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RECOMMENDED PROPERTIES IN CHIANG MAI

CHIANG MAI

Chiang Mai is the hub of Northern Thailand. Surrounded by mountains and lush countryside, it is much greener and quieter than the capital and has a cosmopolitan air and a significant expatriate population, all factors which have led many from Bangkok to settle permanently in this "rose of the north".

Chiang Mai's historic centre is the walled city ("city" is chiang in the northern Thai dialect while mai is new, hence Chiang Mai translates as "new city"). Sections of the wall dating to their restoration a few decades ago remain at the gates and corners, but of the rest only the moat remains.

Inside Chiang Mai's remaining city walls are more than 30 temples dating back to the founding of the principality, in a combination of Burmese-, Sri Lankan- and Lanna Thai-styles, decorated with beautiful wood carvings, Naga staircases, leonine and angelic guardians, gilded umbrellas and pagodas laced with gold filigree. The most famous is Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, which overlooks the city from a mountainside 13 km away.

Wat Chedi Luang is almost in the centre of Chiang Mai are the remains of a massive chedi that toppled in the great earthquake of 1545. The temple was originally constructed in 1401 on the orders of King Saeng Muang Ma. After the earthquake, the chedi lay in ruins until 1991-92, when it was reconstructed. A magnificent testament to Lanna (northern Thai) architecture and art, restored sections hint at its former glory. Wat Chedi Luang is also home to the "Pillar of the City", a totem used in ancient Thai fertility rites.

Modern-day Chiang Mai has expanded in all directions, but particularly to the east to the banks of the Ping River, where Changklan Rd, the famous Night Bazaar, and the bulk of Chiang Mai's hotels and guest houses are located. Loi Kroh Rd is the centre of the city's night life.

Hunt down some khao soi, yellow wheat noodles in curry broth, traditionally served with chicken (gai) or beef (neua), but available some places as vegetarian or with seafood. Another local specialty is hang ley, Lanna-style pork curry.

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