Wat Lok Molee is renowned for its impressive ancient chedi, estimated to date back to the 14th century. The chedi, constructed out of exposed brick and fading stucco, is in fairly good condition due to multiple restoration projects, and has shrubbery growing out of every non-vertical surface. Halfway up on each of the four sides there is an alcove holding Buddha images, with small cable lines to access them for veneration and offerings during Buddhist festivities. The grounds are rather large, hosting the chedi, a worshipping hall, 12 zodiac signs sculptures, and housing quarters for monks.
The worshipping hall, known as a viharn, has a dark wooden exterior and traditional Lanna style architecture and design. It appears to be black from a glance, but up close you can see intricate colored detailing within the panels above the doorway. Two white sculptures of nagas, mythological serpents meant to protect, lead up along the steps to the entrance of the temple. There is small shrine dedicated to the Hindu god Ganesha alongside a Chinese form of the Bodhisattva, exposing the many historical foreign influences on this region.
There is no record of the founding date for Wat Lok Molee, but the temple has a rich history that can be dated back in writing to its period of King Kue Na (พญากือนา), a ruler of the Mengrai Dynasty during the Lanna period of northern Thailand. Its purpose upon founding was to be used as a living place for Burmese missionary monks to stay and spread the teachings of the Buddha. The last queen in the Lanna dynasty, Queen Visuddhadevi, had her ashes entombed into the chedi along with her husband, the late King Muang Ketklao, who died a year prior and had left the throne to her.
The visit to this temple is worth a drive if you appreciate contemporary glances into history, beautiful and unprecedented architecture, or merely an easy outing close to downtown. Admission is free, gates are open and visitors are welcome from 6am-5pm. On our visit, a group of elementary school children arrived for a teaching inside one of the many facilities surrounding the premises. Even with a throng of visitors, the impressive qualities of the temple and chedi draws such attention as to create a sense of serenity.
Written by: Grace Van Kirk