Doi Suthep, the well-known mountain top’s in the land,
Marvelous, attraction customs make the city so grand,
Beautiful flowers grow through all the year.
Nakhonphing, another name of this marvellous city we’ll often hear.
Background: Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second largest city. It is pleasantly located on the banks of the Ping river and set in a green, fertile plain at an elevation of 300 meters above sea level. Chiang Mai is 761 kilometers by rail and about 700 kilometers by road north of Bangkok. The provincial area, reaching up to Myanmar in the north, is productive valley land and jungle mountains with the highest mountain peak in the country, Doi Inthanon, whose height is 2599 meters above m.s.1. The average temperature is cool and very pleasant from October to February at about 20 C, hot during March to May at about 30 C and wet during June to September at around 25 C.
Chiang Mai was found in 1296, by King Mengrai who united many small kingdoms and called the new kingdom the Lanna Kingdom (kingdom of one million rice fields). After founding Chiang Rai as his capital in 1262. King Mengrai decided to build a new city as the capital of Lanna Thai in 1291. He invited his two close friends, King Ramkhamhang of Sukhothai and King Ngam Muang of Phayao, to help him to select the location for the new city. They decided on a productive plain between Doi Suthep Mountain and the Ping River. The new city was completed in 1296. Chiang Mai was the capital of Lanna Thai for a long time. It was attacked both by Ayutthaya and Burma many times. It came under Burmese rule in 1558. King Naresuan of Ayutthaya recovered it from Burma and then it came under Burmese rule once again during the reign of King Taksin of Thonburi, it was recovered from the Burmese in 1774. Since then Chiang Mai has come under the control of Central Thai administration. It remained rather isolated right up until the 1920’s, when the railway lines was built. Before that the journey north took many weeks of travel by river and elephant. Such separate development has allowed Chiang Mai to preserve its unique character which has given rise to such nicknames as “flower of the north”. The city was the birth place of the county northern culture, distinctive art, charming traditions and customs. Her colorful traditional festivals have been passed on down the centuries without break. Famous only for nature and culture but the most charming feature of Chiang Mai are the beautiful girls who are noted for the fairest complexion in the country. The genteel Chiang Mai people are blessed for their hospitality. People from all over Thailand come to Chiang Mai whenever there are celebrations of any festivals, not only for the fun and excitement of the event, but also to enjoy the friendliness and hospitality of the natives. Material progress has come to Chiang Mai, too. In the city, high rise commercial buildings are growing. The city is explanding rapidly in all directions and the confines of the old city wall and moat have long since been overcome. Traffic congestion is mounting. Progress is inevitable and Chiang Mai has undoubtedly lost much of its traditional charm. Of cause, modernization has its positive side, Chiang Mai now has a well developed tourist infrastructure with hotels in all price ranges. Shopping facilities are also well developed. Modern domestic and international businesses of Chiang Mai are now conducted with high-tech office machines. Now, even a hill tribe native may have learned to operate an ATM. Temples and Places of Interest Temples in Chiang Mai are traditional northern style with a two or three-tiered roof with low eaves and finely carved pediments, but there are also some Burmese influences.
Phrathat Doi Suthep: (see picture)
This temple is the most sacred temple which houses the Lord Buddha’s relics. It is located on top of Suthep Mountain about 15 kilometers west of the township. The temple is at an altitude of 1,080 meters above mean sea level. Before getting to the temple, there are mythical nagas leading up 290 steps to the temple top which is the graceful, northern style golden stupa. Inside the chapel there are some good mural paintings showing the life of the Lord Buddha. Outside one you can enjoy the beautiful view of the city of Chiang Mai. The temple was built by King Kue Na of Lanna Kingdom in 1383.
Phu Phing Palace:
The palace is located about 4 kilometers further from Doi Suthep. The palace is open to the public when the royal family does not reside there, this Thai style residence of the royal family is surrounded with the most beautiful garden with a variety of colored flowers.
Khru Ba Si Wichai Monument:
The monument is located near Huay Kaew Falls about 7 kilometers from the township. The monument was built to commemorate Khru Ba Si Wichai, a popular monk who led volunteers to build the first manmade road up the hill to Phrathat Doi Suthep temple.
Meo Hill Tribe Village:
Is about 2 kilometers from the palace. The area is called Doi Pui. This Meo hill tribe formerly grew opium for their living. This group is the first who began to grow marketable farm crops with the support of the government.
Wat Phra Sing: Is the principle temple of Chiang Mai. The principle image in this temple is the sitting Buddha Sihing Image (famous for the generous facial expression). The chapel of Wat Phra Sing is very beautiful with splendidly carved pillars and beams and artful stucco. Inside the chapel is a painting depicting two stories of Thai literature, Sang Thong and Suwannahong.
Wat Chiang Man: The temple is in the township of Chiang Mai. It is the oldest temple in Chiang Mai, older than the city of Chiang Mai itself. It is said that King Mengrai, the founder of Chiang Mai, resided in this temple while directing the building of the new Lanna capital. The temple houses two sacred ancient Buddha images. The stupa in this temple imitates the stupa at Si Satchanalai.
Wat Suan Dok (Wat Buppharam): The temple is on Suthep road. It was built by King Kue Na who built Phrathat Doi Suthep. The biggest chapel (wihan) in the north, this temple houses the most beautiful Chaingsaen style bronze Buddha image called Phra Chao Kao Tue. The remains of Chiang Mai’s former royal family are housed in a group of small stupas in this temple.
Wat Chedi Luang: The temple name means “royal stupa”. It is located in the heart of the city of Chiang Mai. The stupa was built in 1411. Later it was damaged by an earthquake and the remainder has not been repaired. This temple has the most beautiful naga-stair balustrades of the whole northern temple architecture.
Inthakhin: or the city pillar which symbolizes the strong foundation of the city of Chiang Mai is in the front of the Chedi Luang temple.
Wat Chedi Chet Yot (Wat Photharam Mahawihan):
The temple is located at Km. 4 on Chiang Mai-Fang Highway. Chedi Chet Yot literally means the seven spired stupa. The body of the structure is a cave-like rectangular hall. Inside the cave is a Buddha image, on the roof there are five stupa towers on square bases, each looks like the great at Bodh Gaya, India. The largest stupa is in the middle. Two more Chiang Saen stupas are on the front. This stupa was built under the command of King Tilokarat of Lanna, in about 1477 A.D. The first Sangkhayana (Buddhism Doctrines revision) in Thailand was held in this temple at that time.
Wat Umong: It is located off Huay Kaew road. The temple is famous for meditation. There are many underground rooms for the practice of meditation. Around the temple, even on the trees, there are exhibition instruction paintings showing religious thoughts. People say the trees in this temple can speak because of these instructions.
Wat Ku Tao: The temple is in the township. The stupa was built in the year 1613 in the shape of five gourds to represent five Lord Buddhas.
Chiang Mai National Museum: The museum is located close to Wat Chedi Chet Yot. It is small but well maintained. The museum has many rare collections of Buddha heads, images and artifacts from many periods. It also has collections of howdahs, coffin covers, displays of hill tribe custumes, northern-style household gadgets and two ancient kilns.
Old Chiang Mai Cultural center: The center is on Wualai road in the southern part of the city. The center is a complex of northern style houses with comprehensive exhibitions of folk crafts and antiques. Also on show is a hill tribe village way of life. In the evenings, the center holds the traditional “KHANTOKE” dinner for visitors. At Khantoke dinner guests and hosts sit on mats on the floor around a round table and are served a northern meal of sticky rice, Kang Hung Le, Sai Ua and some side dishes. They share the same dishes, eating with their fingers. Entertainment is generally provided in the form of different northern Thai classical dances during the dinner.
Wat Phrathat Si Chom Thong: The temple is located at Km 58, on Chiang Mai-Hod road. This temple was built in the year 1451.
Nabhamethanidol Stupa: The stupa is located in the Inthanon National Park. The stupa houses a holy relic of Lord Buddha. It was built to commemorate the 60th Birthday of His Majesty the King. The stupa is 60 meters high and signifies His majesty the King’s 60th birthday. The top of the stupa is decorated with eight lotus to signify the Lord Buddha’s eight great paths to Enlightenment. The topmost part looks like an unopened banana blossom, which represents the struggle to reach the ultimate goal in Buddhism. A nine-tiered royal umbrella is placed over the top to symbolize the King.
Another stupa is built next to the Nabhamethanidol to mark the 60th Birthday of Her Majesty the Queen.