Chiang Mai offers its own distinct Northern culture and cuisine, plus adventures into the mountains to visit the many different ethnic minority hilltribes and elephant sanctuaries and go trekking or white-water rafting. The city is not just the starting point for these adventures, the city itself also has many attractions, including ancient temples, exotic night markets and much more.
Its geographical location, in the southwestern foothills of the Himalayan mountain region, to the north of the central lowlands of Thailand and directly on the Ping River, gives the Chiang Mai region wonderfully varied and picturesque landscapes with a huge abundance of fauna and flora thriving here.
Chiang Mai has always been a melting pot for the different cultures and ethnic communities found in the area, but many of them, especially in the highlands and more remote mountain valleys, still retain their tradition cultures and customs. Buddhism, like everywhere in Thailand, is the dominant religion and its 200 temples are imprinted on everyone’s image of the city. The best time to travel to Thailand for a vacation in the north are the months of November to April, when there is little rain. The most rain falls between July and September. Average daytime temperatures are around 30 ° C, but can fall into single digits at night during the winter months at higher elevations.
Chiang Mai itself has been an important town since the 13th century AD. It was founded in 1292 A.D. documented at the instigation of King Mengrai, whose former capital of the Lan Na Kingdom, Chiang Rai, was difficult to defend due to the proximity of aggressive enemies, and the capital was moved several times before settling in Chiang Mai. (Chiang Mai literally means: new city). With strong city walls and a deep moat, it became the base for the powerful Lan Na armies and Lan Na kings dominated the region for many decades and the city experienced its greatest expansion in the 15th century under King Thilokaraj.
Almost constant wars with the early Thai kingdoms of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya, meant there were few periods for Lan Na. An 18-year war between Lan Na and Ayutthaya (1456 - 1474 A.D.) weakened both sides and prevented both kingdoms from flourishing. Much of the fight revolved around Sukhothai, where the traces of war on the ruins of temples and other buildings can still be seen. Lan Na was also always under threat from attack by the Burmese and until the 18th century it enjoyed little independence. Permanent liberation from Burmese oppression was only possible with Siamese help in 1774 A.D and from then on Lan Na had ever declining autonomy from Sia, and was absorbed into Siam in 1899.
As early as 1296, Chiang Mai was named the capital of his Lan-Na empire by the legendary King Mangrai and it would be more than 400 years before Chiang Mai actually became part of Thailand, and even then, the proud residents were largely autonomous from Bangkok and still retain their distinct charter and speech.
Many of the temples from this period are located in Chiang Mai's old town, within the old city wall and moat