Experience 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.
The old city of Chiang Mai with its fascinating indigenous cultural identity such as diverse dialects, cuisine, architecture, traditional values, festivals, handicrafts and classical dances is a prime location in its own right. In addition, the presence of hill tribes and their wealth of unique cultures enhance Chiang Mai’s distinctive diversity.
Chiang Mai is also blessed with pristine natural resources of mountains (dois), waterfalls, and other nature-based tourist attractions. At the same time, Chiang Mai residents are warm, gracious and congenial providing authentic hospitality making visits memorable and meaningful. Moreover, visitors from all walks of life can collect handicrafts of silk, silver and wood produced locally as timeless souvenirs. Chiang Mai is a place where both backpackers and luxury tourists can enjoy themselves to the fullest.
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.
Chiang Mai, with an altitude of approximately 310 meters above sea level, is situated approximately 700 kilometers from Bangkok on the Mae Ping River basin. Surrounded by high mountain ranges, the city covers an area of approximately 20,107 square kilometers and is the country’s second largest province. Chiang Mai borders Myanmar on the north, Lamphun and Tak Provinces on the south, Chiang Rai, Lampang and Lamphun Provinces on the east and Mae Hong Son Province on the west. The terrain is mainly comprised of jungles and mountains, which are home to the hill tribes. In addition, wildlife and exotic flora may be found in the national parks.
Most of Chiang Mai’s mountains are oriented from north to south. Together they create a multitude of streams and tributaries including Mae Chaem, Mae Ngat and Mae Klang. One of Chiang Mai’s distinctive features is Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s highest peak, which is 2,575 meters above sea level. In addition, the province boasts flat, fertile valleys, which spread along the banks of the largest and most important river in Chiang Mai – Maenam Ping (Ping River) which originates from the Chiang Dao mountain range.
There is a saying,
"If you have not tasted the Kao Soi or visited Doi Suthep,
you have not been to Chiang Mai."
The pagoda is symbolic landmark in Chiang Mai. It depicts the progression of Buddhism and of Lanna Thai from past to present.
Every King of Chiang Mai has shown great devotion in nurturing and maintaining the essence of Buddhism.
Strong belief and respect of this temple has remained in the hearts of the Lanna people. Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep is of great importance to Chiang Mai and Lanna Thailand.
A history of Doi Suthep Pagoda ,Chiang mai
A relic is generally a small shiny round object which may weigh only a gram, but is as glistening as lapidarian jade. An authentic relic of the Buddha can perform marvelous feats. It sometimes illuminates with radiant light. Its power can make miraculous phenomena occur. It also can replicate, vanish, and merge by itself. The relic of Doi Suthep,Chiang mai is the Buddha's shoulder bone which has crystallized to become as hard as mineral.
At the beginning of the 19th Buddihst century, there was a Ceylonese monk named Sumanathera. He came to spread the Theravada Buddhism of Ceylon to the people in Sukhothai Kingdom. Sumanathera had to travel frequently between Sukhothai and Srisajjanalai for his religious teaching.
One night, Sumanathera had a dream in which a god appeared before him. The god inplored the monk to go to the ancient city named Pang Cha. Among the ruins there was a place where a pagoda once stood. The place could be identified by a bush shaped like a stool. Deep in the ground under the bush was an urn containing the Buddha's relic. The god continued to tell Sumanathera to unearth the relic and keep it in a proper place.
Sumanathera took the relic to show King Luethai in Srisajjanalai. The King was extremely delighted and a special mansion was erected for keeping the sacred relic. The King placed the relic in the new mansion and prostrated before it in joy and devotion. The relic then performed another miracle by illuminating the whole mansion with a lustrous beauty.
The news of the discovery of the Buddha's relic and its miracles spread to the neighboring city of Sukhothai. King Dharmmaraja became curious about the relic and dispatched a delegation to Srisajjanalai in order to invite Sumanathera and the relic to Sukhothai. While waiting for the arrival of relic, the King prepared the palace and made offerings. When Sumanathera arrived with the relic of Buddha, King Dharmmaraja paid due homage through a ceremony. At first nothing happened. There was no marvellous occurrence or miracle. The King was disappointed. Doubtful about the authenticity of the relic, the King told Phra Sumanathera to keep the relic for himself.
RELIC ARRIVES IN SRISAJJANALAI
Sumanathera took the relic to show the King Luethai in Srisajjanalai. The King was extremely delighted, a special mansion was erected for keeping the sacred relic. The King installed the relic in the new mansion and prostrated before it in joy and devotion. The relic, this time, performed another miracle by illuminating the whole mansion with a lustrous beauty. RELIC MOVED TO SUKHOTHAI
The news of the discovery of the Buddha's relic and its miracles spread to the neighboring city of Sukhothai. King Dharmmaraja of Sukhothai became curious about the relic and dispatched a delegation to Srisajjanalai in order to invite Sumanathera and the 9relic to Sukhothai. During the waiting, the King felt happy and eager to prepare the place and some offerings for the arrival of relic. When Sumanathera with the relic of Buddha arrived at the King palace, the King Dharmmaraja paid due homage and appropriate ceremony to the relic. The relic performed nothing, no marvellous occurrence or miracle happened, it made the King disappointed. Doubtful about the authenticity of the relic, the King told Phra Sumanathera to keep the relic for himself.
RELIC TAKEN TO LANNA
RELIC WAS TAKEN TO LAMPHUN
In the year B/E 1910 (1367 AD), the 6th King of the Mengrai dynasty who ruled over Lanna-Thai Kingdom wanted to improve the Buddhist condition in Lanna-Thai. He dispatched a delegation to Sukhothai to invite Sumanathera to Chiangmai.
Under the aupices of Sumanathera, Buddhism flourished and prospered spreading to the Lanna-Thai kingdom. King Kuena wanted Sumanathera to solve the Buddhist problem in Chiangmai. The monk, with approval of King Dharmmaraja, accepted the invitation and came over to Chiangmai bringing the relic of the Buddha with him. In the year B/E 1912 (1369 AD) Sumanathera arrived in Lamphun. King Kuena went as far as Tambon Saen-khaohoh Chiangrua to welcome the monk. On arrival at Wat Phra Yuen, near modern Lamphun, Sumanathera asked for royal permission to stay.
RELIC TRANSFERRED TO CHIANGMAI
Sumanathera remained at Wat Phra Yuen in Lamphun for 2 years. In the year B/E 1914 (1371 AD), King Kuena dedicated a royal park near the West side of the city for construction of a new monastery for Sumanathera. It was named Wat Pupharama and since has been renamed named Wat Suandok.
RELIC TRANSFERRED TO CHIANGMAI
When Wat Pupharama was completed the King invited Sumanathera to stay there permanently. Sumanathera accepted the King's invitation. Sumanathera was highly respected by the King, so the King Kuena bestowed upon him the title of Phra Sumanapupha Ratana Mahaswami.
RELIC SPLITS IN TWO
When Phra Mahasawami came to stay at Wat Suandok, he discussed building a new pagoda at Wat Suandok with the the King. Before beginning construction of the project, Phra Mahasawami put the Buddha relic on the golden tray. When Phra Mahasawami took the relic out of the tray, he was very surprised, because the relic had split into two pieces. One of the relics was the original size while the other was smaller.
The King and the monk enshrined the smaller relic in the newly completed pagoda at Suandok, and it still remains there today.
VOW TO THE RELIC
KING KUENA'S VOW
The monk and the King tried to find a proper place for keeping the original relic. They put the relic on the back of a white elephant. Then the King sat down before the elephant for a short meditation, he vowed as follows;
"May this holy relic perform a powerful miracle to compel the elephant to stop when it arrives at a suitable place to establish a pagoda for the relic."
After making the vow, the King released the elephant. The elephant gave three trumpets, went out of the city by the Hua Viang Gate (modern day Pratu Chang Puak Gate).
DOI CHANG NORN
The elephant headed west towards the mountains. The King, Phra Mahasawami, and a convoy of people followed the elephant at a distance. The elephant began climbing into the hills and stoped for a while at the hilltop. That place has been called "Doi Chang Norn" ever since (Doi Chang Norn means the resting elephant mountain).
ARRIVING AT THE DESTINATION
The white elephant continued climbing another hilltop, which was level and suitable for a holy place. All of THE followers wished that the elephant would stop there, but to their disappointment, the elephant went on. That level mountain has been called Sanam Doi Ngarm until today (Sanam Doi Ngarm means the beautiful level mountain).
When the white elephant finally arrived at the foot of the next mountain, it stopped for a while and gave three trumpets, and climbed on (This hilltop is called Doi Suthep). After arriving at the hilltop, it gave three trumpets again, made three counterclockwise circles, and then it knelt down. The King and the monk were certain the spot was the right site for keeping the relic. Together they reverently carried the Buddha's relic down from the elephant's back.
ESTABLISHMENT OF DOI SUTHEP PAGODA
The King had the site leveled. He also had a pit dug. The King asked his subjects to find stone slabs to make a box. He then had the urn containing the holy relic and other articles of reverence put into the box and buried in the pit. After the pit was filled, the King ordered a Pagoda to be built over the site. Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep Rajaworawihasm, a place of reverence and worship, was established by King Kuena in the year B/E 1916.
WHITE ELEPHANT MONUMENT
Both human and animal were exhausted after the search for the final resting place, the white elephant died on the hilltop after carrying the holy relic to the top of Doi Suthep. A monument was built for it in the temple area to remind future generations of its importance.
If you travel to any districts in Chiang Mai, use Chang Phuak Bus Terminal located on Chotana Road, tel. 053 211 586. Destinations include those located along the northern route (Highway No. 107) which passes through Mae Rim, Mae Taeng, Chiang Dao, Chaiprakan, Fang and Mae Ai. Some buses continue to Tha Ton, the northernmost province of Chiang Mai.
If you wish to travel outside the province, use Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Station. Contact tel: 0 5324 2664 for a more updated bus timetable. Destinations include Golden Triangle, Mae Sai, Chiang Saen, Chiang Rai, Nan, Phayao, Phrae, Lampang, Lamphun, Phitsanulok, Sukhothai, Mae Hong Son (both old and new routes), Mae Sot, Mae Sariang, Khon Kaen, Nakhon Ratchasima (Khorat), and Udon Thani.
Express and rapid trains operated by the State Railways of Thailand leave for Chiang Mai from Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Station 6 times a day from 8.00 a.m.-10.00 p.m. The trip takes about 11-12 hours for express trains. For more information, contact tel. 1690, or 02 223 7010, 02 223 7020. Chiang Mai Railway Station, tel. (053) 24 2094, 244 795, .247 462 245 363-4
Domestic airlines including Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Air Asia, Nok Air, Orient Thai Airlines, Air Andaman and Phuket Air operate several flights daily between Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
Thai Airways also operates domestic flights from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son, Chiang Rai and Phuket. International flights to and from Chitakong, Luang Phrabang, Khunming, Yangon and Japan (Narita) are also provided. Call 02 628 2000 (Bangkok), 053 211 044-7 (Chiang Mai), or visit www.thaiairways.com for more information.
Bangkok Airways also offers several flights daily on the Bangkok - Chiang Mai route, some with a stopover at Sukhothai. International routes to and from Jinghong and Xi’An are also available. Call 02 265 5555, 265 5678 (Bangkok Office) or 053 27 6176 (Chiang Mai Office) or visit www.bangkokair.com for more information.
Phuket Air offers 2 daily shuttle service flights from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai with YS-11 aircraft. The journey takes only 40 minutes and the flight times are at 07.30 a.m. and 6.00 p. m. For more information, call Bangkok Office 66 2679-8999 or Chiang Mai Office 66 5392 2118-9 or visit www.phuketairlines.com
Foreign Airlines operating flights from Chiang Mai to several destinations are:
Air Mandalay operates flights between Chiang Mai and Yangon on Sundays and Thursdays. Contact 053 818 049 (Chiang Mai office), visit www.myanmars.net/airmandalay or write to email@example.com for more information.
Mandarin Airlines operates flights between Chiang Mai and Taipei three times a week on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. For more information call, 053 201 268-9 (Chiang Mai office) or visit www.mandarinair.com
Lao Airlines operates flights on the Chiang Mai – Luang Phrabang route three times a week on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Call 053 223 401 (Chiang Mai office), visit www.laoairlines.com or write to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Silk Air operates flights between Chiang Mai – Singapore three times a week on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Call 053 276 459 053 276 495 (Chiang Mai office) or visit www.silkair.com for reservations.
Travelling within Chiang Mai
From Airport, Train and Bus Terminal to town
There is a licensed airport taxi service available at the taxi kiosk outside the baggage-claim area. Purchase a ticket and present it to the drivers waiting by the arrivals exit area. The trip will cost approximately 100 bahts for a sedan car that seats 4-5 people (with luggage).
From the airport, train station and bus terminal, you can easily get a song taew (red mini-bus). To charter a minibus or car, please check the correct fare at the TAT counter first.
Normally, first-class hotels provide complimentary transportation between the airport, railway station or bus terminals and the hotel for guests who have made advance reservations.
1. For relative short distances you can take a sam lor or tuk-tuk (a tricycle). Fares must be bargained in advance. Short rides within the city costs between 20 and 30 bahts. Longer rides may cost as much as 50 bahts.
2. Just new in town is the taxi-metre, the same as those running around Bangkok. The minimum (starting) fare is 35 bahts.
3. Song taew (red mini-bus) is the most common means of transportation in town. Passengers can hop in and out as they wish. Simply tell the driver the destination and negotiate the price before boarding. Fares range from 10-20 bahts depending on the distance.
Some travelers prefer to ride a bicycle around the city as most of the roads and alleys are accessible by bicycle. Bicycles can be rented from bicycle shops and certain guesthouses.
5. Rental cars
All major car rental companies such as AVIS, Budget, and Hertz, as well as Thai car rental companies are ready to provide suggestions on travel itineraries. The easiest way to locate a car rental company is to ask at the airport or the hotel, as those are the places where most companies are located
Yi Peng Festival is held annually on Loi Krathong day. It is a very interesting event of Chiang Mai. The festival features the release of lanterns into the sky to worship the gods. There are also fireworks, lantern contests, and beauty pageants.
Bo Sang Umbrella Festival
Bo Sang Umbrella Festival is held in January in Bo Sang Handicraft Centre. The festival features paper products, paper parasols in particular, cultural shows, a parade showing traditional ways of life, and several contests.
City Pillar Inthakin Festival
City Pillar Inthakin Festival is held to invoke blessings of peace, happiness and prosperity for the city and its residents. Buddha images are paraded around the city. It is held at Wat Chedi Luang for 7 auspicious days and nights in the 7th lunar month.
Doi Suthep Pilgrimage
Doi Suthep Pilgrimage On the night of Visakha Bucha Day, worshippers gather to light candles and make the 7-kilometre pilgrimage up to the temple on Doi Suthep.
Flower Festival is held in February. The festival includes ornamental garden flower contests, floral floats parade in the morning and beauty pageants. The parade begins at Chiang Mai Railway Station and passes Nawarat Bridge and ends at Nong Buak Hat Park.
How To Get to Chiang mai
By Car from Bangkok (approximately 8 hours)
Route 1: Drive on Highway No.1 (Phahonyothin) and turn left to Highway No.32 (Asian Highway) which passes Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Ang Thong, and Nakhon Sawan, then take Highway No. 117 to Phitsanulok and Highway No. 11 to Lampang, Lamphun and Chiang Mai. The total distance is 695 kilometers.
Route 2: From Nakhon Sawan, take Highway No. 1 passing Kamphaeng Phet, Tak, Lampang, and Chiang Mai. Total distance is 696 kilometers.
There are ordinary, 2nd –class and 1st – class air-conditioned buses leaving for Chiang Mai daily (8.00 a.m. to 09.00 p.m.) from the Bangkok’s Northern Bus Terminal (Mochit 2 Bus Terminal). Call 02 936 3600, 02 936 2852, and 02 937 8055 for a more updated bus timetable. Private buses, which can be conveniently booked in tourist-oriented places in Bangkok, are also available. However, the public buses from the Northern Bus Terminal are generally more reliable. The journey takes approximately 10-12 hours, depending on traffic.