Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second-largest city and the capital its homonyms province.

It’s located in the Ping River valley, a mountainous area, about 700 km away from Bangkok. It comprises more than 300 temples, almost as much as those that can be found in the capital. Given the vast amount of temples, it is considered Thailand’s spiritual capital.

History

This city’s history is rather different from the ones of Bangkok or Ayutthaya, the cities that I’ve already talked about. They were part of different kingdoms, so its history is a bit different.

The city of Chiang Mai was part of to the Kingdom of Lan Na, the Kingdom of a Million Rice Fields.

Chiang Mai was founded in 1926 and it served as the capital of the Kingdom of Lan Na for 472 years.

It had to endure some fights against the kingdoms around it, like Ayutthaya, and ended up being occupied by the Burmese. In order to try to protect the city, a wall was built around it (we can still see it today).

The Burmese stayed 200 years, until an uprising of the population took place. Then, the Kingdom of Lan Na became a state of the Kingdom of Siam. Nonetheless, this Burmese influence can still be perceived in this northern part of Thailand.

In addition to its countless temples, Chiang Mai also holds many other attractions, from sport-related activities, to shopping, well-being or nature one. It’s also possible to visit parks with elephants and tigers, for those who are fond of it.

The oldest temple in Chiang Mai is the Wat Chiang Man, located inside its walled area. It was built in 1297, shortly after the city’s foundation. The King who planned this Buddhist temple actually lived within it, in order to oversee the construction of the new capital of the Lan Na kingdom.

This temple holds several main buildings. I will now point them out.

Meditation rooms

It has two meditation rooms. The largest one shows a gorgeous gold facade and it contains a Buddha statue, which is the city’s oldest. It’s from 1465.

The tinier one holds two Buddha images inside of it. Thais believe that the crystal image has the power to protect them against major disasters. The other image was carved in stone in Sri Lanka, back in the 18th century, and is believed that it has the power to summon rain.

Right at the entrance of the smaller meditation room, there are two sculpted naga figures.

Chedi Chang Lom

This chedi is a stupa, whose base has 15 engraved elephants. It’s made of stone and has a golden top.

Ubosot

The location where monks were ordained. It’s a wooden building, painted in several colours. Right in front of Ubosot, there’s a stone, in which we can find the inscription of Chiang Mai’s foundation date.

Chiang Mai is a rather gorgeous and interesting city, whose history differs a bit from the raucous Bangkok. In order to better understand the country, one needs to visit its northern part. This area comprised another kingdom, so you’ll notice differences in several areas, food included.

Wat Chiang Man may not be the most interesting point of the city, but it was the first and has some magnificent details. I recommend going there and visiting it. It’s right in the heart of Chiang Mai.