General Information

Popularly known as the Rose of the North, Chiang Mai is blessed with stunning natural beauty and unique indigenous cultural identity. 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 metres 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

The most important and most visible landmark, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep , is perched high atop a mountain overlooking the city with the forested mountain backdrop providing a very scenic panorama. The temple is accessible by climbing a steep 300-step staircase with naga siderails or, for those less active, by funicular railcars. The temple's golden pagoda contains the holy relics of Buddha. Further up the road from the temple is the Phu Phing Palace. Built in 1962, the royal winter palace's lavish landscaped gardens are open to the public on weekends and holidays when the Royal Family is not in residence.

Wat Chiang Man ,the city's oldest temple, dates back to 1296 and is the finest example of Northern Thai architect. The temple was the residence of King Mengrai, the city's founder. The temple has massive teak columns and a chedi supported by rows of elephant-shaped buttresses. It also houses a 20-30 cm. marble Buddhist relief believed to have originated in India or Sri Lanka some 2,500 years ago and Phra Kaew Khao, a small, ancient crystal Buddha image.

The focal point of the Songkran (Thai New Year's) festivities occurs at Wat Phra Sing where local people bathe the revered Buddha image. Dating back to mid-14th century, the lovely temple is named after the Phra Singh Buddha image, believed to have originated in Sri Lanka 300 years ago. The Buddha image's travel to its present location is clouded in myth. View the exquisite woodcarvings on temple pillars and doors and northern style murals.

The highest point in Thailand is located at the peak of the Doi Inthanon National Park. Rare, colorful floral plants that thrive in the year-round chilled air are only found here at the peak Sites of interest include the Inthanon Royal Project which promotes sustainable income to Karen and Maew hilltribe by growing flowers and the Royal Pagodas dedicated to H.R.H. the King and the Queen.

Early birds are rewarded with a breathtaking view of the sea of mists in the early morning hours at the Huai Nam Dang National Park. The park also has well maintained flowerbed landscapes and tribal villages. Nearby at the Huai Nam Roo , visitors can stop by a Lisu hilltribe village or enjoy the tranquility of a coffee farm and fruit cultivation centre.

Only 36 km away from town is the San Kamphaeng Hot Springs amidst the natural forest surroundings and verdant hills. The continuously boiling water, with temperatures ranging from 90 to 100 Celsius, contains a high content of sulfur, popular for its curative and restorative properties. Private mineral water bathing rooms, a swimming pool, accommodations, and dining facilities are available.

Popular jungle treks , with duration of 2-7 days, take visitors through forested mountains, high valleys, meadows, and terraced rice fields to remote hilltribe settlements for overnight stays. Travel frequently is a combination of foot, boat, elephant back, horseback or by jeep to reach these high altitude domiciles. Guides are usually hilltribe youths who can speak English, Thai and at least three tribal dialects.

Watch trained elephants demonstrate their highly valued forestry skills as they perform at the Mae Sa Elephant Camp from 09.30-11.00 hrs daily. After the show, hop on for a thrilling two-hour jungle tour on elephant back. Close by is the Chiang Dao Cave , a highly popular tourist attraction with a stream teeming with fish flowing in front of the cave's entrance. Within the cavern is Burmese-style Buddha images and spectacular rock formations.

Chiang Mai is Thailand's main center for quality handicrafts. Visitors can watch artisans working in the outlying villages where authentic cottage industries thrive, particularly along the Bo San g- San Kamphaeng Road , lined with handicraft-producing factories. Along this road is the famous umbrella village of Bo San g where young women manufacture and paint silk and cotton umbrellas and paper parasols. This trade has been passed down for more than 200 years. San Kamphaeng is renowned for its silk and handicraft products.

For those short on time, a visit to the Night Bazaar will give you the advantage of viewing a variety of handicrafts without traveling the distance. At night, the pavements of the Changklan Road are transformed into a bazaar selling a wide range of goods besides handicraft products.