History accurately recaps the founding of Chiang Mai the "New City", as having taken place at 4 a.m. on the 14th of
April 1296. King Mengrai, perhaps the best known and most influential
of all the lines of northern monarchs, was the founder of what has now
grown to be modern Thailand's second city. King Mengrai was very much
the driving force behind the early development of the north.
Built so far to the west, the walled city, with its
encircling moat, was vulnerable to Burmese incursions, and the city
changed hands many times over the centuries. At the height of Burma's influence and
power in the 18th Century, Chiang Mai and much of the land of Lanna
was held by the invaders for many years. It was only by allying itself
with other Thai states to the south that Lanna was eventually able to
rid itself of the yoke of Burmese occupation. This alliance ultimately
led to the unification of northern Thailand with the Thai heartland of
the central plains, under political and sovereign control of the
government in the new capital of Bangkok,
which had been established following the sack of Ayuthaya.
Chiang Mai is one of the oldest continuously inhabited
communities in all of Thailand, and that
fascinating gems and remnants of over 700 years of history hide
beneath the cloak of modernity, just waiting to be discovered.
Chiang Mai is approximately 700 kilometers north of Bangkok and is located
in the fertile Chiang Mai valley about 310 meters (1,027 feet) above
sea level. The province is large, measuring 130 kilometers from east
to west and 320 kilometers from north to south, with a total area of
10,107 square kilometers. There are mountains all around the valley
rising to heights of more than 2,500 meters. The four highest
mountains are in the north and south of the province; Doi Inthanon at
2,565 meters; Doi Horn Pok at 2,289 meters; Doi Chiang Dao at 2,195
meters; and Doi Suthep at 1,678 meters.
Because Chiang Mai is at a higher elevation than some of the
other Thai cities, it tends to have a cooler and drier climate. There
are three main seasons: Cool Season (late October - middle February)
Summer Season (late February - May), and Rainy Season (June - October)
with average temperatures of 21 "C, 30"C and 25 "C respectively.
Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai display a mixture of
architectural styles that reflect the varied heritage of Northern
Thailand. Elements from Lanna Thai, Burmese, Sri Lankan and Mon
temples have all been used in one form or another. Intricate
woodcarvings and protective Naga serpent staircases add a flamboyance
that reflects an awesome reverence for the Buddhist religion. Gilded
umbrellas, guardian figures from the tales of the Ramayana and stupas
trimmed with gold filigree combine to heighten the overall effect.
To date, some 300 temples have been constructed in Chiang Mai
and its outskirts. Visitors should take the time to visit the most
revered temples in the city, built during the noble Lanna Thai
Wat Ku (Goo) Come or Wat Chedi (Jedee) Liam
was built by King Mengrai at the site of Wiang Kum Karri (Goom
Gaam), located just outside the city of Chiang Mai on the road
to Lamphun (Lumpoon). To get there, turn right at the starting point
for the number two yellow local bus 200 meters after the Mae Ping
Police Station on Lamphun (Lumpoon) Road. King Mengraj conquered
Lamphun in 1281 and two years later he began to look for a site to
establish his new capital-Chiang Mai. During his surveying years, 1286
-1295, he resided temporarily in Kum Kam. Upon the death of his
beloved wife, the queen, he built this pyramidal pagoda in her memory.
He donated the monument to the wat after its completion in 1288. Wiang
Kum Kam, an ancient town founded by King Mengrai, is located at km 4
on Chiang Mai - Lamphun Road towards Saraphi District (Ampur Sarapee).
Chedi (Jedee) Luang
Located on Prapokklao Road
is the site of a formerly massive pagoda that was unfortunately
destroyed in the great earthquake of 1545. The temple was originally
constructed in 1401 by the order of King Saeng Muang Ma. In 1454, and
later reigning King Tilo-Garaj enlarged the chedi to a height of 86
After the earthquake, the chedi lay in ruins until 1991, when
it was reconstructed at a cost of several million Baht. Finished in
1992, it is every bit as impressive as the original.
Wat Chedi Luang
This temple is also home to the
"Pillar of the City",a totem used in ancient Thai fertility rites,
because the temple itself marks the exact center of Chiang Mai. The
tree is inhabited by a guardian spirit known as "Prueksa Thevada", an
all knowing sage. The Inthakhin Festival fertility rite lasting for 7
days takes place each year during the months of May or June. This
observance ensured unity within Lanna society, gave protection from
siege and warfare and made certain that the rains would fall at the
proper time so that farmers crops would be abundant in the fertile
Wat U-Mong (Oo-Mong)
literally meaning "temple in cave" is an ancient temple in a
forest just outside Chiang Mai. King Mengrai built this temple for a
highly respected forest monk. The monk was not able to practice
Lord Buddha's teaching in the city, so the king built an underground
temple in an isolated area for the monk's quiet meditation.
Wat Chiang Man (Mun)
is the oldest temple in Chiang . It is located within the
walled city on Rajapakinai Road.
King Mengrai allegedly lived here while the new city of Chiang Mai was constructed. Enshrined in Wat Chiang Man is
a tiny crystal Buddha called Phra Seh-Taang Kamanee. It is thought to
have the power to bring rain. Another image, called Phra SilaKhao,
reflects the fine workmanship of Indian craftsmen from thousands of
Wat Jao Mengrai
was built in the city of Chiang Mai shortly
after Wat Chiang Man was completed. When the big Buddha image was
being carried through the city to the new temple site, the carriage
broke and the image fell to the ground. Out of superstition. King
Mengrai decided to build another temple on the spot. It was here that
King Mengrai was struck by lightning and died.
Wat Phra Singh
is located in the center
of the city at the intersection of Singharaj and Rajdamnern Roads. The
large chedi was built in 1345 by King Pha Yu to house the remains of
his father King Kam Fu. A typical scripture repository is located at
this temple also. These repositories were designed to keep and protect
sacred texts written on palm leaves and the delicate saa or mulberry
paper sheets used by monks and scribes to keep records and write down
folklore. The high stucco-covered stone base of the repository
protected the delicate scriptures from the rains, floods and pests.
The walls of the chapel are covered with murals illustrating Lanna
customs, dress, and scenes from daily life. The lovely Lai Kam chapel
houses the revered Phra Singh Buddha image. Sadly, the head was stolen
Wat Suan Dork
on Suthep Road
was built in 1383. It was constructed in the gardens of the Lanna
Royal Residence. The rows of smaller white chedis contain the ashes of
Chiang Mai's Royal Lanna dynasty. The site was organized by Princess
Jao Dararasmi, the only northern royal consort to Rama V, King
Wat 3ed Yod (Yord)
is situated on the superhighway off Huay Kaew Road, near
the Chiang Mai National Museum. Built in 1455 by King Tilo-Garaj, its
name means "Seven Spires, a description of the chedi's construction.
It was copied from the Mahabodhi
Temple in Bodhgaya, India, where the Buddha achieved enlightenment.
The larger chedi contains the ashes of King Tilo-Garaj.
Wat Phra That (Thart) Doi Suthep
Is set amongst the peaks of Doi Suthep. It has a lovely
setting with a panoramic view of Chiang Mai and the Mae Ping River valley.
Although Wat Doi Suthep is the most recently built of the temples
dating from the Lanna Thai period, it is the symbol of Chiang Mai. The
site was selected by sending an elephant to roam at will up the
When the elephant reached this spot, it trumpeted, circled three
times, and knelt down indicating this was an auspicious site.
Wat Ku (Goo) Tao
Is located behind the Municipal Stadium (Sanam Gila) at the
north of the moat. It contains a delightful, almost whimsically
constructed chedi shaped like five melons. All five globes are
decorated with intricate pieces of colored porcelain.This temple dates back to 1613. The outer wall of temple is
decorated with charming murals.
has one of the few remaining wooden buildings that are still
in good condition on Prapokklao Road.
a fine example of architecture is located across Inthawarorot street
near Wat Phra Singh Lanna temple.
Wat Saen Fang
is of Burmese-style situated in a
surprisingly serene spot just off busy Thapae Road.
Wiang Tha Karn (Garn)
is an ancient walled city that dates back to the Haripoonchai
period, built before the advent of King Mengrai, the first of the
Lanna Kings. The main historic site is near the center of modern-day
Baan Tha Karn, close to the school and the village temple, Wat Tha
Karn, The best-preserved of the ruins are the pagoda and the
foundations of the wiharn, constructed from bricks and laterite.
Historical objects found in the town are Buddha images made from
sandstone or ceramics, while some are engraved images. Fragments of
ancient bricks and ceramic tiles can still be found within the
precincts of the old city. Baan Tha Karn is about 34 kilometers to the
south of Chiang Mai. Follow the Chiang Mai - Hod Road until you
reach Baan Tung Siew in Sanpatong District. Turn left at this village
and Baan Tha Karn is some 2 kilometers from the intersection.
Just over 43 kilometers from Chiang Mai, on the road to Hod,
Highway 108, is one of the oldest temples in the north, Wat Phra That
(Thart) Doi Noi in Chom Thong District. The temple was built by Queen
Jamathewee in 658 AD. Among the historic sites are the Phra
Borommathart Khong Pra, a stupa with a hidden underground cell, the
Bodh and the Wiharn, and Buddha images carved from marble. The ancient
temple itself is wonderfully located on a hill, close to the Ping River, and
affords superb all-round views of the surrounding hills and valleys of
About one kilometer before Chom Thong turn right on to Highway
1009 and locate a large sign in English for Doi Inthanon at the turn.
Continue 8 kilometers where the road forks, and keep to the right
where the park entrance can be seen.
Wat Pra Buddha Em,
in Mae Chaem's Tambon
Chang Kerng, is a most unusual temple. The buildings are built on an
island in the center of a square, laterite-block-lined pond. This
inundated area is called Utokasima, to distinguish it from an earthen
temple surround, or Khanthasima, although the meaning is the same.
Built at about the start of the Rattanakosin Era, over 200 years ago,
this remarkable temple is registered by the Fine Arts Department.
Apart from the temple in the pool, there is an old Wiham with
some fine old murals. Sadly the pigments are fading with time, but
some of the paintings retain good clarity and definition.
Occupying an area of 60 hectares, and spread over
several rolling hills, Wat Tha Ton sits
high on the banks of the Mae Kok river. From the many ancient objects
found in the temple grounds, it is assumed that this is a site of
great antiquity. Amidst the beautiful scenery in the temple grounds
are schools for
both young boys and for monks, a drug treatment center and a hilltribe
support unit. In honor of His Majesty the King's 50 years on the
throne, the temple is building a hilltop glass stupa.
is in Orn-Tai Subdistrict, District of Sankampaeng. Built on the site
of a long-deserted monastery, many valuable objects were discovered
during the preparations for constructing the present-day temple. These
included ancient artifacts, Buddha images and Sangkhalok pottery.
Shards and pieces of pottery have been found in the surrounding hills.