The Shan Temple, Wat Pa Pao, whilst not on the normal Chiang Mai Temple Tourist Trail, is a quite unique Buddhist temple in Chiang Mai. Not particularly old, Wat Pa Pao was built in the late 19th Century by Shan people for the Shan people and even today, Wat Pa Pao is the main community centre for Shan people in Chiang Mai.
Quite large numbers of Shan, who are known as Tai Yai in Thailand, have moved into Northern Thailand from the Shan State of North Eastern Myanmar looking for work and to try to preserve their traditions and culture which are discouraged by the current regime in Myanmar.
The architecture of Wat Pa Pao is Burmese and is the finest example of this style of architecture in Chiang Mai. Although it is located on a main thoroughfare just outside the city walls, Wat Pa Pao is hidden away and largely unknown. Originally built in a forest of Pao trees (Pa = Forest in Thai), which gave the temple its name, Wat Pa Pao is now the home of a foundation set up to offer education to the young Shan people in Chiang Mai and for the preservation of Shan culture.
Whilst many Shan gatherings are held each year, the main Shan festival, Poy Sang Long, a Rites of Passage ceremony for young Shan males is held at Wat Pa Pao during March/April and also at another Shan Temple in Chiang Mai, Wat Ku Tao, which attracts large numbers of Shan people and a few visitors lucky enough to find out about the ceremony.
Wat Pa Pao is well worth a visit and makes a very pleasant change from some of the more touristy temples and from the Lanna style architecture which is so prevalent in most of Chiang Mai’s Buddhist Temples.
See other Temples in Chiang Mai
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