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The Chiang Mai province has a wide range of fantastic temples and other sightings from ancient times as well as more modern. In the mountains you can enjoy waterfalls in a blooming atmosphere with spectacular views that cannot be found on other parts of Thailand. There are very interesting old stories behind many of the buildings that can get people who usually aren’t that interested in stories to listen.
Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep
This amazing temple is set 15 km (9 miles) from Chiang Mai. This is for many Thai people a very sacred place and from here you can see the impressive views of Chiang Mai. The temple was build in 1383 but over time the temple area has expanded. The road leading to the temple was built as late as 1935.
The temple was built after the white elephant legend which is about a monk named Sumanathera from Sukhothai. He had a dream where god told him to go to Pang Cha and look for a relic and so he did. He also did find a bone which many claim was the bone of Buddhas shoulder. It had magical powers and could glow, vanish, move by itself and even replicate itself. The monk brought it to the king but the bone did not show any magic and the king asked the monk to keep it himself.
Soon after, Nu Naone the king of the Lanna Kingdom heard about the relic and wanted to see it. The year 1368 with permission from King Dharmmaraja who earlier rejected to relic the monk brought it to Lamphun in northern Thailand where the relic split in half. One piece remained the same size while the other piece was smaller. That smaller piece was enshrined at a temple in Suandok and the other was placed on the back of a white elephant that were released in the jungle. The elephant climbed the mountain Doi Suthep and at that time the mountain had the name Doy Aoy Chang meaning “The Sugar Elephant Mountain” trumpeted three times and then died. That was interpreted as a sign and the King Nu Naone ordered a temple to be set up at the site.
The temple can be reached by foot via the 309 step stairway or you can go by tram. Remember to have a proper dressing when entering the temple area.
Wiang Kum Kham
This is an ancient city that was first discovered in 1984. The city was left for more than 700 years ago after floods and in 2005 three floods occurred in the same year. The biggest temples at the area are Wat Khan Tom also known as Wat Chang Kum which is still a working temple and there is even a school attached to it. When the school was built they also prepared for a playground and ancient amulets were found in the ground. An investigation by the Fine Arts Department uncovered the foundation of a wihan (vihara in Sanskrit) dating from King Mengrais time who became the King of Lanna and parts of Laos in 1261.
Another maybe the most spectacular temple is Wat Chedi Liam with its pyramid shaped tall appearance. This temple was built around 1286 on the order from King Mengrai. Many temples in the area have recently been renovated.
This is the highest mountain in Thailand rising 2 565 meters (8 416 foot) above sea level. Here you find the Doi Inthanon National Park only 90 minutes drive south west from Chiang Mai. It is famous for its great waterfalls, the flora and the excellent views. There is possible to drive all the way to the top where the climate is very refreshing all year round dropping down to sub-zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit). There are numerous waterfalls to be seen and you are able to swim in natural pools below some of the waterfalls making the experience even stronger memory. The cost is 400 bath for tourists while Thais only pay 20 bath.
Rafting, Trekking and ATV’s
Just north from the main Chiang Mai you find the small place Mae Rim. Here you can enjoy some real adventures ranging from elephant trekking in a true natural environment, rent ATV’s or why not go rafting. Mae Rim is without doubt the place to go if you want to have some adventures.
Close to Chiang Mai there are many big mountains. If heading south just a few minutes from the central Chiang Mai you will come to Hang Dong. From here you can do many mountain excursions and visit caves or the national parks. With fantastic views this place is very popular yet it is very calm with a big blooming low land by the foot of the mountains.