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Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

Know your city

Founded as the capital of Lanna in 1296, on a site indicated by the miraculous presence of deer and white mice, Chiang Mai – “New City” – has remained the north’s most important settlement ever since. Lanna’s golden age under the Mengrai dynasty, when most of the city’s notable temples were founded, lasted until the Burmese captured the city in 1558. Two hundred years passed before the Thais pushed the Burmese back beyond Chiang Mai to roughly where they are now, and the Burmese influence is still strong – not just in art and architecture, but also in the rich curries and soups served here. After the recapture of the city, the chao (princes) of Chiang Mai remained nominal rulers of the north until 1939, but, with communications rapidly improving from the beginning of the last century, Chiang Mai was brought firmly into Thailand’s mainstream as the region’s administrative and service centre. Chiang Mai still manages to preserve some of the atmosphere of an ancient village alongside its modern urban sophistication. Chiang Mai’s moated old quarter, where new buildings are limited to a height of four storeys, has retained many of its traditional wooden houses and quiet, leafy gardens, as well as the most famous and interesting temples in the city – Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Chiang Man

Many colourful festivals attract throngs of visitors here too: Chiang Mai is one of the most popular places in Thailand to see in the Thai New Year – Songkhran – in mid-April, and to celebrate Loy Krathong at the full moon in November, when thousands of candles are floated down the Ping River in lotus-leaf boats.

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