Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second city, and is considered one of the most beautiful, being named ‘rose of the north,’ City of Golden Temples’ and other glamorous labels, its name literally means ‘New City’ although it dates from the 13th Century. The city’s golden age was the 15th century, when it was capital of the northern La Na kingdom until a series of attacks by Burmese armies brought it down. Walking the narrow streets of the old city within the ancient moats, one can see remnants of Chiang Mai’s dynastic past. The city is bounded by 5 gates dating from the 13th century with areas of the old city wall being having been restored in the last century.
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Top things to do in Chiang Mai
Local life & cooking class experience
Experience a typical day in the life of a Thai local, with no touring or sightseeing, just real life home-cooking in an authentic Thai neighbourhood. Join Mr Prapat in his family car and transfer to the Hang Dong district in the west of the city, where you will spend the day with your 'Thai family'. The family will demonstrate their basket weaving skills, a Thai tradition for centuries. Stroll around the small, family orchard and select fresh ingredients to use in the day's cooking. Learn traditional home-cooked recipes with authentic northern Thai flavour, then enjoy lunch with the family. End your day with a stroll around the neighbourhood to see the production of some cottage-industry goods.
Morning visit to Wat Doi Suthep
Take the winding road up the side of the hill overlooking the city to visit the most significant temple in Chiang Mai, the 600 year-old Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, which lies 1,060 metres above sea level. Inside you will find the symbol of the city, the copper-plated Chedi that is topped by a five-tier gold parasol, which contains relics of the Lord Buddha. From the terrace, on a clear day, you will have a fine panoramic view of the entire city. This temple can be reached by a stair case with 306 steps, flanked by Naga balustrades.
Night markets of Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is a city that really comes alive at night. Begin the evening at a temple to join monks in their nightly chanting of prayers, where you may light some incense or burn a candle and experience this wonderful Buddhist ceremony. A table is booked for you at the Pillars 137 colonial house for a Thai dinner. Afterwards, stroll over the bridge to the lively Waroros market, a hub for local life and bursting with fresh flowers and local street food stalls. Accompanied at the market by a local guide, explore the various stalls and take the opportunity to sample some local Thai sweets.
Elephants of the Mae Taeng Valley
The elephant is Thailand's most revered animal, but tragically these majestic beasts are not always treated with the respect and care they deserve. In the scenic Mae Taeng valley, north of Chiang Mai, the Elephant Nature Park has extensive experience in elephant welfare and is one of the rare places where elephants no longer work for humans, and are instead allowed to roam free within the park. The park acts as a sanctuary for Thailand's mistreated elephants, allowing them to escape the clutches of unscrupulous owners.
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