Chiang Mai is located in the Northern part of Thailand. The city is surrounded by mountains and forests, which make up approximately 70% of the land in Chiang Mai province. The city sits approximately 300 meters above sea level and is located approximately 700 km (435 miles) north of Bangkok in a verdant valley on the banks of the Ping River. Despite its relatively small size, Chiang Mai truly has it all. The population of the Chiang Mai province stands at around 1,600,000 although the city itself has an estimated 170,000 people.
Chiang Mai was founded in 1296 and turned into the capital of the ancient Lanna Kingdom, which in 1892 became part of Siam. In 1949 Siam officially changed its name to Thailand.
Chiang Mai is rich in symbolism and cultural heritage, which has resulted in a unique identity expressed in values and attitude. They are the base for the inhabitants' famous joy of life.
Chiang Mai is home to many historically and culturally interesting sites and venerable temples. Beyond there are countless tourist attractions in this creative city and paradise for shoppers, where the past and the present seamlessly merge. The City is well on its way to submit its final dossier to UNESCO in a bid to become Thailand’s first living Heritage City.
The Chiang Mai square-shaped city centre is surrounded by an old fortification wall and a moat. While the old earthen walls, which were built to protect and defend against the Burmese invaders still stand, large parts are regularly restored. The area inside this moat is now referred to as the “old city”.
Chiang Mai offers visitors of the region a unique entry into a part of today’s real Thai life deeply rooted in the past. Chiang Mai goes beyond the usual clichés, the caricature, too often encountered when visiting places. Visitors will live an exclusive moment experiencing the pulse and the breath of its real culture. There is plenty of choice for the wonderful cuisine, even cooking classes, and the well being of Thai massages. It was not surprising that in 2019, Chiang Mai won accolades for the Second Best City In Asia and Third Best City in the World by Travel and Leisure Magazine.
The Chiang Mai province is a land of misty mountains and colourful hill tribes, a playground for seasoned travellers and explorers, a delight for adventurers. Others will be enchanted by the variety of handicrafts and antiques.
One of the most iconic scenes associated with the city of Chiang Mai is the Doi Suthep temple (1,056 m, or 3,464 ft above sea level) which provides the magnificent view of Chiang Mai. Also, Thailand’s highest peak, Doi Inthanon (2,565 m, or 8,448 ft above sea level), is located in the southern direction from Chiang Mai centre.
There are over 300 Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai. Here are some suggestions to help you receive the greatest blessing from a temple visit. Before leaving for a temple, be sure to:
- Wear temple attire.
- Clothing should cover the shoulders and knees.
- The entrance is denied if a person wears a sleeveless top, shorts, or short skirt.
At a Temple
- When approaching a temple entrance, step over the door sill. Thais believe that stepping on a threshold brings bad luck.
- Upon entering a temple, you will need to remove your shoes and hat.
- When sitting inside a shrine, have your legs and feet pointing behind you. Alternatively, you can sit cross-legged.
- You will want to wai before a monk.
- If you have the opportunity to sit down and speak with a monk, position yourself at a lower level.
- Explore Buddhist temples in the old town.
- Wat Chedi Luang
- Wat Chiang Man
- Wat Phra Singh
- Wat Phan Tao
- Elephant Sanctuary
- Doi Inthanon National Park, the highest mountain of Thailand
- Doi Pui National Park
- Hill tribe trekking in the surrounding mountains
- Bo Sang Handicraft Village
- Chiang Mai City Arts & cultural centre
- Lanna Folklife Museum
- Eat Khao Soi, a curry-flavoured soup filled with yellow egg noodles and chicken
- Shopping at Warorot Market
- Take a boat trip on the Mae Ping river
- Visit San Kamphaeng Hot Springs
- Have a traditional Khantoke dinner
- Participate in festivals
- Enjoy a traditional Thai massage
- Shop till you drop at the weekend walking street market
- Do a meditation course and visit a monk chat
- Learn to cook authentic Thai dishes
Thais love to celebrate, and the calendar year overflows with festivals. Here are the beloved celebration held only in Chiang Mai.
- Borsang Umbrella & Sankamphaeng Craft Festival
Location: Bo Sang Village, Sangkampaeng
Date: Third weekend of January
- Flower Festival
Location: Nawarat Bridge-Tha Pae Gate-Buak Haad Park, Old City
Date: First weekend of February
- Songkran (Thai New Year)
Date: 13-15 April
- Inthakhin Festival
Location: Wat Chedi Luang, Old City
Date: Sixth lunar month, the first day of the waning moon
(late May or early June)
- Loy Krathong in Chiang Mai
Date: The full moon night of the 12th lunar month (November)
- Nimmanhemin Arts and Crafts Fair, Nimmanhemin
Location: Nimmanhemin Soi 1
Date: First week of December
Thai Customs: The Greeting
The “wai,” is a respectful gesture. It’s made by pressing the palms together in prayer-like fashion and bowing the head. The wai is used to say hello, thank you, goodbye, and “I’m sorry.” The higher the hands and deeper the bow, the more respect is shown. Bowing low is done in the presence of a monk or elder person. When offering wai to a monk, the thumbs touch between the eyebrows.
When greeting or saying good-bye, women accompany the wai by saying “sà-wàt-dee kâ.” Men offer wai and say “sà-wàt-dee kráp.”
The wai conveys a subordinate status. Therefore, it is not necessary to offer wai to those rendering a service, such as a taxi driver or waitress.
Thailand is known as “The Land of Smiles.” Smiling comes easily to Thais. In general, the people of Thailand are happy, thankful, and kind. Being versed in the traditions of Thai people will endear you to them. It will enhance your travel experience, and give you warm memories to cherish.