: Classifieds : MyJU :
Stories: Travel
Browse Travel Stories: « Previous Story | Next Story »

Chiang Mai: the Rose of the North

By: Tichakorn Hill

Date Posted: 2000-05-19

Thailand is undoubtedly one of the world’s leading tourist destinations due to its rich culture, unparalleled natural beauty, world-famous food, and exquisite handicrafts. If you love the beach, head for the south. But if you love mountains and forests, head for the north.

Chiang Mai, an ancient city founded in the late 13th century, is a paradise for those who love jungle trekking, elephant riding, bamboo rafting along a scenic river, or visiting ancient temples and archeological remains. Abundant in both natural and cultural attractions, it has become the most important city in the north of Thailand and is the second largest metropolitan city in the country. It is one of Thailand’s most frequented tourist attractions by both domestic and international tourists all year round.

Chiang Mai has its own unique Lanna culture, which is a combination of Indian, Cambodian, and Burmese cultures. Its northern dialect is charming, especially when spoken by Chiang Mai girls who are well known for their fine looks, fair complexion, and good manners. Nearly 70 percent of its land is covered by mountains and forests. Thailand’s highest mountain, Inthanon, which stands 2,575 meters, is also in Chiang Mai. Nearly 200,000 hilltribe people live in more than 1,000 hilltribe villages in Chiang Mai. Many tourists come to the city simply because they want to see the hilltribes and to buy their exotic handicrafts.

In downtown Chiang Mai stand several preserved city walls and gates which are reminders of the old age of the city. Among places worth visiting are ancient Buddhist temples, the most visited of which is the sacred Phrathat Doi Suthep Temple where lies the marvelous golden pagoda containing the relics of the Lord Buddha. Other famous temples are Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chiang Man, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Suak Dok, and Wat Meng Rai. Photographers are always there admiring and taking pictures of the marvelous northern Thai architecture and arts adorning the walls and roofs of these Buddhist monasteries.

Besides its historical sites, Chiang Mai boasts its natural beauty with lots of mountains, forests, valleys, waterfalls, and hot springs. Going to Chiang Mai and not trying a jungle trek is a shame. Popular jungle treks, ranging from two days to seven days, will take you deep into the jungle to witness the breathtakingly beautiful nature, the ancient city of Chiang San, and the world-famous Golden Triangle where the borders of Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand meet. You can also spend the nights at hilltribe villages to observe their primitive way of living and customs, and ride on an elephant to a rafting camp and swim in the river. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) provides a list of specialist travel companies. Each group is led by an experienced tour guide. All treks must be registered with the Tourist Police to ensure the safety of trekkers.

Chiang Mai’s symbol is the elephant. It appears on local architecture and handicrafts. As Chiang Mai is characterized by forested mountains, working elephants are used in forest management. There are elephant training centers in Chiang Dao, Mae Rim, and Mae Sa districts. The centers offer daily elephant training shows, which include bathing, assembling on training grounds, walking in single file, walking in pairs, walking in procession, helping mahouts in mounting and dismounting, picking up small things, dragging, carrying, and piling-up logs.

For those who do not have time to take a jungle trek, it’s a good idea to at least try riding on an elephant. You can take either a 30-minute safari tour or a one-hour-and-a- half tour. The short tour will take you through the tropical rain forest and along the scenic river while the longer one will take you through the tropical rain forest, along the river, up the hill, and to the hilltribe village where you can witness the daily life of hilltribe people. You will find it an adventurous activity and a memorable experience.

Shopaholics love Chiang Mai. Many tourists come to Chiang Mai just for shopping. You, too, will fall in love with the extremely beautiful handcrafted products. The road to Sankhampaeng is probably the most well known area and is dotted with manufacturing centers of specialized goods. You can witness the whole manufacturing process of silk, silverware, lacquerware, pewterware, celadon pottery, and jewelry. There is also a famous umbrella industry center where you can watch umbrellas of all sizes being hand-painted. The road to Hangdong is dotted with lots of places selling handcrafted woodcarvings. You will be stunned by elaborate wooden works from small Buddha images to life-sized elephants. The road to Mae Rim is also dotted with stores selling antiques and carvings.

Thai silk and Thai gold are world famous. Make sure you don’t fail to upgrade your wardrobe with silk garments and to add a little luxury to your life or that of your loved ones with 22-karat Thai gold that comes in forms of necklaces, bracelets, earrings, rings, and much more.

For those looking for lower priced products, the Night Bazaar is a “must.” Night Bazaar is located right in the heart of Chiang Mai. It is open around 6 p.m. and closed around 11 p.m. You can find all kinds of local wooden handicrafts, fake antiques, silk, cotton, pottery, and other products which are amazingly cheap yet extremely beautiful. Nevertheless, make sure you bargain when purchasing goods in Thailand as bargaining is a common practice of purchasing goods from places where the prices are not marked. Keep in mind that vendors expect you to bargain when they suggest the price. Be bold by cutting the price in half of that offered by the vendor.

If you want to remember Chiang Mai in another unique way, try having your picture taken in a traditional Lanna costume. There are two photo shops at Night Bazaar where they will dress you up in a glamorous Lanna costume, put make-up on you, and then take your pictures in a magnificent authentic Lanna setting.

Food lovers will not be disappointed visiting this northern province, as northern Thai dishes are one of Thailand’s finest cuisines. A great way to enjoy Chiang Mai food and traditional folk dances is to attend a Khan Toke dinner served in leading restaurants and hotels. Khan Toke delicacies include the famous Sai Ua (northern Thai spicy sausage), Hang Leh Curry, Hoh Curry, Nam Prik Ong (chili paste in tomato sauce with ground pork), and crispy pork rinds. All of these are eaten with sticky rice and fresh vegetables. If you’re looking for something cheaper and less formal, all these northern dishes can be found at a food court just opposite Night Bazaar, where traditional dances are also performed. The main difference between the Khan Toke dinner and the food court is the price and service.

“When in Rome, do as the Romans,” is always a great idea when exploring a new place. Chiang Mai people go to the market every morning to shop for fresh food. There are several markets in downtown area. The most well known ones are Lam Yai Market, Waroros Market, and Muang Mai Market. There are all kinds of food, vegetables, fruits, clothes, and freshly picked flowers.

About 700 kilometers north of Bangkok, Chiang Mai can be reached by plane, train, or bus. It takes only an hour to get there by plane and about 12 hours by train or bus. You can find accommodations that suit all tastes and budgets, ranging from luxurious hotels to inexpensive but comfortable guesthouses. Many hotels and tour agencies offer good package tours in and around the city. You can also travel to the nearby provinces of Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son to admire their historic sites and picturesque beauty.

Any time is a good time to visit Chiang Mai even though local Thais prefer to go there in November and December to feel its cold weather (Thailand is normally warm all year round). The Songkran Thai New Year Festival in April is at its most colorful and joyful in Chiang Mai.

Visiting Chiang Mai is a once-in-a-life-time experience. Once you are there, you will feel that its nickname “the Rose of the North” is indeed an understatement.

For more information on Chiang Mai, visit Chiang Mai Governor’s informative web site at chiangmai.go.th, the TAT’s web site at tat.or.th, or several leading tour companies’ web sites, such as asiatravel.com, chiangmai-online.com, chiangmaitravel.com, chiangmainews.com, and lisulodge.com. The companies offer discount hotels and various package tours in and around the city.

Browse Travel Stories: « Previous Story | Next Story »

weather currency health and beauty restaurants Yellowpages JU Blog

OkistyleJU FacebookOkistyle

Go to advertising PDF?||?|o?L?qAE?|?}?OA?N?ga`OkiStyle?A??q?qM?oeu^?I`??N?gX?<eth>?<ETH>?ni^?IWanted!!Golden Kings ScheduleOkiNightSeeker