"Chiang Mai" Chiang Mai by Pat_Bangkok

Chiang Mai Travel Guide: 1,929 reviews and 4,925 photos

Chiang Mai History

Chiang Mai literally means new city and has retained the name despite having celebrated its 700th anniversary in 1996. King Meng Rai founded the city as the capital of the Lanna (A Million Rice Fields) Kingdom on Thursday, 12th April 1296 during the same period of time as the establishment of the Sukhothai Kingdom. King Meng Rai the Great 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.

From then, Chiang Mai not only became the capital and cultural core of the Lanna Kingdom, it was also the centre of Buddhism in northern Thailand. King Meng Rai himself was very religious and founded many of the city's temples, which are still important today.

At the height of its power, the Lanna Kingdom extended its territory far into Burma and Laos, and southwards to Kamphaeng Phet a province above Sukhothai.

The Burmese conquered the Lanna Kingdom in 1556 ending the dynasty founded by King Meng Rai that lasted over 250 years. As Burma had occupied Chiang Mai for nearly 200 years, Burmese architectural influences are visible in many temples. At the end of the 18th century, King Taksin the Great regrouped the Thais in the south and finally drove the Burmese out with the help of King Kawila of Lampang thereby regaining Thai independence from Burma. Chiang Mai was then governed by a succession of princes who ruled the north as a Siamese protectorate under the Chakri dynasty. In the late 19th century, King Rama V appointed a high commissioner in Chiang Mai and it was only in 1939 that Chiang Mai finally came under the direct control of the central government in Bangkok the same time the country was renamed Thailand.

In the past, Chiang Mai was only accessible by river and elephants. More convenient access was achieved only when the railway line was completed in the late 1920's. Moreover, the first motor vehicle driven directly from Bangkok arrived in Chiang Mai in 1932. Such isolation was more favorable to Chiang Mai as it helped to nurture and preserve the unique Lanna culture.
When we look at Chiang Mai today, it is the economic, cultural and communications hub of northern Thailand complete with excellent infrastructure, good roads, by passes and road tunnels, and reliable communications infrastructure.

Travel Information

Experiencing the merging of the past into the present in Chiang Mai where locals are proud of the city's 700-year history. Its rich traditional heritage and unique culture is a perfect foundation for the development of the city. Chiang Mai is one of the few places in Thailand where it is possible to find in the heart of the city centuries-old chedis and temples next to modern convenience stores and boutique hotels. The original city layout still exists as a neat square surrounded by a moat with vestiges of the fortified wall and its four main gates offering prime access to the old town.

For years, tourists have mistaken Chiang Mai as the northern junction and the base from which they can explore other provinces. The phrase "a day in Chiang Mai is enough to see things around" was common. Today, tourists are surprised by the fact that there is always something new to discover Chiang Mai. Intriguing diversity among ethnic tribes coupled with breathtaking scenery makes Chiang Mai one of Asia's most attractive tourist destinations. Two weeks in Chiang Mai may not be long enough for serious travelers.

Elephant take a bath

  • Intro Updated Jan 7, 2007
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Reviews (17)

Comments (6)

  • balhannah's Profile Photo
    Aug 18, 2009 at 3:15 PM

    Have just returned from having a nice time in Chiang Mai. I would like to go back and see more, especially, some of the places mentioned in your tips. Thanks

  • May 27, 2009 at 4:12 AM

    I lived in Chiang Mai since last 10 years and always thinking of them.

  • mallyak's Profile Photo
    Sep 19, 2007 at 12:05 AM

    I enjoyed by trip to Ching Mae in 99 but prefer to see elephants in the wild.Maessa elephant camp ...... I did not like ...sorry!

  • kenHuocj's Profile Photo
    Aug 14, 2007 at 8:01 AM

    i prefer Durians to Jackfruit, visited Chiang MAi over 30 years ago, little impressions ;-))), so time for another visit

  • kenari's Profile Photo
    Aug 5, 2007 at 8:19 AM

    just wonder when the orange season???may be i can bring my family to chiengmai this time

  • goutammitra's Profile Photo
    Apr 9, 2007 at 10:28 PM

    Just Beautiful. You know I have been trying to visit Chiang Mai since last 20 years! I missed this place in 1984.

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