Chiang Mai Travel Guide
IntroductionChiang Mai was founded in 1296. It is the principal northern city of Thailand. It is located roughly 700 kilometers from Bangkok. It's 300 meters above normal sea level. Mountains surround it from the Himalayan Mountains. Elephants work the forest even today. Beautiful waterfalls, caves, gorges, orchards, as well as plantations create a beautiful detailed landscape.
Chiang Mai used to be the capital of Lan Na Thai, also known as Kingdom of One Million Rice fields. It became the very first independent kingdom in what was known as the Golden Triangle. It was successful as a center for religion, culture, and trade until the year 1556. Burmese invaded it. Once they expelled the Burmese in 1775, it became once again an integral part of northern Thailand. Due to festivals, temples from the 1300's, scenic beauty, wonderful fruits like apples, peaches, and strawberries, cool climate, and beautiful women it was thought to be Shangri-la.
Chiang Mai had always been an isolated area to get when traveling from Bangkok. You only could reach it if you took a trip down the river or rode on the backs of elephants, which would take many weeks, until late in the 1920's. This is one reason Chiang Mai is so charming. The people there have their own dialect, customs, handicrafts, traditions, dances, and cuisine. A person who visits Chiang Mai is forever enchanted once they take in the sites of the area. There is a combination of Mon, Burmese, Sri Lankan, and Lan Na Thai style in the architecture. There are a lot of woodcarvings that are very intricate on things such as staircases.
Sightseeing in Chiang MaiThere are major temples in the city. One is called Wat Chiang Man, which is the oldest one. Another one is called Wat Chedi Luang, which was partly destroyed during an earthquake in 1545. Wat Phra Sing houses an image of Phra Sing Buddham. This one was founded in 1345. Wat Ku Tao has a beautiful pagoda studded with porcelain. Wat Suan Dok is a temple of Wat Umong. This one was built in the 14th century Lan Na Thai monarch's pleasure gardens. The most visible and important temple is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. It's a landmark that overlooks the city; it's only 15 km's away from the town. This temple contains artifacts of the relics, which attracts visits and Buddhist pilgrims all year long. In order to reach it, you must go up a 12-kilometer mountain road that zigzags. You must begin at Chiang Mai's zoo and climb a steep staircase. If you don't wish to climb you could use a car to go to the temple where you can enjoy the fantastic scene.
There are other things to do besides visiting the temples and that is taking a trip to the market or emporium to go shopping. You can find antiques, jewelry, pipes, embroidery, silks, cottons, basketry, celadon, silverware, furniture, lacquer ware, woodcarving, and parasols. You can actually watch the people at work in Chiang Mai. You can also visit Bo Sang, a village on the outskirts. Once you complete your shopping trip, you can relax in San Kamphaneg's Hot Springs, which is 36 kilomoters from the town. The springs have high sulphur content, which has restorative properties.
Festivals of Chiang MaiThere are numerous annual festivals in Chiang Mai. Three in particular will be mentioned. The first one is the Flower Carnival, which takes place the very first weekend of February. This is a celebration of the temperate and tropical flowers blooming. There are floats and parades that take place during this festival. The second festival is the Songkran. It takes place April 13-15. This is a celebration of the Thai New Year. They have a 3-day festival of merit making in their religion, a pilgrimage, and parades of beauty, dancing and other uninhibited things, as well as good-natured water throwing. The last festival is Loi Krathong. This takes place usually mid-November. It takes place on the full moon day of the 12th lunar month. It's the loveliest festival, because people under the full moon, float away on banana-leaf boats bearing a single lit candle, incense, flower, and a small coin honoring water spirits as well as floating away last year's sins.
If you happen to be fortunate enough to be in Chiang Mai during any of the above festivals, you will see the very best possible. There are first-class and economy classed hotels, which will provide a comfortable air-conditioned accommodation. Those on a budget would probably prefer a guesthouse, which is inexpensive. If you decide to stay outside Chiang Mai, you can stay in the Mae Sa Valley where you would stay in a resort bungalow or cabin. You can pick up a tourist guide from the Tourism Authority of Thailand's Chiang Mai branch office.
You will have the opportunity to experience Chiang Mai. Chinese food as well as Italian, French, German, and Muslim specialty restaurants. There is also American-style steakhouses, sandwich places, fast-food restaurants, pubs, and vegetarian restaurant. There are also tea and coffee houses for those who enjoy a good cup of coffee or tea. If you want to try something of local flavor, you could try spiced Naem sausages as well as mildly curried Khao Soi noodles. A lot of visitors also partake of a traditional Khantok dinner while enjoying a display of northern dances.