Photo: Temple town.


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Chiang Mai—or New City in Thai—is actually more than 700 years old, but was new when King Mengrai moved his capital down to the banks of the Ping River from Chiang Rai during the late 13th century.

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There were probably Mon settlements in the area before this, such as the nearby 11th century site of Wiang Khum Kham, but Chiang Mai city as it appears today started to take shape thanks to Mengrai at the end of the 13th century. The city is located in the north–south orientated Ping Valley and was initially established close to the west bank. Doi Suthep and the Pui mountains are to the immediate west and the Doi Saket hills are a few kilometres off to the east.

Towering spire at Wiang Khum Khan. Photo taken in or around Chiang Mai, Thailand by Mark Ord.

Towering spire at Wiang Khum Khan. Photo: Mark Ord

Today Chiang Mai’s downtown is relatively small, with an estimated 150,000 people calling it home, though the urban surrounds and suburbs probably account for at least a million people in all. The population is traditionally northern Thai, with scatterings of minorities such as Shan, but being a relatively wealthy city it’s now attracting workers from across the kingdom. Being an attractive place to live means it also sees a steady flow of more affluent Thais relocating from Bangkok and elsewhere.

Chiang Mai is also very popular with expats and increasingly Thai tourists as much as foreign visitors—and it is not difficult to see why.

Glittering Doi Suthep. Photo taken in or around Chiang Mai, Thailand by Mark Ord.

Glittering Doi Suthep. Photo: Mark Ord

If Thai temples are your thing, then Chiang Mai has a lot to offer—the hilltop Wat Doi Suthep is the star attraction, but the old city is packed with a vivid collection of traditional Thai temples, with Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Chiang Man three of the true ... Travelfish members only (Around 2,700 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Chiang Mai.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Chiang Mai.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Chiang Mai.
 Read up on how to get to Chiang Mai, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
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