Chiang Mai is an amazing city with so much vibrant life, delicious food, rich history, and many, many wonderful people — it is one of my favorite places I’ve ever been.
Mitch and I visited a series of three museums to get an idea of the history and culture unique to Chiang Mai. The Chiang Mai Historical Centre, Chiang Mai Arts and Cultural Centre, and the Lanna Folklife Museum were all informative and helped us get an idea of Chiang Mai’s history.
To quickly summarize, Chiang Mai was once the capital of the Lanna kingdom, which was not always part of Thailand. It was deemed worthy enough to be the capital of the Lanna kingdom in the late 13th century based on its proximity to the Ping River (for trade) and good agricultural land (mountains and rice fields). There is also legend of a white elephant laying down near the current city location as well as some other auspicious signs that led King Mengrai to choose Chiang Mai as the capital city. I absolutely loved reading about the history of the city up until present day and learning about the hill tribe culture that is so influential in the province to this day. I’d highly recommend visiting these three museums early on in a stay at Chiang Mai.
Fast forward to October/November 2014 when Tanya and Mitch arrive to Chiang Mai! The old city is still shaped like a square and surrounded by the same, square moat from its early days, and parts of the old, brick walls are also still standing. Fun tidbit: driving along the outer edge of the moat, traffic goes clockwise, and driving along the inner edge, traffic goes counter clockwise (most of the time, ha). The old city houses a lot of food, guesthouses for travelers, wats, and museums, along with many other buildings including some housing. It would be really convenient to stay in the old city, but it is a little too crowded and tourist heavy for us. We opted to stay outside the moat near the northwest corner of the city, which is also near a trendy little area on Nimmanhaeman Road (say that three times quickly!).
Our main form of transportation in Chiang Mai is motor scooter! Mitch bravely learned to navigate the streets of Chiang Mai on scooter, and it has been fantastic and so convenient. We are renting our scooter for — get this — $5/day. It takes only thirty minutes to walk across the entire old city, but on a hot, humid, Thai day at 1pm, that 30 minutes can be almost unbearable, so having a scooter to get around with is wonderful.
Alright, that’s my quick update on our Chiang Mai logistics! Can’t wait to share some of our Chiang Mai adventures with you soon!