The Wat Thaton is a large temple complex in a very attractive setting only a few kilometers from the border with neighboring Myanmar. The temple is located on top of a hill overlooking the village of Ban Thaton and the Mae Kok river. It is built over several levels of a forested hill offering magnificent views over the surrounding rural area.
At the first level of the Wat Thaton you will find a statue of Guanyin, the Chinese Goddess of Mercy. Although the Goddess is depicted here with two arms, in some stories Guanyin is said two have a thousand arms, to enable her to help all who are suffering.
The office of the Wat Thaton’s abbot and a Buddhist school are also located at this level. One of the oldest structures of the temple complex is the chedi or stupa, a structure used to enshrine relics of the Buddha, Kings or very important monks. The golden colored stupa is placed on a white concrete base.
Level two contains the ubosot. This is one of the most important structures of any Buddhist temple, since it is the place where new monks get ordained. At level three you will find an enormous sitting white Buddha image named Phra Buddha Nirandornchai in the subduing Mara posture.
Level four contains the Phra Nakprok building that houses the Vipassana meditation center. On the roof of the building is a huge seated Buddha image sheltered by a mythological seven headed Naga serpent. The next level contains a meditation hall and accommodation for students of the meditation classes.
The Chedi Kaew or Crystal Pagoda
The most striking building of the temple complex is the newly built Chedi Kaew or Crystal pagoda, a magnificent structure visible from miles away. This very colorful structure has a large greenish spire on top. Both sides of the entrance are decorated with golden colored Thewada figures (celestial beings) on a red background.
Over the richly decorated entrance is a depiction of the Buddha in front of a Dhamma wheel, the symbol that represents the Buddha’s teachings. A very tall standing golden Buddha image over 10 meters tall holding an alms bowl is overlooking the area.
The Wat Thaton organizes several programs to benefit the local community. A project for local children and hill tribe children aims to bring several communities living in the area closer together.
There is a Buddhist school for monks and novices and a Vipassana meditation center. The complex also contains a herbal medicine center, a restaurant, a large meeting hall and several other buildings.
Vipassana meditation center
The area of Ban Thaton has a very long history of Buddhism and Buddhist philosophy. With its atmosphere of tranquility and the natural environment overlooking the mountains and plains, it is a place very well suited for meditation.
The Vipassana meditation center of the Wat Thaton hosts meditation classes that are open to Thai people as well as foreigners. Classes for non Thai speakers are held in English. There are classes both for beginners and for the advanced.
For more information about meditation and a list of retreats and temples in Thailand that teach Vipassana or Samatha meditation, read meditation retreats in Thailand.
How to get to the Wat Thaton
The Wat Thaton is located in the small village of Ban Thaton in the Northern part of Chiang Mai province close to the border with Myanmar. The temple is built on top of a hill on the South end of the Mae Kok river. It is about 175 kilometers North of Chiang Mai city and about 50 kilometers North West of Chiang Rai.
From Chiang Mai you can get to Ban Thaton by bus. Buses depart from Chiang Mai’s Chang Puak bus station, just North of the Chang Puak gate in the old city walls. The air conditioned bus runs several times per day, the journey takes around 4 hours. A fun trip with great scenery on the way is the boat ride on the Mae Kok river from Chiang Rai to Ban Thaton. The trip takes around 5 hours.
Entrance fee & opening hours
The Wat Thaton is open from 8 am until 5 pm. Admission is free. At the time of writing, the Vipassana meditation center was closed.