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Chiang Mai, multitude of temples
Dynamic and modern place
The hub of northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is the capital of the homonymous province, with nearly one million inhabitants in the metropolitan area. It is a very interesting and peculiar city, once the capital of the ancient Lanna kingdom, and placed among the foothills of the Himalayan mountains, being hardly reached until the 20'. This isolation kept the city intact and with its ancient glorious vibes.
The historical centre of the city is surrounded by a wall and a moat, and inside you can find numerous and richly decorated temples from the 13th century, combining Burmese, Sri Lankan and Lanna Thai architecture. The most known of them is the Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, placed on a mountain from where one can have a fantastic view of the city. There's a legend behind the construction of the temple that says that a piece of relic, a bone that was believed to belong to Buddha himself, was placed by a king on the back of a white elephant. This elephant climbed the Doi Suthep mountain and died on the top, so the king saw it as a sign to built the temple there.
The modern Chiang Mai expanded beyond the walls, specially towards the Ping river, and the modern city may be as amazing as its historical centre. Visit the famous Night Bazaar, a good place to feel the local atmosphere and bargaining, long nearly 1 km and open from dusk to midnight. Doing an elephant tour or visiting an elephant camp is a must, and the Baanchang Elephant Park may be the best choice, for the animals are treated very well and the prices are low.
Visit the Chiang Dao Caves, a complex of more that 100 caves inside the mountain range, located some 70km north of the city. Some of the caves are illuminated and contain buddha statues, but some you'll have to explore with gas lanterns. Chiang Mai is outstanding, it's beautiful and adventurous. Go off the beaten track, give Chiang Mai a try!
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