Saturday, February 2, 2008

Thailand Vacation Series - Chiang Mai

by Kai

Experiencing the merging of the past into the present in Chiang Mai
where locals are proud of the city's 700-year history. Its rich

traditional heritage and unique culture is a perfect foundation for the

development of the city. Chiang Mai is one of the few places in

Thailand where it is possible to find in the heart of the city centuries

-old chedis and temples next to modern convenience stores and

boutique hotels. The original city layout still exists as a neat square

surrounded by a moat with vestiges of the fortified wall and its four

main gates offering prime access to the old town.

For years, tourists have mistaken Chiang Mai as the northern

junction and the base from which they can explore other provinces.

The phrase "a day in Chiang Mai is enough to see things around"

was common. Today, tourists are surprised by the fact that there is

always something new to discover Chiang Mai. Intriguing diversity

among ethnic tribes coupled with breathtaking scenery makes

Chiang Mai one of Asia's most attractive tourist destinations. Two

weeks in Chiang Mai may not be long enough for serious travelers.

The old city of Chiang Mai with its fascinating indigenous cultural

identity such as diverse dialects, cuisine, architecture, traditional

values, festivals, handicrafts and classical dances is a prime location

in its own right. In addition, the presence of hill tribes and their

wealth of unique cultures enhance Chiang Mai's distinctive diversity.

Chiang Mai is also blessed with pristine natural resources of

mountains (dois), waterfalls, and other nature-based tourist

attractions. At the same time, Chiang Mai residents are warm,

gracious and congenial providing authentic hospitality making visits

memorable and meaningful. Moreover, visitors from all walks of life

can collect handicrafts of silk, silver and wood produced locally as

timeless souvenirs. Chiang Mai is a place where both backpackers

and luxury tourists can enjoy themselves to the fullest.

Chiang Mai literally means new city and has retained the name

despite having celebrated its 700th anniversary in 1996. King Meng

Rai founded the city as the capital of the Lanna (A Million Rice

Fields) Kingdom on Thursday, 12th April 1296 during the same

period of time as the establishment of the Sukhothai Kingdom. King

Meng Rai the Great 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.

From then, Chiang Mai not only became the capital and cultural core

of the Lanna Kingdom, it was also the centre of Buddhism in

northern Thailand. King Meng Rai himself was very religious and

founded many of the city's temples, which are still important today. At the height of its power, the Lanna Kingdom extended its territory

far into Burma and Laos, and southwards to Kamphaeng Phet a

province above Sukhothai.

The Burmese conquered the Lanna Kingdom in 1556 ending the

dynasty founded by King Meng Rai that lasted over 250 years. As

Burma had occupied Chiang Mai for nearly 200 years, Burmese

architectural influences are visible in many temples. At the end of

the 18th century, King Taksin the Great regrouped the Thais in the

south and finally drove the Burmese out with the help of King Kawila

of Lampang thereby regaining Thai independence from Burma.

Chiang Mai was then governed by a succession of princes who ruled

the north as a Siamese protectorate under the Chakri dynasty. In

the late 19th century, King Rama V appointed a high commissioner

in Chiang Mai and it was only in 1939 that Chiang Mai finally came

under the direct control of the central government in Bangkok the

same time the country was renamed Thailand.

In the past, Chiang Mai was only accessible by river and elephants.

More convenient access was achieved only when the railway line

was completed in the late 1920's. Moreover, the first motor vehicle

driven directly from Bangkok arrived in Chiang Mai in 1932. Such

isolation was more favorable to Chiang Mai as it helped to nurture

and preserve the unique Lanna culture. When we look at Chiang Mai today, it is the economic, cultural and

communications hub of northern Thailand complete with excellent

infrastructure, good roads, by passes and road tunnels, and reliable

communications infrastructure.

Most of Chiang Mai's mountains are oriented from north to south.

Together they create a multitude of streams and tributaries

including Mae Chaem, Mae Ngat and Mae Klang. One of Chiang

Mai's distinctive features is Doi Inthanon, Thailands highest peak,

which is 2,575 meters above sea level. In addition, the province

boasts flat, fertile valleys, which spread along the banks of the

largest and most important river in Chiang Mai Mae Nam Ping (Ping

River) which originates from the Chiang Dao mountain range.

For more information about Chiang Mai, or Thailand tourist spots.


About the Author
Kai Otoko is the webmaster of which is the blog introducing information for people who are planning to take a Thailand Vacation, or just want to know more about Thailand. The main purpose is to help promote Thailand tourism.

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