Chiang Mai is a city in mountainous northern Thailand. Founded in 1296, it was capital of the independent Lanna Kingdom until 1558. Its Old City area still retains vestiges of walls and moats from its history as a cultural and religious center. It’s also home to hundreds of elaborate Buddhist temples, including 14th-century Wat Phra Singh and 15th-century Wat Chedi Luang, adorned with carved serpents.
Located 700 km (435 miles) north of Bangkok in a verdant valley on the banks of the Ping River, Chiang Mai was founded in 1296 as the capital of the ancient Lanna Kingdom. Today it is a place where past and the present seamlessly merge with modern buildings standing side by side with venerable temples.
Best Things to Do in Chiang Mai
Take A Visit To Doi Suthep
The most famous attraction in all of Chiang Mai is Doi Suthep, every travel agent and driver will ask you if you want to go, it is like Big Ben is to London. Doi Suthep is about 12km outside of Chiang Mai and is a mountain that has a fantastic view over all of the city. Standing at 5400 metres the mountain also houses Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, a 13th century temple that is home to a large white elephant shrine as well as a replica of the Emerald Buddha.
Be Fashionable At Nimmanhaemin Road
Nimmanhaemin Road is the trendiest part of Chiang Mai, full of fancy bars and restaurants it is the place where all the up and coming citizens of the area hang out. The main road has several high end bars and the side streets (soi’s) are full of them as well. There is a new shopping mall at one end of the road which contains many designer shops as well as a multiplex cinema and many famous restaurant names. The area is the most expensive part of Chiang Mai both in terms of property and general eating out.
Take A Trip Down The San kamphaeng Road
Also known as the ‘Handicraft Highway’ a 10km stretch of road where you will find outlets famous for their pottery, silverware, lacquerware, sculpting, wood carving and silk products. The area is especially famous for its pottery which is known as Celadon, it has a green glaze which in turn makes it look like Jade, there are several outlets on this road where you can pick these up. Not many know but Chiang Mai is famous for some of the best silverware in Thailand and if you stop into Louis Silverware you will be able to watch the master artist carrying out his work.
Chiang Mai literally means “new city” and has retained the name despite celebrating its 700th anniversary in 1996. King Meng Rai the Great founded the city as the capital of the Lanna Kingdom on Thursday, April 12, 1296 around the same time as the establishment of the Sukhothai Kingdom. King Meng Rai even conferred with his friends, King Ramkhamhaeng of Sukhothai and King Ngam Muang of Phayao before choosing the site where the capital of the Lanna Kingdom was to be founded. Henceforth, Chiang Mai not only became the capital and cultural core of the Lanna Kingdom, it was also to be the center of Buddhism in northern Thailand. King Meng Rai himself was a very religious leader who even founded many of the city’s temples that remain important to this day. Chiang Mai is one of the few places in Thailand where it is possible to experience both historical and modern Thai culture coexisting side by side: the city features centuries-old pagodas and temples next to modern convenience stores and boutique hotels. This dichotomy is best appreciated within the moat-encircled old city, which retains much of the fortified wall that once protected the city center as well as the four main gates that provided access to the former Lanna capital city. Strangely, for many years, tourists had mistaken Chiang Mai simply as the base from which they could plan trekking and rafting trips to hill tribe villages and explore other provinces. Once in Chiang Mai, however, tourists are surprised by the fact that there are so many things to discover other than its beautiful and historic temples. Intriguing diversity among ethnic tribes, a number of elephant camps, many cooking and massage schools, numerous outdoor activities, a variety of handicrafts workshops, various cultural performances, and breathtaking scenery make Chiang Mai one of Asia’s most attractive tourist destinations. The phrase “a day in Chiang Mai is enough to see things around town” was once a common expression. Today, two weeks in Chiang Mai may not be long enough for travelers to experience all that Chiang Mai has to offer.
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