Klong Mae Kha. I believe that with a little bit of effort this could be transformed into a particularly picturesque spot. Some work has been carried out to the bridge and walkways constructed along the banks but it is now the canal itself that needs attention; cleaning !
Follow the footpath to your left for some 100 m until reaching the next small bridge and then take the short path to your right and rejoin Sitthiwong Road. Walk to your right and when you reach the turn in the road observe - you can’t really fail to see it - the enormous tree that dominates the corner. I am no arborealist so am unable to give you either a botanical or common name for this giant but with branches stretching across the road it must be some age. If trees could talk I am sure that this one could provide a great insight into the history of this part of Chiang Mai.
Follow Sitthiwong Road around the 90 degree bend and shortly before you reach Chaiyapoom Road and the moat take a right turn into a lane besides Wat Chai Sripoom. Note all of the freshly painted kneeling figures atop of the wall that surrounds the temple. At the end of this lane you reach Wichayanon Road and the entrance to the temple.
Briefly, Wat Chai Sripoom was built by King Pra Muang Gaeo in 1519 at Sri Poom - ‘prosperity of the land’. Before that time a fig tree had stood on this spot and was considered a symbol of good luck for Chiang Mai. The temple was renovated in the time of King Poothawong in 1837 and although it retains its original name it is popularly known as Wat Paan Ta Koen.Taking Wichayanon Road to your left here will bring you to the northeast corner of the old city and the wall bastion of Sri Poom Corner across the moat. Our walk ends here. 400 m along Chaiyapoom Road, following the moat to your left, will bring you back to Tha Pae Gate from whence we started.
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