Chiang Mai is the heart of northern Thailand, founded as part of the Lanna kingdom. What we know as Thailand today is actually a collection of several kingdoms. Chiang Mai is a spiritual center for Thais, with more than 300 Buddhist temples within the city. It has a much more laid-back atmosphere than Bangkok, tucked as it is in the mountains.
On one of my last weekends in Thailand, I decided to visit Chiang Mai to see more of Thailand outside the Bangkok environs. I stayed just outside the old city and took a number of walks in and around the area. Originally each of the cities in northern Thailand were surrounded by a brick wall and a moat with various gates by which people could come and go. Chiang Mai is one of the few cities with its city wall intact. Of course, the city has outgrown its wall over the centuries, but the wall still surrounds the Old City. The best way to explore Chiang Mai is to stay off the main thoroughfares and wander among the small sois or streets.
The Old City is filled with important temples, most of which are hundreds of years old. Some of the pictures in this post are of smaller temples. Check back tomorrow for photos from the Chedi Luang.
Title quote: English meaning of “Chiang Mai,” coined at its founding in 1296.