Chiang Mai, 761 by rail, approximately 700 kilometers by road north of Bangkok, with an area of 20,107 square kilometers, is Thailand’s second largest city and capital of the northern region. It is an entity unto itself. Chaing Mai counts among its attractions a famous night market, great hill tribe villages nearby and a host of world-class accommodation at less than Bangkok prices. It also has, alas, a reputation for world-class pollutions. The city, like Bangkok earlier is undergoing great strain as it strives to grow in both stature and size. That however does not seem to deter tourists and a veritable army of experts who prefer to call it home.
We all know that Chiang Mai is the city that travellers both Thai and foreign value highly for its charm, extraordinary sites, and people. Also, the reputation for craftsmanship has made Chiang Mai become the centre for exports in the North of Thailand. These are the reasons that visitors are impelled to come here again and again. Therefore, information is always the priority for tourists.
Chiang Mai, 700km northwest of Bangkok, is Thailands second city and the gateway to northern Thailand. There are over 300 temples and monasteries in Chiang Mai, almost as many Bangkok, and the city has a long tradition for arts and crafts.
Once described as one of the loveliest cities imaginable Chiang Mai still retains a certain flavour of the past with its moated old city, ancient wats and leafy back streets. Chiang Mais oldest temple is Wat Chiang Man which dates back to 1296 and is known for its two Buddha images, one made of the stone and the other made from crystal.
Almost as old, Wat Phra Singh in the centre of town contains a 1,500 year old Buddha image and another wat, Wat Chedi Luang, holds the ruins of a huge chedi or stupa that collapsed in an earthquake in 1545.
The Chiang Mai National Museum, just to the north of the city centre, houses an extensive collection of Buddha images and northern Thai handicrafts. Another museum that is worth a visit especially for those preparing to go trekking is the Tribal Museum which houses a good display of hill tribe textiles, jewellery, musical instruments, weapons and other artefacts
Around 15km east of Chiang Mai is Bo Sang, also known as the Umbrella Village, where handmade paper umbrellas and many other hill tribe handicrafts are sold. Another popular excursion from Chiang Mai is a visit to the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre where attractions include elephant rides, elephant bathing and an exhibition on the importance of the elephant in Thai history and culture.
Chiang Mai has a distinct international atmosphere with many foreign businesses and organizations locating in the city over the past decade due to her excellent infrastructure with international direct flight connections to all countries in the region including China, Singapore, Malaysia, Burma, Cambodia and Taiwan.
Shopping is great, be it for handicrafts, clothes or luxury items. Everything can be found at great prices in stores ranging from small family run shops to world class luxury outlets and shopping malls.