Chiang Mai: Chiang Mai lies in Thailand’s northern mountainous region, some 700 km/440 miles from Bangkok in the fertile valley of the Ping river. It was once a major religious, cultural and trading center. Chiang Mai is considered a national Shangrila because of its scenic beauty, distinctive festivals and ancient temples dating from the 1300s giving it a cultural personality all its own. It was built in the Thirteenth century and is Thailand’s second largest city. Chiang means “walled city” and Mai “new”. It was over run several times by the Burmese, reverting finally to Thailand in 1932.
Many Hill tribes live in the mountains each with its distinctive ceremonial attire, rituals, dances language and customs. 2 to 7 days jungle treks on foot, horse- or elephant-back or 4-wd vehicles are available through the forests, mountains and villages.
Wat Chiang Man is Chiang Mai’s oldest temple and was built by king Mengrai, the founder of Chiang Mai in 1296. Two famous Buddha images can be seen here, one being the crystal Buddha. There are several wats or temples in Chiang Mai. Wat Phra Singh built in 1345 has a 1500 year-old Buddha is very well preserved. Wat Chedi Luang is the site of an enormous pagoda which once housed the revered Emerald Buddha (now enshrined in Bangkok). Wat Jet Yot (seven spires) lies near the Chiang Mai Museum, said to be modeled after the Mahabodi Temple in Bodh Gaya (India) where Buddha received enlightenment. The National Museum has a large collection of North Thai works of art, ancient Buddha images, and weapons. The Wat Phra is Chiang Mai’s most visible landmark, overlooking the city from its mountain backdrop 15 km (10 miles) from town at 3520 ft., built in 1383. A steep staircase (about 200 steps) with carved dragons on either side leads up to the temple. The golden pagoda of the temple contains holy relics of the Buddha and so draws many pilgrims. The Phu Phing palace beyond the temple has lovely gardens, which are open to the public when the Royal family is not in residence. About 4 km (1 mile) from the palace is the Doi Pui Tribal village of the Meo tribe’s, which showcases tribal life and contains an interesting opium museum.
night bazaar is a great place to pick up gifts and bargain to your
hearts content. Hand made pewter ware, gold jewelry, silver tribal
jewelry, finely crafted silverware and lacquer ware and Chiang Mais
famous painted paper umbrellas make shopping interesting.
Silk, silver and wood handicrafts add to the citys fame, making her one of Thailand's prime tourist attractions.