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Thailand's "Rose of the North" is a cultural and natural wonderland with ethnic diversity, a multitude of attractions, and
Chiang Mai literally means "new city" and has retained the name despite celebrating its 700th anniversary in 1996.
King Meng Rai the Great founded the city as the capital of the Lanna Kingdom on Thursday, April 12 1296 around the
same time as the establishment of the Sukhothai Kingdom. King Meng Rai even 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. Henceforth, Chiang Mai not only became the capital and cultural core of the Lanna
Kingdom, it was also to be the center of Buddhism in northern Thailand, King Meng Rai himself a very religious leader
who even founded many of the city's temples that remain important to this day.
Chiang Mai is one of the few places in Thailand where it is possible to experience both historical and modern Thai
culture coexisting side by side: the city features centuries-old chedis and temples next to modern convenience stores
and boutique hotels. This dichotomy is best appreciated within the moat-encircled old city, which retains much of the
fortified wall that once protected the city center as well as the four main gates that provided access to the former
Lanna capital city.
Strangely, for many years tourists had mistaken Chiang Mai simply as the base from which they could plan trekking
and rafting trips to hill tribe villages and explore other provinces. Once in Chiang Mai however, tourists are surprised by
the fact that there are so many things to discover other than its beautiful and historic temples.
Intriguing diversity among ethnic tribes, a number of elephant camps, many cooking & massage schools, numerous
outdoor activities, a variety of handicrafts workshops, various cultural performances, and breathtaking scenery make
Chiang Mai one of Asia's most attractive tourist destinations. The phrase "a day in Chiang Mai is enough to see things
around town" was once a common expression. Today, two weeks in Chiang Mai may not be long enough for travelers
to experience all that Chiang Mai has to offer.
The old city of Chiang Mai is a showcase of the north's fascinating indigenous cultural identity that includes diverse
dialects, a delectable cuisine, distinctive architecture, traditional values, lively festivals, numerous handicrafts
workshops, northern style massage, and classical dances. Chiang Mai city features old-world beauty and charm as
well as modern luxury and convenience.
In addition to centuries old temples and some outstanding shopping opportunities, Chiang Mai is also blessed with
pristine natural resources including mountains, waterfalls, and rivers. The presence of numerous hill tribes that feature
a wealth of unique cultures enhances Chiang Mai's distinctive diversity. Hill tribe trekking, often combined with river
rafting and elephant riding has always been one of Chiang Mai's greatest tourist attractions. Nowadays there are
innumerable activities and attractions both in the city and the surrounding province, including massage instruction and
Moreover, visitors can visit workshops where they can learn about the production of silk or silver, and purchase
memorable, hand crafted souvenirs. With such a diverse range of attractions and an equally grand selection of dining
and accommodation options, Chiang Mai is a place where both backpackers and luxury tourists can enjoy the
ultimate Thailand holiday.
About Chiang Mai
Provided by Tourism Authority of Thailand