Chiang Mai - Attractions & Sightseeing
Chiang Mai, Thailand was founded in 1296 by King Phaya Mangrai after vanquishing the Mons who were established there. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries Chiang Mai became part of a kingdom which stretched into Cambodia and Laos. The Burmese captured the city in 1556 and stayed there until 1775 when Chiang Mai was recaptured by the Thais. It then became an important centre for trading. This was facilitated by its location making it a crossroads for traders from China, Laos and Myanmar. Chiang Mai was officially integrated into Siam in 1933.
Its attractions are more accessible than in Bangkok as it is possible to cover most of the city by bike or on foot. Bicycles can be hired from the guesthouses. April to June is very hot and September is the rainiest month so best to avoid these times. Cheap, friendly accommodation for travellers is readily available. Chiang Mai is much more laid back than Bangkok, making it a more appealing place to visit in some ways. The city centre is surrounded by a moat and the ruins of the original city walls. Surrounded by mountains, Chiang Mai is quite atmospheric and makes a good base if planning to explore north Thailand. Chiang Mai has an international airport and is on a train line linking it to Bangkok.
There are many wats or temple complexes open to tourists in Chiang Mai - making for some very interesting Trekking adventures. Dress appropriately otherwise you may not be allowed in. See Thailand religion for more information about Thai's religious beliefs and advice on how tourists should behave. There are opportunities to talk to monks in the temples.
Chiang Mai, Thailand is a good place for doing courses: Vipassana meditation, traditional Thai massage, Thai cookery, language among others. Some courses can be organized by the guesthouses or hotels. Other activities include Thai boxing, horse riding and rock climbing. More information can be found at the many tourist information centres in the city centre.
Thanon Moon Muang is the centre for most backpacker activity. A wide variety of restaurants, including many offering Western and vegetarian food, travel agents, cheap accommodation, bars and shops can be found in this area.
People from the hill tribes living in villages in North Thailand bring their wares down to Chiang Mai to sell. Much of what is on offer is tourist junk but there are some good handicrafts shops and it is great fun to wander round the Night Bazaar which also sells fake designer clothes and shoes, and tourist souvenirs. See the shopping section for more information on shopping in Thailand.