What to see in Chiang Mai, a journey to discover Buddhist culture, city temples and museums, excursions to ancient mountain villages.
Gateway to the hill in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai has grown far beyond its medieval walls, but the atmosphere that reigns in its alleys still evokes the glory of the great Thai dynasties.
Today, ancient temples and traditional wooden houses divide the city space with shops, hotels, trendy restaurants and elegant cafes.
Things to do in Chiang Mai include mountain trekking excursions to the villages of the ancient tribes, elephant rides, mountain bike tours, rafting, climbing and adventures through the rainforest.
However, despite the charm of the hills around the city, many people choose to linger in Chiang Mai, immersing themselves in Buddhist culture, learning to massage, practicing meditation and taking Thai cooking lessons at one of the many schools available.
In the National Museum there is a splendid collection of Buddha statues, works of art and historical finds.
In addition, projections of contemporary history are made and it is also possible to admire a collection of religious art, whose works summarize what can also be seen in other city temples and monasteries, with sculptures, statues and ceremonial objects.
In the Zoo, located in pleasant gardens at the foot of Mount Doi Suthep, there are over 7,000 species of birds, as well as elephants, lions, giraffes, tigers, giant pandas and a giant aquarium.
Before visiting one of the tribal villages near Chiang Mai, it is worth stopping at the interesting tribal museum, located on the northern outskirts of the city.
Housed inside a modern pagoda, this museum overlooks a lake surrounded by trees and includes an exhibition of handicrafts, jewelry, costumes, tools and ceremonial tools of the northern Thai tribes, giving a precious testimony of the uses and customs of the peoples indigenous people of the hills.
Wat Chedi Luang, a faded terracotta-colored temple previously covered with bronze plates finished in gold leaf, hosted the famous Emerald Buddha for 80 years, before the statue was transferred to Bangkok.Recommended readings
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The construction of the Wat Chiang Man Temple which is the oldest in the city, dates back to the reign of King Mengrai, founder of Chiang Mai in 1296.
With its multi-tiered roof and gilded inserts on the facade, it is a wonderful example of Northern Thai architecture, the roof of the main prayer hall is supported by a series of huge columns, each carved from the trunk of a teak tree.
Inside a small chapel next to the main entrance there are two of the most famous Buddha images.
Phra Sila is a marble statue from Sri Lanka or India, while the Phra Setangamani, Buddha crystal, has been brought back and forth between Thailand and Laos for several centuries by rival dynasties.
Wat Phra Singh, an excellent example of traditional Lanna architecture in Chiang Mai, takes its name from the revered Lion Buddha statue located inside the Wiharn, the prayer room, in the back of the monastery.
The sacred statue was brought to Thailand from Sri Lanka.
The walls are richly decorated with plaster angels, mosaics made with glass tesserae and frescoes of Thai legends.
In addition, the complex also contains an elegant raised library.
Located in a forest considered sacred to Thailand, Wat U Mong is a secluded temple, considered a paradise for local Buddhists who come here to escape the bustle of the city.
Founded in the fourteenth century, it appears that this temple was built for a spirit-troubled seer monk, who tended to wander in the forest to meditate.