Imagine the Disney movie Aladdin, with the temple that Princess Jasmine lived in, and there you have it: that is Wat Suan Dok, a.k.a. The Flower Garden Temple.
The picturesque temple of glittering gold and crisp, clean white is located just off of a busy street in the western corner of Chiang Mai. If you’re in the area, the unique whitewashed shrines are definitely worth a stop at this magical place.
These beautiful monuments contain the ashes of former royal families of Chiang Mai and walking among these spectacular gravestones gives you a feeling that is eerie but equally intriguing. Our guide and resident monk, KK, told us the temple got its name because it was built in a garden belonging to King Ku Na and that the initial construction of the temple was completed in 1371, but over time it fell to ruins. It remained in shambles until King Kawilla ordered the temple to be reconstructed more than 200 years later.
Towering far above the delicate shrines is a bright, golden bell shaped structure called a stupa. A stupa is a circular structure containing relics or remains of Buddhist monks and is used as a place of meditation. Commonly known as a chedis in Thailand, these prayer halls are sacred, religious buildings that can be found all over Southeast Asia.
Although each region of Southeast Asia had its own stupa style, they’ve mixed and shared the architectural blueprints over the years and now the types of chedis vary all over the country. At the entrance of each stupa you will find statues of fire-breathing dragons, scaly serpents and other fierce looking creatures that act as guardians of the temple scaring away bad spirits and negative energies.
Jess and I had the opportunity to explore the royal graveyard further as the sun glistened off of the gold and white maze that surrounded us. On each shrine was a description, carved into the stone and written in Thai, to whom the monument was dedicated along with an offering of incense, flowers and coins. What a beautiful way to remember those that came before us and a very magical place to rest in peace.