Getting to Chiang Mai
There are three overnight Special Express trains and one in the daytime; the
journey lasts about 12 to 13 hours. The station is about 2.5km east
of Tha Pae Gate: to get into town, take a red Song Thaew from the station, at 20 Baht per
person, or a Tuk Tuk at 50 Baht upwards.
Many flights from Bangkok and other cities inside and outside Thailand. For links to Airline websites
. The airport is only 2 kilometers to the south
east of the city center.
Many operators run buses from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, at prices
from 150 Baht upwards. Journey time is 8 hours upwards, tickets from any travel
agent. There are also bus services between Chiang Mai and most of Northern
& North East Thailand, together with international services to Laos and
Motor Cycle Hire and Tour
T.N.T Thai Moto
18/5 Ratchadamnoen Soi 1,
tel: 053 418386,
Getting around the City
Sam Lor Chiang Mai
Very few taxis and buses at the moment, though several more are promised. Standard public transport are
the Tuk Tuk
:- prices negotiable from about 50 Baht
upwards, and the red Baht Bus or Song Thaew
:- 10 Baht
per trip within the old city boundaries, 20 Baht per trip if the trip goes into the newer parts of the
For trips to Doi Suthep, check with the driver. In the inner city area you can still find the
, fare from 20 Baht up.
Suzuki Caribbean from around 800 Baht per day, Honda Civic or Toyota Soluna
from about 1200 Baht per day, including insurance; motorcycles start at 150
Baht per day for a 100cc model; bicycles can be hired for 30 - 50 Baht per day.
The best way to see the old city is, of course, on foot, as from North to South
and East to West, the distance is only about 1m (1600m)
At weekends, certain inner city streets near Tha Pae Gate are closed to traffic ("walking
streets"), and become street markets selling hill tribe products and other
handicrafts, food & drink, clothing, music tapes and lots of other items.
Street musicians add to the atmosphere, almost a tropical Covent Garden.
Mae Ping from Tha Nam Restaurant
One of the major tributaries to the Chao Phraya river, the Ping river flows
through the eastern outskirts of the city. Though there are many shopping
plazas, bars, hotels and guest houses nearby, much of the river is quiet and
peaceful, with the odd restaurant on the bank. I particularly like the Tha Nam
on Chiron Prathet Road.
River trips can be booked at several piers around Narawat Bridge.
Lion Gate, Wat Mangrai
Chiang Mai Historic Sites
Lan Na Style: Wat Puak Hong
As Chiang Mai is much older than Bangkok, the range of temple architecture is
correspondingly wider, and covers a much longer historical period, from the
earlier low profile Lan Na style to the taller and more ornate 19th and 20th century
Though many of the major temples are within, or close to the city walls, there several important temples somewhat further
out of town, notably Wat Jed Yod (see below), Wat Suan Dork, and Wat Phra That Doi Suthep(se below). For the
locations of these temples see the interactive map
Of the city center temples the most famous are probably Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chiang Man and
Wat Bupharam, though I also like the lesser known Wat Lok Moli and Wat Mangrai.
Wat Mangrai gable end
Wat Mangrai is a very early Lan Na style Wat located on Rajamanka Road, soi 6.
The lion gates, detail on the left, are superb, as is the stucco decoration on the gable end of
Unfortunately the temple seems much neglected (2006).
Wat Lok Moli
Wat Lok Moli, Wiharn And Chedi
Not much is known of Wat Lok Moli, situated on Manee Nopparat Road, just west of Chang Phuak Gate, though it was clearly of
importance to the family and descendants of King Mangrai, as they had their ashes buried there. First chronicle mention
of the temple was in the late 14th century.
The beautiful teak built Wiharn is partly open sided. The massive chedi behind the Wiharn is a typical Lan Na square chedi.
Chedi of King Tilok
Wat Jed Yod
Wat Jed Yod Wiharn
Situated to the north west of the city on route 11, Super Highway, Wat Potharam Maha Wiharn, popularly know as Wat Jed Yod, is
considered one of Thailand's most important historic sites.
Much of the temple complex is in ruins, but what
remains of the Lan Na style Chedis, and the extraordinary seven spired Wiharn, which gives the temple its name (Jed Yod = seven spires), are most impressive
The temple was built by King Tilok during the late
15th century. The great Wiharn Jed Yod was modelled on the Mahabodhi Vihara, Bodh Gaya India, and the Bodhi Tree nearby is
said to have come from the tree, also in Bodh Gaya, under which The Buddha achieved illumination. The well preserved Chedi, shown to the
left, contains the ashes of King Tilok himself.
The walls of the Wiharn were decorated with beautiful stucco reliefs, depicting celestial beings; some of the reliefs
are still in pretty good conditon, others much damaged during long wars with Burma, by the end of which, in the late
18th century, Lan Na was exhausted and depopulated, Wat Jed Yod and Chiang Mai itself were abandoned for some 20 years.
Wat Potharam Maha Wiharn is important in the history of Buddhism in that the highly significant 8th World Buddhist Council was held
there in 1477.
Phra Chao Attarot
Wat Chedi Luang
The Great Chedi, Wat Chedi Luang
Wat Chedi Luang is a large temple complex situated on Phra Pok Klao Road. Its
most noteworthy feature is the enormous central chedi, measuring 60 metres at the base, one time home of the
Emerald Buddha (now in Wat Phra Kaeo, Bangkok).
According to the The Chiang Mai Chronicle
of the great Chedi began under King Saen Meung Ma in 1391 C.E. Because of the scale of the work and the death of the king
in 1401, the structure was not completed until the reign of King Tilokaraja in 1454. Originally
reaching a height of almost 90 meters, the building was decapitated by an earthquake in 1545. Again, according to
The Chiang Mai Chronicle
Chedi of Wat Phra Singh, and 9 other chedis were destroyed in the same earthquake.
In recent years there has been ongoing restoration work to the elephant balustrade at the second level of the
pedestal (not shown in current photograph) but the main tower is still a shadow
of its former glory. On Google Earth, however, it remains the most eye-catching feature of
central Chiang Mai, and can also be viewed in the Satellite view of the Interactive Map
Reclining Buddha, Wat Chedi Luang
In the western part of the temple
grounds facing the ruins of the great Chedi is a Mondop sheltering a large reclining Buddha, and above the statue, somewhat
ironically, a sentence thought to be the last words of the Buddha:
Brethren it is natural for all conditioned things to
decay and cease. Be diligent in working for your own deliverance
The Grand Wiharn, situated in front of the main gate, is currently (2006) under renovation. It
houses an enormous standing Buddha figure, Phra Chao Attarot, which is believed to date back to the time of King
Saen Meung Ma.
On the southern side of the compound, near the main gate, is the
Chiang Mai city pillar, moved to its present location by King Kawila in 1800. The statues which surround this
shrine are believed to house guardian spirits of the city.
Near the monks' quarters, to the north of the compound, is a small garden where visitors are invited to engage in
English conversation with the monks.
Naga Stairs Wat Bupharam
Wat Bupharam is located on Tha Pae Road, not far from Tha Pae Gate. According to
The Chiang Mai Chronicle
, the temple building was
started in the 1490's, in the reign of King Kaeo Phutadipatiraja who also made additions to
Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phra Singh and Wat Suan Dork.
The small Wiharn was added in the late 18th century by Chao Thammalangka, second king to
King Kawila, who later added the large Wiharn.
The larger Wiharn is a two story structure, making it much taller than most Lan Na
Wiharns; a small library takes up most of the ground floor, with the upper floor being the preaching hall.
Buddha, Wat Bupharam
The Wiharn contains many beautiful examples of Lan Na craftsmanship, including murals, Buddha
images, Naga stairs, wood carvings and brass work. The banner image for this
page, showing elephants riding to war, is taken from the preaching hall.
The Chedi features a bronze Buddha at the center of each of the four sides. Just visible
above the larger statue in the photograph is a tiny bronze Buddha. Last time I visited
the temple (August 2005), the smaller image had disappeared. Perhaps someone had left it
there to accumulate merit.
Around Chiang Mai
Around 26km south of Chiang Mai on the Northern railway line is the ancient
city of Lamphun
. This was the center of the ancient Mon kingdom of Haripunjaya,
founded around the middle of the 7th century AD. Well worth a visit are Wat
Chamathevi on Chamathevi Road, and the temple complex of Wat Phrathat
Haripunchai between Inthayongyot Road and the river, originally founded in the
11th century, but also containing features from the intervening centuries.
The Steps to Doi Suthep
About 16 km west of the city and visible from most of Chiang Mai, is Doi
Suthep (Doi = mountain). The temple, Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, located near the top
of the mountain, is the main feature. The present buildings date from the 16th century, but have been
restored several times since. The temple is one of the most important and most visited srines in northern
Thailand, as it is believed to contain a relic (Phra That) of the Buddha.
It is reached by a
long winding mountain road followed by a flight of around 290 (or that's how many
I counted) stone steps flanked on each side by nagas (the multi headed snake of Buddhist mythology).
The temple itself is split into many sections and shrines with a bewildering
variety of Buddha images. The upper terrace provides a spectacular view of
the surrounding countryside and Chiang Mai to the east.
Some distance past the temple is Phuping Palace, royal residence for Chiang
Mai. Only the gardens are open to the public.
Frequent Song Thaews (destination "Doi Suthep" clearly visible on the
destination boards) run from the old city center to the mountain. Price is
around 30 Baht each way.
7 Ratchadamnoen Road soi 1,
Large clean rooms, aircon or fan, most with satellite TV, fridge and balcony.
All rooms have private bathroom and telephone Internet. Wireless internet available most
parts. Restaurant and swimming pool.
Hotels & Guest houses, Chiang Mai
The main areas for Guest Houses & Hotels is the eastern part of the old
city, near Tha Pae gate, and the area between Mun Meuang Road and the river.
Prices range from 300 Baht per night for a double room with shower and air-con,
to 4,000 Baht and more for a five star hotel. See below
for a selection.
Lots of small Inns and Guest houses, at prices from 150 Baht to 600 Baht. The
Inner city is a favorite area of mine, quieter than the inner city ring road,
and close to many of the most beautiful historical sites.
39 Soi 1, Ratchadamnoen Rd, Chiang Mai 50200
Tel: 053-226778, Fax: 053-226966
Safe House Court
178 Rachapakhinai Road, Chiang Mai 50200
Tel: 053-418955, Fax: 053419031
18/4-6 Ratchawithi Rd.,
Chiang Mai 50000
tel: 053 216655
Tha Pae Gate Area
Similar accomodation to Inner City, but not so quiet. Lots of Tuk Tuks and bars.
The Royal Guest House
5 Soi 4, Kot Cha San Road, Chiang Mai 50100
Tel: 053-282460, Fax: 053-206404
Lanna Paradise Guest House
357 Mun Meuang Road, Tel: 053-418446
Tha Pae Gate Lodge
38/7 Mun Meuang Road, Soi Prasing
Tha Pae Road
Similar to Tha Pae Gate area, but more bars, and nearby Night Bazaar.
Baan Jong Come
47 soi 4 Tha Pae Road, Chiang Mai 50000
Tel: 053 274823
Oriental Guest House
69 Lai Kroh Road, Chiang Mai 50100
Tel: 053 276742, Fax: 053 206267