Wat Tha Ton

Chiang Mai Province

Just south of the bridge, this intriguing and popular monastery complex sprawls west from Tha Ton over a series of forested hills. The wát buildings are spread over nine levels and each comes with its own collection of supersize statues and stunning views north towards Myanmar or east across the Tha Ton plain.

The first level has a statue of Kuan Yin, the Chinese goddess of compassion; level three has a portly Chinese Buddha and a towering white seated Buddha in Thai style; level four has a huge seated Buddha with a naga (serpent) cowl; level eight crowns the hilltop, with a three-storey, colourful stupa with a museum inside known as Chedi Kaew; and there's a huge golden standing Buddha holding a cauldron-sized begging bowl on level nine (reached via a road running across the saddle behind the chedi). Look out for helicopter-like dipterocarp seeds spiralling down from the canopy as you wander. Allow at least two hours to explore on foot or an hour by motorbike.

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