Across the river from Nan town is the Wat Phra That Chae Haeng, the town’s most important temple. The 14th century temple is located on a small hill East of town across the Nan river, from where good views of the town of Nan and the surrounding valley and river can be had.
The temple derives its name from the Phra That Chae Haeng, the gilded chedi that contains a relic of the Buddha.
The Wat Phra That Chae Haeng was founded in 1355. The structures of the temple complex show a mix of several architectural styles, including Lanna and Thai Lü.
Naga balustrades towards the courtyard
A broad walkway flanked by long balustrades leads up to the temple grounds. The lower end of the balustrades is topped with massive 4 meter high heads of the mythological Naga snake, the body of the serpent extending all the way up to the temple area. On top of the mound is a square walled courtyard accessible through entrance gates. The large courtyard surrounded by open galleries contains a chedi, a viharn and a mondop.
Thai Lü style Viharn Luang
The Wat Phra That Chae Haeng’s viharn named Viharn Luang is built in Thai Lü style. The entrance to the viharn is guarded by two large white lions. Over the main entrance door is a stucco relief of interwoven Naga serpents. The plastered walls contain small windows. The viharn has a three tiered roof with wooden carved eaves, the roofs ends are ornamented with Chofah. Two rows of white pillars inside the viharn support the roof. The large Sukhothai style Buddha in the viharn is the temple’s principal Buddha image.
Gilded chedi and mondop
Probably the oldest structure of the Wat is the gilded chedi, that was built around 1355. The 55 meter high slender chedi named Phra That Chae Haeng enshrines a relic of the Buddha as well as silver and gold votive tablets. The spiral shaped chedi that was rebuilt in 1454 is set on a square base.
Next to the chedi is the temple’s mondop, an open structure with a cruciform, multi tiered roof. Its large red gable is decorated with gold colored motifs. Inside the mondop are several Buddha images seated on colorful pedestals.
Other structures outside the walled courtyard
A number of the Wat Phra That Chae Haeng’s temple buildings are located outside the walled courtyard, including two ubosot or ordination halls. The old ubosot is a small building with very little exterior decoration. A more recent ubosot has a two tiered roof and a beautiful depiction of an elephant kneeling for the Buddha on the gable of its front façade. Its window shutters are adorned with carved flower motifs. Other structures are a small chedi with a stepped square base and spiral top and a viharn that contains a large Reclining Buddha image.
How to get to the Wat Phra That Chae Haeng
The temple is located in the Muang Nan district, about 200 meters South of Route 1168 from Nan town in an Eastward direction. From downtown Nan, get on Mahawong road Eastwards, cross the bridge over the Nan river and follow Route 1168 from Nan town in an Eastward direction; the temple is found about 2 kilometers from the Nan river. The easiest way to get there is by chartered songthaew.
Entrance fee & opening hours
The Wat Phra That Chae Haeng temple is open daily from 6 am until 6 pm. Entrance is free.