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Chiang Mai
Kingdom of Thailand

Certainly one of the most charming parts of Thailand is the ancient Lanna Kingdom, with Chiang Mai as its capital and best known city. Variously known as the Rose of the North or Thailand's northern capital, the city still retains its quiet, rural attraction while providing all the advantages of a well-developed infrastructure for the comfort and convenience of visitors.

Nestled in a lush valley more than 300 meters above sea level about 710 kilometers north of Bangkok, Chiang Mai is also the art and culture center of the Kingdom. You can visit home industries creating beautiful wood carvings, intricate silver products, the famouse celadon pottery, hand-woven Thai silks and cottons, hand-painted umbrellas - and even hand-made paper.

The Burmese influence on the culture of Chiang Mai is most evident in some of the temples and the fine lacquerware, as well as the dress and customs of the many hilltribes in the area. The food too reflects Burmese tastes and you should be sure to include a Khantoke dinner during your stay.

Founded by King Mengrai the Great as the capital of the Lanna Thai kingdom by merging the various city states in the region in 1296. Today Chiang Mai is the economic, communications, cultural and tourism centre of Northern Thailand.

About 700 kilometres from Bangkok, Chiang Mai is situated on the Mae Ping River basin some 310 meters above sea level. Surrounded by high mountain ranges, it covers an area of approximately 20,107 square kilometres. The terrain is mainly jungles and mountains, parts of which are within national parks which are still fertile and verdant with plentiful flora and fauna. There are many sites and locations where tourists prefer to visit to study the lifestyle of the tribal people who live on high hills.

ATTRACTIONS

Wat Phra Sing Located on Sam Lan Road, this lovely temple dates from 1345 and is one of the focal points of Songkran festivities each April 13-15 when people bathe the revered Phra Phutthasihing Buddha image. The temple compound includes the lovely Lai Kham chapel with its exquisite woodcarvings and northern-style murals, and a magnificent scriptural repository with striking bas relief.

Wat Suan Dok Located on Suthep Road, this temple was built in a 1 4th century Lanna Thai monarch's pleasure gardens and is a favourite spot for photographers, particularly for striking sunsets. Several of the white Chedis (pagodas) contain ashes of Chiang Mai' s former royal family. The 500-year-old bronze Buddha image in a secondary chapel is one of Thailand's largest metal images.

Wat Chiang Man Located on Ratchaphakkhinai Road, this is Chiang Mai's oldest temple and probably dates from 1296. The temple was the residence of King Mengrai, who founded Chiang Mai, and is noteworthy for a Chedi supported by rows of elephantine buttresses, and a small ancient Buddha image, Phra Kaeo Khao.

Wat Ku Tao This temple is near the Chiang Mai Stadium. It is noteworthy for an unusual bulbous pagoda. The structure is decorated with colourful porcelain chips and is believed to represent five Buddhist monks' alms bowls which symbolise five Lord Buddhas.

Wat Chedi Luang Located on Phra Pokklao Road, this temple is the site of an enormous pagoda, originally 280 feet high, and which was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 1545. At one time, Wat Chedi Luang housed the revered Emerald Buddha image now enshrined in Bangkok's Wat Phra Kaeo. One of the temple's most striking architectural features is a magnificent Naga (mythical serpent) staircase adorns the chapel's front porch.

Wat Chet Yot Located on Super Highway, north of the Huai Kaeo Nimmanhemin Roads intersection. This temple dates from 1458. The seven spired square Chedi was inspired by designs at Bodhagaya, the site of the Buddha's Enlightenment in north India over 2,500 years ago, and was built by Lanna Thai architects after visiting the holy site.

Wat U-Mong Located on Suthep Road in a bucolic forest setting, this delightful meditation temple is completely different from Chiang Mai's other majortemples. Itwas built in 1296. The ancient Chedi is of particular interest.

Chiang Mai National Museum This is located beside Wat Chet Yot. The museum houses a collection of Lanna Thai works of art, ancient Buddha images, and war weapons. It is open daily, except Mondays, Tuesdays and official holidays, from 9.00 a.m. until noon, and 1.00 until 4.00 p.m.

OUT OF CITY ATTRACTIONS

CHIANG MAI - LAMPHUN ROUTE (HIGH WAY 106)

Wiang Kum Kam An ancient town founded by King Mengrai is located 4 kilometres on Chiang MaiLamphun route in the area of Amphoe Saraphi. The main historical remains are found in Wat Chedi Liam, Wat Chang Kham' Wat Noi and Wat Kum Kam.

CHIANG MAI - DOI SUTHEP ROUTE (ROAD 1004)

Chiang Mai Arboretum This is next to Chiang Mai University. The attractively landscaped garden contains many kinds of tropical trees and lovely flowers.

Chiang Mai Zoo Next to the Chiang Mai Arboretum, this artfully landscaped complex occupies the lower forested slopes of Doi Suthep mountain, and contains a fascinating collection of Asian and African mammals and birds.

Huai Kaeo Falls Located near the Chiang Mai ZOOJ the cascade provides a delightful ambiance for relaxation and picnics.

Khruba Siwichai Monument This is situated at the foot of Doi Suthep Mountain. The monument honours the man whose followers built the first motor road to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in 1935

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep This temple is Chiang Mai's most important and visible landmark, and overlooks the city from its forested mountain backdrop. It is 15 kilometres from town, 3,520 feet above sea level, and dates from 1383. The temple is approached on foot by climbing a steep staircase comprising 290 steps. The less energetic may ascend by funicular railcars. The temple’s golden pagoda contains holy Buddha relics, and attracts Buddhist pilgrims from all over the world throughout the year.

Phu Phing Palace This is located on the same road, beyond Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, 22 kilometres from town. The royal winter palace was built in 1962. The lavishly landscaped gardens and grounds are open to the general public on Friday, Saturdays and Sundays and official holidays, when the Thai royal family is not in residence.

Doi Pui Tribal Village This Meo tribal village is some 4 kilometres from the Phu Phing Palace, and offers vignettes of modern tribal life.

WESTERN ROUTE (HIGHWAY No. 1009)

Old Chaing Mai Cultural Centre Located on the road to Chom Thong, the centre stages Lanna Thai cultural performances with a Khan Tok Dinner. Objects d’art are displayed.

Earthenware & Lacquerware Sheps These are clustered together, some 4 kilometres from town, on the Chiang Mai-Hang Dong Road.

Wat Phra That Si Chom Thong This temple is 58 kilometres from Chiang Mai and dates from the'mid-1400s. The temple houses a collection of bronze Buddha images, and the secondary chapel contains a holy Buddha relic.

Doi Inthanon National Park Doi Inthanon is Thailand’s highest mountain and towers 2,565 metres above sea level. Travel 58 kilometres west of Chiang Mai via Highway 107, by regular coach to Amphoe Chom Thong and thence by minibus to the peak for a further distance of 48 kilometres.

Complex mountain ranges and a mild climate characterize an area with moist and dense summit forest which is the source of important tributaries of the Mae Ping River, one of northern Thailand's major waterways. Various streams descend, forming beautiful waterfalls throughout the park. These include the Siriphum, Vachirathan, Mae Pan, Mae Klang, and, the largest of all, Mae Ya waterfalls. Meo and Karen hilltribes inhabit the park.

Visiting the Doi Inthanon National Park is possible throughout the year. The best period for viewing waterfalls is May through November. The best period for viewing wild flowers is December through February. The best period for ornithologists is November through March.

Ban Rai Phai Ngam This is a village where famous cotton cloth woven in the old style has been long produced. At present the weavers' central gathering is the home of the late National Artist, Pa (Aunt) Sangda Bansit, who had transferred her knowledge on the weaving process to other villagers. The village is located on the left of Chiang Mai-Hot between Km. 68-69, about 4 kilometres off the main road.

Op Luang Gorge This picturesque gorge is 105 kilometres from Chiang Mai provincial capital, and is framed by teak forests and mountains.

NORTHERN ROUTE (ROAD 1096 & HIGHWAY 107)

Hilltribe Museum Located on Chotana Road, This contains a permanent exhibition of northern hilltribes. The museum is open daily from 9.00 a.m.- 4.00 p.m.

Orchid & Butterfly Farms Major nurseries is located along Mae Rim-Samoeng route (Road No.1096). These farms include Sai Nam Phung, Mountain Orchid, and Mae Ram Orchid. Each provides opportunities for visitors admire these exotic year-round blooms. Certain orchid farms also have special butterfly enclosures where in exotic species can be seen in their natural environment.

Mae Sa Waterfall This 8-tiered waterfall is 26 kilometres from town and occupies a natural setting among gigantic towering trees.

Elephant Camps There are riverside enclaves north of Chiang Mai which feature daily show of elephants at work every morning. These include Mae Taman, Mae Taeng and Chiang Dao Elephant Camps on Route No.107, and Pong Yang and Mae Sa Elephant Camps on Route No.1096 (Mae Rim-Samoeng).

Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden This national botanic garden is located at Km. 12 of Mae Rim-Samoeng route and covers an area of 560 acres. It was established in April 1992 in orderto gather, to conserve, as well as to strengthen studies and research on Thai plants. More than 700 species of plants with the emphasis on Thai Flora have been collected.

Resorts Several picturesque resorts, with accommodation and dining facilities, offer bucolic rural living on the Mae Rim-Samoeng route and include Mae Sa Valley Resort and Erawan Resort, and the Samoeng-Hang Dong route which includes Lanna Resort, Krisadadoi Resort and Suan Bua Resort; Some occupy hillsides, others secluded valleys.

Chiang Dao Caves Sacred Buddha images occupy the caves of Wat Tham Chiang Dao at KM. 72 on Highway 107. Caves are illuminated by electric lights. Deepest recesses can be explored with local guides.

Doi Ang Khang This royal agricultural station situated among beautiful mountainous scenery, provincial capital, 163 kilometres north of Chiang Mai, is a demonstration site for planting and researching flowering plants, temperate fruit trees, vegetables and other crops under the patronage of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Fang Hot Springs Located at Ban Pin, also 163 kilometres north of Chiang Mai provincial capital, 50 hot springs occupy a 10-acre forest setting. Three boil continuously with a strong smell of sulphur. Water temperatures at the springs range from 90 to 100 degrees Celsius.

EASTERN ROUTE (ROAD 101)

Bo Sang Umbrella/Parasol Village The world-famous village is 9 kilometres from town, along a road lined with handicraft-producing factories. In genuine cottage industries, young women manufacture silk and cotton umbrellas and paper parasols which are subsequently hand painted in various animal and floral designs. Generations of Bo Sang families have been engaged in umbrella and parasol making for more than 200 years.

San Kamphaeng Cotton & Silk Weaving Village This equally famous village is located 13 kilometres from town. The village is the major source of all Thai silk and cotton produced in Chiang Mai. The fabrics are woven by local folk on traditional wooden looms, and are sold in a wide variety of plain lengths, plaids, brocades, stripes, prints and checks.

San Kamphaeng Hot springs This is located 36 kilometres from town amid natural surroundings of trees and verdant hills. The water has a high sulphur content and possesses curative and possesses curative and restorative properties. Accommodation, a swimming pool, dining facilities and segregated mineral water bathing rooms are available. Nearby is Rung Arun Hot Spring Resort, which offers bungalows, mineral baths and a sumptuous park setting.

TREKKING

Hmong, Lisu, Yao, Akha, Lawa and Karen hilltribes live throughout northern Thailand’s mountains. They share animist beliefs and honour numerous forest and guardian spirits. Each tribe has distinctive ceremonial attire, courtship rituals, games, dances, agricultural customs, puberty rites, languages or dialects, aesthetic values and hygienic habits.

Popular "Jungle Treks", lasting from 2 to 7 days, take visitors through forested mountains and high valleys and meadows, and include visits to remoter high-altitude hilltribe settlements for overnight stays. The best guides are hilltribe youths who customarily speak English, Thai and at least three tribal dialects.

Treks commonly feature travel by foot, sometimes by boat, elephant-back, horse-back or jeep, frequently a combination of two or three modes of transportation.

Prospective trekkers are advised to shop around companies offering such tours for the best conditions. All treks must be registered with the Tourist Police. This is done for trekkers’ protection. Avoid companies that do not abide by this law. Visitors are welcome to enquire from the Tourist Police to confirm which tour companies have negative or bad reputations, or visit the TAT Chiang Mai office to obtain a list of registered travel agents.

Also, avoid narcotics, essentially everything from soft drugs such as marijuana to hard drugs such as opium and heroin both during travel and at hilltribe villages. There are severe penalties for such usage.

Wear sensible clothing to protect your limbs and sleep under a mosquito net at night. Malaria is a real threat, and sensible precautions should be taken to avoid it.

NOTE

* Respect hilltribe beliefs and religious symbols and structures.
* Dress modestly. Hilltribe people are generally modest. Inappropriate attire may offend them.
* Ask permission before photographing someone. Some villages do not permit photography.
* Avoid trading western medicines and articles of clothing. Contributions to their welfare, items such as pens, paper, needles, thread, cloth and material used for embroidery are perfectly acceptable.
* Trek prices are determined by the duration of the trip, transportation modes, meals available and the size of the trekking party. Check directly with the Chiang Mai TAT office for current information.

SHOPPING

Chiang Mai is, quite simply, Thailand's major centre for quality handicrafts. The visitor need merely visit the nearest city emporium or night market to purchase handicrafts. A major advantage of shopping in Chiang Mai is that the visitor may watch artisans working within the city and in several outlying villages, particularly along the Bo Sang-San Kamphaeng Road where, in genuine cottage industries, parasols, silk and cotton weaving, jewellery, woodcarving, silverware' celadon, and lacquerware are manufactured, and number among popular purchases.

MAJOR EVENTS

Chiang Mai celebrates many annual festivals. Three are particularly lively and lovely. They are the Flower Festival, the first Friday and weekend of every February, Songkran, 13-15 April each year, and Loi Krathong on the full-moon night of the twelfth lunar month, generally in November.

Flower Festival - The 3-day event occurs during the period when Chiang Mai’s temperate and tropical flowers are in full bloom and at their colourful best. Festivities include colourful floral floats, parades, music and dancing, and beauty pageants.

Songkran – This festival celebrates the traditional thai New Year with religious merit-making, pilgrimages, beauty parades, dancing, merriment and uninhibited, good-natured water-throwing.

Loi Krathong – People float away under the full moon, onto rivers, canals and lakes, banana-leaf boats bearing a lighted candle, incense, flower and small coin to honour the water spirits and wash away the previous year’s misfortunes.

 

 
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