Chiang Mai, the tranquil and easygoing northern metropolis, never fails to enchant guests with its picturesque mountains and fertile farms. A great many remnants of its past as the capital of the illustrious northern kingdom of Lanna remain today. Chiang Mai’s Old City is home to a thriving culinary scene and hip cafes in addition to its famed art galleries and handicraft boutiques. Where do all those people come from, and why do they spend millions of dollars each year to visit Chiang Mai? Come with us as we explore this lovely northern city and see all it has to offer.
Chiang Mai, Thailand, was founded in 1296 CE and was formerly the capital of the Lanna Kingdom. Located 700 kilometres north of Bangkok in the gently sloping Himalayan foothills, access was difficult until the 1920s. Chiang Mai’s unique allure has survived thanks in part to its relative remoteness.
The walled city is the heart of Chiang Mai’s rich history (“city” is chiang in the northern Thai dialect while mai is “new”, hence Chiang Mai translates as “new city”). Only the moat and a few sections of wall going back to its renovation a few decades ago remain.
More than 30 temples, some dating back to Chiang Mai’s founding, can be found within the city’s remaining walls. These temples are a blend of Burmese, Sri Lankan, and Lanna Thai styles, and they feature intricate wood carvings, Naga staircases, leonine and angelic guardians, gilded umbrellas, and pagodas laced with gold filigree. The most well-known of them is Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, perched on a hilltop thirteen kilometres outside of town.