Discovering Chiang Mai: Between temples & culture

Chiang Mai Thailand

Discovering Chiang Mai: Between temples & culture

Location: Thailand

Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand.

My experience

Chiang Mai, one of my favourite city i have ever been in my trip around Thailand. I went there in November 2013 and I can’t forget my 5 days, between old city, walking days tour and Doi Inthanon mountain. Chiang Mai is laid-back, dynamic and modern without having lost its down-to-earth charm. This is a real Thai place, Thai culture overwhelmingly pervades a city wrapped up in Western sensibilities and striving for advancement. Chiang Mai is an eating place too, from delicious street food to white-lined riverside dining.

History and culture: It has weathered seven hundred years of fascinating history. Thailand lies between the two great civilisations of India and China, Chiang Mai has been influenced by both. The two most important Thai kingdoms were Lanna and Sukothai, Chiang Mai was the capital of Lanna. It also was the key market on the trade routes from Yunnan to Burma where goods arrived from, and were sent to India and beyond.

Lanna was over-run by Burma in 1558 and they were not finally driven out until 1775. The legacy of those sad years is still to be seen in some architecture and customs. For twenty years after the withdrawal of the Burmese the city of Chiang Mai was deserted and much of the rest of Lanna depopulated.

Gradually the new ruler of Chiang Mai, Kavila, took control. He brought in Thai tribes from the north, Ngieo, Khoen, Thai Yai, Thai Lu, Yuan and Lao to till the land and populate the towns. Chiang Mai is mix of people who are today proud to call themselves khon muang. 80% of the people are locals by birth and speak kam muang, which is a language close to standard Thai but which has its own distinctive script, some different vocabulary and tones. The other 20% is made up of southern Thais, Chinese, Indians and an increasing number of foreigners.

Chiang Mai Thailand

Akha Old Woman. Chiang Mai Thailand

Here we are, let’s discovering Chiang Mai….

Old City

The Old city of Chiang Mai is still surrounded today by remains of an old city wall and a moat. One of the best way to explore it is to jump on a bike and head off into smaller roads that infest this ancient urban space. There are over thirty temples within the moat, many with extensive and beautiful ground, few buildings are some very examples of Lanns art. What i felt into the old city was the quiet and timeless serenity.

Top Temples

Wat Phra Singh

This temple is situated in the heart of the city and is famous for its fine examples of Lanna Art. It houses the city’s most revered Buddah image, Phra Singh (or Lion Buddah). There are two nearly identical images in Nakhon Si Thammarat and Bangkok, so no one knows if this is the real one. If you visit around 11 am you may catch the monks having their lunch on the floor of the temple.

Chiang Mai Thailand

Wat Phra Singh. Chiang Mai Thailand


Chiang Mai Thailand

Wedding ceremony just outside the temple. Chiang Mai Thailand

Wat Chedi Luang

One of the most important temples in Chiang Mai. This was once an enormous temple built at the end of the fourteenth century by King Saeng Muang Ma to contain the ashes of his father. It was several damaged in the great earthquake of 1545 and has only recently been restored by Unesco and the japans government. Wat Chedi Luang is home to many of the most important city and religious ceremonies.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

It is one of the north’s most sacred temples and Thai pilgrims flock here to make merit to the Buddhist relic enshrined in the picturesque golden Chedi. Seen from everywhere in the city, this it the guardian temple of Chiang Mai.

Wat Bup Pha Ram

A temple in the heart of Chiang Mai associated with many historic miracles.

Old City Temples

Many other temples are popular in Chiang Mai that i didn’t see (time was running out). I can suggest you the Walking Temple Tour that takes you to the old city’s most famous temples.


Me and my friend Alessandro, this is the one of the old city Temples. Chiang Mai Thailand


Chiang Mai Thailand

Into the temple. Chiang Mai Thailand


Chiang Mai Thailand

People are praying. They do it many times per day. Chiang Mai Thailand

Into The Jungle

One of the Top thing to do in Chiang Mai was Trekking. I did a Day Walking Tour and was a great experience. Trek into the hills of Northern Thailand, see a great mountain scenery and interact with primitive culture. I paid around 900 Bath while multi-day treks cost about 1200 B per day but include transport, guide and food.


Great adventure during our Day Walking Tour in the jungle

Doi Inthanon National Park

In my last day in Chiang Mai i went to Doi Inthanon National Park, so to the highest mountain in Thailand (about 2,500 m from sea level).In the park are many attractive waterfalls and caves such as Mae Ya Waterfall (most beautiful in Chiang Mai), Wachiritan waterfall etc… The headquarters is located at km 31 and all the people can find more information about what to do and see in the park.

Chiang Mai Thailand

Wachiratan Waterfall, Chiang Mai Thailand

About accommodation

Chiang Mai is really cheap. I didn’t book a room in advance but just walked around, asked to the people and found the one of the best accommodation with low rate. 

Less celebrated are all those Chiang Mai street stalls and shophouses hawking incredible northern Thai cuisine and snacks, delicious enough to lure Bangkokians 700 kilometers north for a bite. I remember a delicious dish called Khao Soi, yellow noodles perched in a shallow pool of thick milk curry, topped off with crispy fried noodles and served with wedges of lime, pickled cabbage and shallots.

Chiang Mai deserves a visit….


  • The food in Thailand is amazing, and cheap. Here I found the best Thai food ever, so don’t waste the chance to taste it!!
  • There are no specific places to avoid in Chiang Mai, so explore it by yourself riding a motorbike or renting a bike!!
  • Avoid Feb/April to visit Chiang Mai, knows like Burning months because the pollution.
  • My last tip: Don’t get stuck with the thing that ruins your day, life is too short to be wasted in your crap. Smile and be positive because there are so many beautiful reasons to be happy, one of those is travelling.

Chiang Mai Thailand

Author of this post:  Davide
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my name is Davide and I’m Italian. I’d always loved to explore far away places and someday, planned to travel the world. But like always, it was a case of when and how. I did a lot, and now I am ready to write, to tell and to share the tips I’ve been learning, feelings and emotion of years of travelling.


  • Santiago

    En mi viaje y aventura por tailandia, no tuve la oportunidad de visitar chiang mai. Pero leyendo este blog y este post, siento
    Como si hubiese en parte estado alli.
    Planeo para mi proxima aventura volver al sudeste, grcias a este articulo me
    Pude hacer una idea de donde ir y que explorar. Los paisajes son hermosos, los templos , su culura e historia.
    Excelente articulo

    December 11, 2016 at 4:00 pm
    • Davi85travel

      gracias Santiago, esto es un execente pueblo para una visita y sera un experienca increible para ti se quieres visitar Chiang Mai! Gracias para el comento, put it on your bucket list 😀

      January 30, 2017 at 10:28 am

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