Thursday, May 8, 2008

Thailand Vacation Series - Chiang Mai.

Experiencing 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.
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, Thailands 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 Mae Nam Ping (Ping
River) which originates from the Chiang Dao mountain range.
For more information about Chiang Mai, or Thailand tourist spots.

Thailand Vacation Series - Chiang Mai

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