Wat Gate

Wat Gate Chedi
The temple's imposing chedi.

You won't find it in any of the current popular guidebooks, but Wat Gate (or more properly Wat Gatekaram) is a temple we think is well worth a visit. Located on the east bank of the Ping River, across from Chiang Mai's city center, the temple is now at the center of a very rich historical district full of designer boutiques and some of Chiang Mai's most pleasant restaurants.

The origins of the temple are a bit murky, but it now seems to be agreed that it was founded around 1428, about 150 years after Chiang Mai's founding. The banks of the river in front of the temple served as the 'port' of Chiang Mai up until the railroad came to town early in the twentieth century. Since Chiang Mai was the center for teak and other commodities, as well as the main gateway to move goods to the southern provinces, the district became the center for foreigners coming to Chiang Mai to trade. This explains the many building styles along Charoen Rat Road around Wat Gate, reflecting Chinese, Portuguese and Indian influences.

At the center of the temple is the large chedi, capped by an elegant bell-shaped finial covered in bronze tiles oxidized to various shades of blue and green. The corners of the chedi are guarded by imposing garudas decorated with multi-colored mirrored tiles.

Wat Gate Ubosot
The temple's ordination hall (ubosot), with its unusual sculpted exterior.

East of the chedi is the small and very distinctive ordination hall (ubosot). The stairs to the main entrance are guarded by coiled nagas sporting huge horns. Beside the doors, lion dogs have been sculpted into plaster panels, giving the facade a rather surreal look. Along either side, the intricately carved window frames feature panels of different animals from the Chinese zodiac under each window.

Wat Gate Wiharn
The rare five-gabled prayer hall (wiharn).

The temple's large main prayer hall (wiharn) is equally unusual. The most notable feature is the roof, which has no less than five gables. Most temple buildings have only three gables. Five is quite rare. The high balustrade on the front stairs also sports some very viscous looking nagas. The back of the wiharn is decorated with a mirrored tile tree similar to many Lao temples.

Beyond the wiharn is an old building now housing the Wat Gate Museum. Its a very interesting eclectic collection that is one of our favorites.