Chiang Mai is the former capital of the Kingdom of La Na (which can be literally translated to ‘A Million Rice Fields’). La Na Kingdom controlled a vast territory, which extended as far south as Kamphaeng Phet and as far north as Luang Prabang in northern Laos. During this time, Chiang Mai became a highly important religious and cultural centre, hosting the 8th world synod of Theravada Buddhism in 1477.
In 1556, the Burmese took control of Chiang Mai Province, and held power for over 200 years, until 1775, when the province was recaptured by the Thais. In 1800, a monumental brick wall was built around the inner-town, with the city being expanded to the southerly and easterly directions. A fundamental river port was established a what is known today as Tha Phae (meaning ‘raft pier’).
During the late 19th century, Chiang Mai became an important regional trade centre. Many Shan- and Burmese-style temples were erected, funded by wealthy teak merchants whom has emigrated from Burma.
In 1921, the completion of the northern railway to Chiang Mai finally linked the north with central Thailand. In 1933, Chiang Mai officially became a province of Siam (Thailand). Before tourism replaced commercial trade as the major source of outside revenue in the mid-60s, Chiang Mai was a fundamental centre for handcrafted pottery, umbrellas, silverwork and woodcarving.
Nature & Surroundings in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is host to a plethora of stunning natural resources within striking distance of the city walls. It is famously the most mountainous region of the country, with symbolic mountains (translated in ‘Doi’ in Thai) such as Doi Suthep and Chiang Dao within close proximity. Most notably, Doi Inthanon is less than a 2-hour drive from the city, boasting the highest peak of the country at 2,565 meters.
Within just a 20 minute drive of the city, it is possible to find your self amongst seemingly endless rice paddies and jungle, as well as slow-paced local villages such as Mae Kampong, famous for growing and harvesting tea, and its numerous picturesque trails and waterfalls.
Sharing of Food in Chiang Mai
Sharing food is a cornerstone of Thai dining. Several dishes are served simultaneously, and a typical meal consists of a soup, a spicy dish, fresh vegetables, and several sauces. Condiments are also a key element, and the other dishes encircle them.
The Khan Tok Dinner
The ‘khan tok’ is a particular serving tray, pedestalled in form. In addition to bowls of food, it may hold candles, flowers, and fruit. These meals are usually served at short, rounded tables, crafted from teak, bamboo, or rattan.
The khan tok dinner is a custom unique to northern Thailand. It is often complemented by thrilling music and dance. Dressed in elaborate, colourful costumes, dancers they perform the graceful movements of classical Thai dance. The khan tok is a choice setting for weddings, festivals, housewarmings, parties, and temple celebrations.