Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

The city has been settled for over 700 years and is rich in culture and tradition, Chiang Mai truly is a delightful antidote to its capital city brother. 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. Much of the old wall has been sensitively restored. The city remains a low-rise one with very few sky-scrapers or tall buildings, those that are there are outside the city centre itself. The city occupies a natural basin surrounding by mountains that give this part of Northern Thailand a more moderate climate than the rest of the country.

Chiang Mai has its share of bars and pubs to explore at night. Not to be missed is Chiang Mai Zoo although it is hilly and can be quite a slog, and the regular trolley rides are very welcome on a hot day. While at the zoo you must see the pair of Pandas recently donated by China, they are entrancing even when just slumbering.

The city boasts 300 hundred ornately decorated Buddhist temples. The most famous ones include Wat Phra Singh with its Sinhalese Buddha, the 700-years-old Wat Chiang Man Visible from many parts of the city are the enormous ruins of Wat Chedi Luang and the teak built Wat Phan Tao. A little way out of town are Wat Jet Yod and Wat Suan Dawk, both over 500 years old and have fascinating histories.

A trip to the top of Doi Suithep and its temple that looks over the city is a must. The temple is one of Thailand's most revered and valley. The hill is steep in places so it is best to hire a taxi. If the weather is good take some time to visit the many waterfalls on the top. They are refreshing and cooling on a hot day.

Chiang Mai is home to many hill tribes. Trips to their villages are increasingly popular, giving an insight into this unique way of life. Also popular are trips to the excavated old Chiang Mai settlement of Wiang Gum Kham, southwest of the city. These 13th century ruins were only recently re-discovered. The city is also a good launching point for hill treks which include river rafting and elephant riding.

The National Elephant Reserve between Chiang Mai and Lampang is an interesting side visit. There is a twice daily elephant show that demonstrates both the strength and grace of these national creatures. You can also see the work of vets as they tend to the ill and injured animals that are brought to them from the outlaying districts.

Chiang Mai's night bazaar is enormous - a bargain hunter's paradise, packed with local produce, silk and fine cotton clothing, accesories and trinkets. This is a shopping experience to be savoured at a leisurely pace. One done shopping you will find respite in the many bars, pubs and restaurants.

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