Founded in the 13th Century as the capital of the Lanna Kingdom, Chiang Mai is northern Thailand’s most politically and culturally significant city. It is also the preferred base from which to explore and unravel Thailand’s various northern delights.
The long history of the city is evident in its layout and architecture. Largely due to the constant threat of invasion from the Burmese, Chiang Mai was built as a walled city with a moat for added protection. Many parts of the ancient wall can still be seen today and some sections have even been restored to their former glory. The city is dotted with colorful temples, some of which are made of wood conforming to the original architectural style. Outside of the walled city and down towards the river sits Chinatown, a characteristically bustling neighborhood of business and commerce.
One of the secrets to Chiang Mai’s success is its manageable size. The city is mostly quiet and low rise, and many of the old Lanna style wooden houses can still be found both within and outside of the old city walls. Traffic and pollution is hardly an issue for most of the year and much of the city can be managed on foot or bicycle.
Many come to Chiang Mai for the wonderful sites close to the city. An uncountable number of quiet and peaceful temples are spread throughout the surrounding countryside and Chiang Mai is also the gateway into the northern mountains; a fabulous opportunity to come face to trunk with elephants and explore fascinating ethnic minority villages via scenic hiking trails.
Best time to go: November to March, the weather is quite cool in the evenings and there are cool breezes.