Chiang Mai is Thailand's principal northern
city. Chiang Mai is the provincial capital of a largely
mountainous province, also called Chiang Mai, which is some
20,000 square kilometers in area. Chiang Mai City is 700
kilometers north of Bangkok, was founded in 1296, and is located
in a fertile valley some 300 meters above sea level. Chiang Mai
was the capital of Lanna Thai (Kingdom of One Million Rice
fields), the first independent Thai kingdom within the fabled
Golden Triangle. Chiang Mai flourished as a major religious,
cultural and trading center until 1556 when a Burmese invasion
reduced it to a vassal state. The Burmese were expelled in 1785,
whereupon Lanna Thai once again became part of northern
Thailand. Many lowland Thais regard Chiang Mai City and province
as being something of a national Shangri-la, thanks to its
beautiful women, distinctive festivals, historic temples dating
from the 1300s, arresting scenic beauty, temperate fruits such
as apples peaches and strawberries, and a crisp, invigorating
cool season climate.
Attractions - in the city
Wat Phra Sing - 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 Buddha Sihing 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 - Suthep Road
This temple was built in a 14th century
Lanna Thai monarch's pleasure gardens and is a favorite spot for
photographers, particularly for striking sunsets. Several of the
white chedis contain ashes of Chiang Mai's former royal family.
The 500-year-old bronze Buddha images in a secondary chapel is
one of Thailand's largest metal images.
Wat Chiang Man - Ratchaphakhinai 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 - near Chiang Mai Municipal Stadium
This temple is noteworthy for an unusual
bulbous pagoda. The structure is decorated with colorful
porcelain chips and is believed to represent five Buddhist
monks' alms bowls, which symbolize five Lord Buddhas.
Wat Chedi Luang - Phrapokklao 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. A magnificent Naga staircase adorns the
chapel's front porch.
Wat Chet Yot - Super Highway, north of the Huai Kaeo,
Nimmanhemin Roads intersection
This temple dates from 1458. The
sevenspired 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 - Suthep Road
This delightful meditation temple is
completely different from Chiang Mai's other major temples and
enjoys a bucolic forest setting. The ancient chedi is of
Chiang Mai National Museum - near Wat Chet Yot
The museum houses a collection of Lanna
Thai works of art, ancient Buddha images, and war weapons.
Attractions - out of the city
DOI SUTHEP ROUTE
Tribal Research Institute
This contains a permanent cultural
exhibition of northern hill tribes.
Chiang Mai Arboreum
The attractively landscaped garden contains
many kinds of tropical trees and lovely flowers.
Chiang Mai Zoo
This artfully landscaped complex occupies
the lower forested slopes of Suthep Mountain, and contains a
fascinating collection of Asian and African mammals and birds.
Huai Kaeo Falls
The cascade provides a delightful ambiance
for relaxation and picnics.
Khruba Sriwichai Monument
This monument honors the man whose
followers built the first motor road to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
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. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is 15 kilometers
from town, 3,520 feet above sea level, and dates from 1383. The
temple is approached on foot by climbing a steep Naga 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. The temple compound offers an exhilarating
view of Chiang Mai City and surrounding countryside.
Phu Phing Palace
This is located on the same road, beyond
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, on Doi Buak Ha, 22 kilometers from
town. The royal winter palace was built in 1962. The lavishly
landscaped gardens and grounds are open to the general public on
Fridays, 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
kilometers from the Phu Phing Palace, and offers vignettes of
modern tribal life.
Pha Dam (Black Cliff)
This area near Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
comprises a scenic spot ideal for picnics.
Old Chiang Mai
Located on the road to Chom Thong, the
center stages Lanna Thai cultural performances with a Khantoke
Dinner. Objets d'art are displayed.
Earthenware & Lacquer ware Shops
These are clustered together, some 4
kilometers from town, on the Chiang Mai- Hang Dong Road.
Wat Phra Borommathat Si Chom Thong
This temple is 58 kilometers 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.
Mae Klang Waterfall
Chiang Mai's most photographed waterfall
lies some 58 kilometers west of the city at the foot of Doi
Inthanon Mountain, and provides a picturesque setting for
picnics and relaxation.
Visiting the cave, which provides a
pleasant setting for picnics, entails a 10-minute drive and a
walk of some 2 hours from the Mae Klang Waterfall.
Mae Ya Waterfall
This is located 12 kilometers from Chom
waterfalls in Thailand.
Ob Luang Gorge
This picturesque gorge is 88 kilometers
from Chiang Mai provincial capital, and is framed by teak
forests and mountains.
Doi Inthanon National Park
The 1,005-square-kilometer park covers
Thailand's highest mountain (2,565 meters). The lovely
Wachirathan, Siriphum and Mae Pan waterfalls share the mountain
with Meo and Karen hill tribe settlements. Forest above 1,800
meters is covered with lichens and wild orchids.
Lanna Golf Course
This public 18-hole golf course is located
on the Chiang Mai-Mae Rim Road, some 4 kilometers from town. The
course is open daily from 6.00 AM until 7.00 PM. Golf club
rentals and caddy services are available.
Chiang Mai Green Valley Golf Course
This is located some 16 kilometers from
town along the same road, and is open to the public.
Orchid & Butterfly Farms
Major nurseries in the Mae Sa Valley
include the Mountain Orchid, Mae Rim Orchid and Sai Nam Phung
Orchid complexes. Each provides opportunities for visitors to
admire these exotic year-round blooms. Certain orchid farms also
have special butterfly enclosures wherein exotic species can be
seen in their natural environment.
Mae Sa Waterfall
This 8-tiered waterfall is 26 kilometers
from town and occupies a natural setting among gigantic,
Elephant Training Centers
Each morning, at Km 10 on the Mae Rim-
Samoeng route, trained elephants demonstrate their formidable
and highly valued forestry skills from 9.30 until 11.00 AM, at
the Mae Sa Elephant Training Center. The center is some 30
kilometers from town. Elephants can also be seen at the Pong
Yaeng Elephant Center at KM 19 on the same route, and the
Elephant Nature Park at Mae Taman on the Chiang Mai-Fang Road,
some 57 kilometers from Chiang Mai.
Taeng Dao Elephant Camp
This riverside enclave, features daily
shows of elephants at work, from 9.00 AM until 10.00 AM, and
from 10.00 AM until 11.00 AM. Elephant rides and opportunities
for bucolic river rafting through largely pristine and tranquil
forests, or jungle treks to neighboring hill tribe settlements.
Chiang Dao Caves
Sacred Buddha images occupy the caves of
Wat Tham Chiang Dao. Caves are illuminated by electric lights.
Deepest recesses can be explored with local guides.
Doi Ang Khang
This royal agricultural station, 163
kilometers north of Chiang Mai provincial capital, is a
demonstration site for planting and researching flowering
plants, temperate fruit trees, vegetables and other crops, and
enjoys the patronage of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Fang Hot Springs
Located at Ban Pin, also 163 kilometers
north of Chiang Mai provincial capital, and 50 hot springs
occupy a 10-acre forest setting. Three boil continuously with a
string smell of sulfur. Water temperatures at the springs range
from 90 to 100 degrees Celsius.
Bo Sang Umbrella/Parasol Village
The world-famous village is 9 kilometers
from town, along a road lined with handicraft producing
factories. In genuine cottage industries, young women
manufacture silk and cotton umbrellas and paper parasols that
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
kilometers 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 kilometers from town
amid natural surroundings of trees and verdant hills. The water
has high sulfur content and possesses curative and restorative
properties. Accommodation, a swimming pool, dining facilities
and segregated mineral water bathing rooms are available.
Meo, Lisu, Yao, Akha, Lawa and Karen
hill-tribes live throughout northern Thailand's mountains. They
share animist beliefs and honor 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 hill-tribe settlements
for overnight stays. The best guides are hill-tribe youths who
customarily speak English, Thai and at least three tribal
dialects. Treks commonly feature travel by foot, sometimes by
boat, elephant-back, horseback 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.
Chiang Mai is quite simply, Thailand's
major center for quality handicrafts. The visitor need merely
visit the nearest city emporium or night market to purchase an
extraordinary variety of antiques, silver jewelry, hill-tribe
opium pipes and embroidery, Thai silks and cottons, basketry,
celadon, silverware, furniture, lacquer-ware, woodcarvings and
parasols. 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, jewelry, woodcarving, silverware,
celadon and lacquer-ware are manufactured.
Major Chiang Mai products include:
Cottons & Silks
First-class Chiang Mai cottons and silks
are of incomparable quality. Cottons and silks have innumerable
fashion and furnishing applications. The largest possible
selection is available in San Kamphaneg.
These are inextricably associated with Bo
Sang where villagers have been engaged in their manufacture for
at least 200 years. All materials, silks, cottons, sa paper
(manufactured from the bark of the mulberry tree), and bamboo
are produced or found locally. Visitors to Bo Sang will see
literally hundreds of designs and sizes ranging from the
miniature to the gigantic.
The finest Thai silverware is exquisite,
and is made in Chiang Mai, where certain families have practiced
their art for several generations. Traditional skills and a
guaranteed content of at least 92.5% pure silver invest bowls,
receptacles and decorative items with authentic value. Silver
shops are concentrated on Wua Lai Road, where silverware
artisans and their families live.
Striking black and gold designs give
Lacquer-ware its visual appeal and sheen. This decorative art
enhances items made of wood, bamboo, metal, paper and baked
clay, in the form of receptacles, ornaments and various
Chiang Mai's Ban Thawai village in Hang
Dong district, is a major center of furniture making. Major
woods and materials include teak, rosewood and rattan. Items may
be unadorned or, especially with teak and rosewood, artfully
carved in traditional or modern designs. Woodcarving is a
traditional northern Thai art featured in numerous temples. In
recent years, woodcarving has increasingly embellished
furniture, gracing screens, chairs, tables, beds, indeed
anything bearing a wooden surface large enough to be carved.
Carved elephants figurines and tableware number among other
These include silver ornaments, such as
bracelets, necklaces, pendants, hairpins and pipes of intricate
design, and embroidered items including tunics, jackets, bags,
purses, caps and dress lengths.
Gold Plated Orchids & Butterflies
Orchids and butterflies are preserved and
plated with 24-karat gold to create unusual gift items such as
necklace pendants, hairpins and earrings.
Chiang Mai is the major center of
Thailand's pottery industry. Prized items include high-fired
celadon, which is produced in many forms, including dinner sets,
lamp bases and decorative items.
Major Events & Festivals
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
The 3-day event occurs during the period
when Chiang Mai's temperate and tropical flowers are in full
bloom and at their colorful best. Festivities include colorful
floral floats, parades, music and dancing, and beauty pageants.
This festival celebrates the traditional
Thai New Year with religious merit making, pilgrimages, beauty
parades, dancing, merriment and uninhibited, good-natured water
Loi Krathong Festival
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 honor the water
spirits and wash away the previous year's misfortunes.
The Bo Sang Umbrella Fair & San Kamphaeng Handicrafts
Each January celebrates traditional skills
and features contests, exhibitions, stalls selling umbrellas and
other handicrafts, and the selection of a Miss Bo Sang.