Chiang Mai in the Ping River Valley was the capital of the ancient Lanna Kingdom in mountainous Northwest Thailand on the border with perennial enemy, Burma (now called Myanmar). Chosen capital in 1292 by King Mengrai, some of Chaing Mai's old city walls and moat survive, and they're the scene of daily life and numerous festivals. Known as the "rose of the north," Chiang Mai is a large (almost 2 million population in the metro area), but charming, city with some of the finest Theravada Buddhist wats (temples) in all of Thailand. It feels less crowded and noisy than Bangkok, and the weather is less hot because of the mountains and altitude. Northern Thai food is distinctive, though similar to other Thai food we've had.
We chose the Shangri-la Hotel just outside the old city walls for our Christmas holiday. This Asian hotel chain has good value for a reasonable price and the locations are convenient. Gracious gardens behind the hotel are a respite from the city, and there's a huge pool for Louie's daily swim.
Wat Chedi Luang
Wat Chedi Luang is in the heart of old Chiang Mai at the spot where King Mengrai was killed by lightening in 1317. The old brick chedi was once 90 m (295 ft) high, but was damaged by an earthquake in 1465. We witnessed a memorial service for a chief monk (photo of the kneeling monks facing the Buddhas at the front of the temple). You'll see me next to the Naga (dragon) protecting the entrance and the standing Buddha with little sheets of gold leaf that devout visitors apply to him.