Wat Phra Chao Thongtip is an ancient temple that has an extraordinary history. The legend has it that around 1533 in the reign of Phra Chao Chiang Mai, he had bestowed his daughter to Phra Chao Potisan of Srisattanakahut Kingdom (known as People’s Democratic Republic of Laos nowadays). However, both didn’t have any children, so they went to Phra Chao Thongtip, the sacred Buddha image to beg for a child. Shortly, the queen gave birth to a prince, his name was Phra Chao Chai Chettatirat. When he was 12 years old, Phra Chao Chiang Mai, his grandfather passed away.
Yet, there was no any heirs to succeed to the throne. The courtiers then requested Phra Chao Chai Chettatirat to rule Chiang Mai kingdom instead. Phra Chao Potisan agreed, and appointed to take the Buddha image, Phra Chao Thongtip back to Chiang Mai with him. During the journey along Mekong river, Mae Kok river, and Lao river, the boat ran aground at Tambon Sri-Toy, Amphoe Mae Saruay right at the spot where the temple located nowadays), and could not float any further.
Therefore, Phra Chao Chai Chettatirat invited the Buddha sculpture— Phra Chao Thongtip to enshrine at that place by building a mondop for the statue. After he had ruled Chiang Mai kingdom for 2 years, his father, Phra Chao Potisan passed away. Accordingly, he went back to Luang Pra Bang with the significant Buddha statues of Chaing Mai; the Emerald Buddha (Phra Kaew Morakot), Phra Putta Sihing, Phra Setangkamanee (or Phra Kaew Khao), and others. Nevertheless, all of them were returned to Thailand. As for Phra Chao Thongtip, on the way back to Thailand, the statue was left in the forest for a hundred year. However, at present, this Buddha image was invited to the temple, and was well-protected.
Phra Chao Thongtip was used as the name for several Buddha images belonged to temples in Amphoe Mae Saruay.
The original one was enshrined at Wat Phra Chao Thongtip. As for other Buddha statues, they were brought from this temple for people to worship. As a result, these statues were called Phra Chao Thongtip as well. Phra Chao Thongtip was the Buddha image in ‘Pang Marn Vichai’ (a Buddha’s meditative posture with the right hand on his lap.), with 80 cm. width (from knee to knee), and 120 cm. height. The image has been famous for granting infants.
As for the temple, Wat Phra Chao Thongtip was built in 1825 by the Venerable Phra Khru Bayano with other 3 laymen. It was later renovated twice. The latest restoration was in 1998 by Phra Atikarn Prayuth Tikavaro, the present Chief Abbot of Wat Phra Chao Thongtip. This temple features a remarkably beautiful boat-like meditation hall in the front of the site. The architecture was built in Lanna style. Moreover, along the road to Wat Phra Chao Thongtip also conveys other interesting attractions, such as Chiang Rai Wainery, popular Lychee wine, splendid Mae Saruay reservoir, water rafting on River Laos, and Ban Lek Nai Pa Yai Intiation Royal Project (Small Home in the Big Forest Project), etc.
How to get there:
From Wiang Pa Pao, it takes around 121 kilometers before crossing the bridge over a stream. At the foot of the bridge, there will be a left turn leading into Tambon Sri-Toy, Amphoe Mae Saruay, along with the signpost to Chiang Rai Winery. Just follow the direction to the Winery, Wat Phra Chao Thongtip is in the same route.