See the Wats in Chiang Mai

  |  Gorp.com
Chiang Mai, Thailand
The Golden Arches: Chiang Mai's Wat Prathat Doi Suthep. (Corel)

Chiang Mai is the cultural capital of Thailand, a city literally littered with over 300 wats (Buddhist temples), some dating as far back as the 13th century and each holding its own distinct allure. Two of the not-to-be-missed temples are Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Phan Tao.

Wat Chedi Luang is centered on a stupa encircled by trumpeting elephants that was first built in the 14th century. The stupa, in a style distinct to the north's Lanna heritage, was heavily damaged when Thai General Taksin took control of the city from the Burmese in 1775, but UNESCO and a Japanese contingent are restoring the temple to what is hoped to be its former grandeur.

Wat Phan Tao, just a stone's throw away, dazzles with its all-teak wihan (the building where the most precious Buddhist images are kept). Another perfect example of Lanna architecture and craftmanship, this multi-tiered teak masterpiece justifies a trip to Chiang Mai on its own.

Located about 430 miles north of Bangkok, one visit to Chiang Mai will never give you enough time to hit all 300-plus wats, although just sauntering the winding streets of the town's Old City will be enough to intoxicate you with the region's rich cultural heritage. With a 700-year-old history that includes the waxing and waning of the northern kingdom of the Anachak Lanna Thai, Chiang Mai has a cultural vibe totally distinct from Bangkok and the beach regions to the south.


Best Hotels in Chiang Mai

$253-$369
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#1
Anantara Chiang Mai Resort and Spa
$124
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#2
Le Meridien Chiang Mai
$82-$85
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#3
Rimping Village
$87
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#4
Aruntara Riverside Boutique Hotel

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