Wat Palad: The Secret Jungle Temple in Chiang Mai I Shouldn’t Even Tell You About

I shouldn’t even be telling you about this place. It’s that special.

Wat Palad (or Wat Pha Lat) is a temple in Chiang Mai that is tucked away in the heart of the jungle. If you desire to be a typical tourist in Thailand, I urge you to go to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. There, you’ll find hundreds of touts and vendors pushing a melange of souvenirs and fake Thai food. I mean, that’s the root of real culture, isn’t it?

As a matter of fact, I’ll tell you now: don’t even bother going to Doi Suthep. Temples aren’t about entry fees and shiny steeples. They represent something more meaningful.

Go here instead.

Wat Pha Lat is a secret jungle temple hidden in Chiang Mai

Wat Pha Lat is a secret jungle temple hidden in Chiang Mai.I sauntered into Wat Palad under the cover of tall greenery. “Another temple,” I thought. Asia is full of them.

But I moseyed further, and what I encountered was magical. I had been directed into a temple built within the jungle, enshrining elephants and dragons, the worldly and unworldly side-by-side. Streams poured out of the hills, culminating into a large rock waterfall overlooking the Chaing Mai skyline. Dogs roamed freely and, above me, a large spider clung to its capacious web. Small bridges and footpaths joined statues of Buddhas, dragons, worshipers, candle holders and stone carvings.

I could sense the connectedness of this temple, its people, and the earth. It had been built under the pretense of harmony, and I could feel it.

Wat Pha Lat is built within the forest, not in spite of it
Wat Pha Lat is built within the forest, not in spite of it

Sometime around the age of 15, during those really awkward years when I was still struggling to understand my own belief system, my mother produced a number of books on Buddhism, which I found interesting and quickly devoured. I never meditated and I never became a Buddhist in practice, but I did appropriate many of the Buddha’s teachings into my life.

Baby Buddha is very happy!
Baby Buddha is very happy!

I took to understanding the beauty in the impermanence of life and accepting its inherent transience. I realized that toxic mentations came from a place of desire, in which I wanted things in life that I simply could not have. Buddhism, however, teaches to clear ones being of wants, vices, and desires because suffering stems only from these virulent deliberations. I learned that I would only be able to find peace within myself and not through the world or others.

Statued Monks at Wat Pha Lat
Statued Monks at Wat Pha Lat

These teachings were significant to me in that they literally shaped the way I see the world. But, as time passes, and ten years go by, sometimes we forget about those defining stages of our lives. Stepping into Wat Palad, though, memories of these beliefs and teachings hit me straight upside the head. Somehow, this temple that I didn’t even know existed one hour prior, elicited remembrance. And then peace.

Making an offering
Making an offering.

In fact, it’s one of the most peaceful and enchanting places I’ve ever been. This beautifully crafted temple in the middle of the jungle in Chiang Mai is the one place on this earth where, for me, true peace can still exist.

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About the Author

Jeremy Scott Foster

Jeremy Scott Foster is an adventure-junkie, gear expert and travel photographer based in Southern California. Previously nomadic, he’s been to ~50 countries and loves spending time outdoors. You can usually find him on the trail, on the road, jumping from bridges or hustling on his laptop working to produce the best travel and outdoors content today.
  1. Not trying to attack or be rude but here is a quote from yourself “As a person, and especially as a traveler, please, remember your manners. You are an ambassador for your country. Give the locals a reason to love you, not to hate you.”

    You were asked by a Thai person not to disclose the location of the temple. The pictures etc. are fine but I think it’s in everyone’s best interest you remove the directions. It’s not necessary for the article to have and it’s contradictory to your own statement and beliefs.

    When you got something special you should hold onto it. Don’t want it to become the next Maya Bay / Koh Phi Phi; once an untouched treasure now a cesspool of drunken travelers just following suit.

    1. “Wat Palad: The Secret Jungle Temple in Chiang Mai I Shouldn’t Even Tell You About”
      The first line even declares that you shouldn’t mention it especially not the location.

      Sometimes you just have to think about what the best is for the locals and the places not to mention the fact that you are messing with Thai people newly involved in the Thai mafia. Just tred lightly.

    2. You’re right, Robin. I wouldn’t want that. Realistically, Wat Palad isn’t going to become overrun by tourists because of one article I write, but I appreciate your concern for the state of Thailand, which is surely depleting due to tourism.

      Because of your level headed approach to making a valid argument (this time), I have removed the directions to the temple per your request. You are right, I did say I wouldn’t tell people how to get here. A simple Google search gives people step by step instructions with photos, anyway.

      I do hope it will remain unscathed for my next visit. It’s a very special place.

  2. Those are some great pictures! I think we would love to be able to visit this place when we finally make our way to southeast Asia.

  3. Damn…if only I’d seen this post a day earlier. I’m moving on from Chiang Mai tomorrow. Too many white people here for me. (And yes, I do realize I’m white…but still.)

      1. You and Derek are the worst kind of self-righteous pseudospiritual, rich, white middle class person that ironically you both are so desparate to avoid and I am nauseated by your narcissistic understanding that you have reached some sort of higher level of enlightenment or understanding over people of your same demographic and generally and including tourists who might prefer, one reason or another, to go to aforementioned more common Wats. Roaming around the rainforest, finding a wat, some statues and a pretty waterfall does not make you a local. So how about letting go of this self internalised hatred and false pretense and stop pretending you are “better” or anything other than the rich “white person” visiting thailand supporting the local economy through appreciated tourism that you find so “unfortunate”.

  4. Looks like a beautiful temple! We didn’t visit Chiang Mai on our recent trip to Thailand, but we did visit Chiang Rai.

  5. I just visited this temple as well as Wat Phra That Doi Suthep this morning. I was lucky to be at them very early when no one was around. I agree that Wat Palad is more beautiful and serene. However, the view of Chiang Mai from the overlook at Wat Phra That was so stunning that I spontaneously wept. You are doing your readers a disservice by telling them to skip that. The easy answer? Visit both and get up there by 7:00am to have the place almost to yourself.

    1. I’m glad you had such a wonderful time at Doi Suthep. Yes, many people do enjoy it there, but I couldn’t help but feel an immense level of peace at Wat Palad, and such an intense level of chaos at Doi Suthep. Maybe things would be different if I had gotten there earlier.

      Have an amazing time in Thailand!

  6. Thank you !
    I’m here in Chiang Mai and looking for forest / mountain adventures. This looks perfect !
    I may go tomorrow.

  7. I have read a handful of posts about packs of rabid dogs being aggressive at Wat Pha Lat…. Did you encounter this?? I wanted to do the hike alone tomorrow, but after reading about the dogs I am feeling nervous…

    1. Hey Lauren. I haven’t seen or heard anything about rabid dogs at the temple. I suppose there could be some on the way there, but it’s hard to say.

  8. You should not be telling people about this temple according to yourself, and yet you did, to feed your ego? so you can show people you have been to sacred places and you were “special “??? well…. you are not… but you know that or else you would be just content you were able to BE there…

    It is awful that people with ethics such as this are allowed a voice as you burp to the world about places that locals go and worship their faith in peace. Places untainted by lame and disrespectful people, like yourself .
    Go ahead and be disrespectful to other places too so some other backpacker can say they have been to thailand , were special, think they are off the beaten track and tick some stuff off their list…


  9. I went today in the afternoon and I can ensure readers that it remains a peaceful & serene oasis. I saw no more than 6-8 other tourists during the the 2+ hours I visited. The young monks far outnumbered us. I am so grateful for having read this article as this will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of my visit to chisngmai. It was magical, mystical, serene, quieting & centering. I will think of it often & hope to return someday.

    1. AMAZING. I’m so so happy to hear this. I truly hope I haven’t spoiled such a special place. Thank you 🙂

  10. My husband and I went to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep early and had it to ourselves for an hour. We stayed 2. Then our taxi driver ( we live in Chiang Mai now) took us to Wat Palad ( pha lat) and we will go back to it often. You are correct. My first thought was to keep this place a secret but my review on trip advisor was probably 201 vs >6000 for Doi Suthep. We basked in the serenity of palad. Stayed an hour plus and did not want to leave. The rocks, waterfalls, monks, and quiet create a contemplative space. Thanks for the recommendation!

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