In Thai, Chiang Mai means “new city,” but in this ancient kingdom new is a relative term. Founded by Lanna settlers in the 13th century, Chiang Mai was once the capital of northern kingdom of Lanna (meaning one-million rice fields). Situated between picturesque mountains and the Ping River, this ancient capital was carefully planned with a moat and protective walls whose remnants mark the heart of the city today. Dotted around the city you will notice many beautiful Buddhist temples or “wats” dating back as far as the 14th century, an eye-catching testament to Chiang Mai’s rich Lanna background.
Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second most important city after Bangkok, with a much smaller population of approximately one-million people. Despite being a thriving and bustling metropolis, visitors find the “small town feel,” accentuated by small lanes (soi) lined with teakwood houses and beautiful gardens, to be very welcoming.
Chiang Mai is a hive of activity all year round. With artists and musicians to talented handicraft designers and producers, Chiang Mai is internationally renowned for its exciting festivals.
Annual festivals like the Flower Festival (early February) and the Loi Krathong Fire Festival (mid November) see the city come alive with activity and color. Regular music festivals, art shows and craft fairs bring artists and visitors swarming to Chiang Mai. Songkran, the Buddhist New Year celebration occurs in April. Chiang Mai hosts the grandest water parade of all of Thailand and the streets are filled with every nationality and age group spraying water in joyous respite from the scorching sun.
In addition to the aesthetic beauty and cultural wealth, Chiang Mai is a great place for trekking in the surrounding mountains, bamboo and white water rafting, retreats, and cleansing and meditation holidays, while others come simply to shop at the wide range of markets.
The combination of activities, scenic treats and the rich cultural foundations make Chiang Mai an experience in itself. Once you have visited, Chiang Mai always holds a place in your heart.