Chiang Mai and the Lan Na Kingdom

Story posted: Saturday, 28. May 2011 by CPA Media

Pictures From History / Themes / LAN NA KINGDOM 






Chiang Mai and the Lan Na Kingdom

Khon Muang, or “People of the Principalities”, is the name most commonly applied by the people of northern Thailand to themselves. In times past they have been referred to variously as the Tai Yuan—a name now considered to be somewhat derogatory, and therefore no longer in favour—and also, somewhat misleadingly, as the “Northern Lao”. Sometimes, indeed, they were referred to as lao phung dam, or “black-bellied Lao”, as the northern men tattooed themselves, in contradistinction to the lao phung khao, or “white bellied Lao” of Laos and the Northeast, who by and large eschewed this practice. In fact, the Khon Muang are a Tai people (by convention, the spelling “Tai” is used to define the larger group of Tai-speaking peoples, whilst the spelling “Thai” denotes a citizen of the Kingdom of Thailand). They are closely related to the Lao of northeast Thailand and Laos, the Shan of Burma, the Tai Lu of Sipsongpanna in Yunnan, and of course the dominant Siamese of central and southern Thailand. Like Tai peoples everywhere, they prefer to inhabit fertile lowland regions where they can practice their traditional lifestyle, the intensive cultivation of wet rice in irrigated paddy fields.

The Thai term khon simply means people—thus Lao people, for example, would be described as khon lao in Thai. But what of the term muang, which has been translated above as “principality”? In fact, the term muang is complex, and can be applied to describe a city or urban centre, a region, or even a country. When used in reference to the Khon Muang, or people of north Thailand, the sense most generally evinced is that of small fiefdoms or principalities. The roots of this lie in the distinctive topography of northern Thailand, so different from the flat central plains or the high plateau of the arid northeast. North Thailand is lush and green, an upland region of forested mountain ranges and hidden valleys. In times past, before railways and surfaced roads were driven through and across the hills, the fertile valleys were cut off from each other in a very real sense, so that it might take days or even weeks to walk or ride—on pony or elephant back—from one muang to another. In this way, people became identified with particular valleys, each of which was administered by a local chao or lord, from his provincial capital. These might range in size from major towns like Chiang Mai, the main city of the north and the capital of the former Lan Na Kingdom, to smaller centres such as Lamphun, Nan and Phrae.

The inhabitants of these isolated principalities—that is, the Tai-speaking, lowland rice farmers, as opposed to the various hill peoples who inhabit the intervening mountain ranges, and who lie outside the scope of the present book—differed from each other sufficiently to be able to recognise each other by accent, or sometimes by style of dress, as citizens of different muang—people of Chiang Mai, or Lampang, or Chiang Rai, for example. But that which they shared—a common tongue, known as kham muang, or the “language of the principalities”, their lifestyle, cuisine, clothing, and above all their Buddhist faith—united them as a single, cohesive, readily discernible people. They were, and are, the Khon Muang, the “People of the Principalities”. Today, as northern Thailand becomes increasingly prosperous and sophisticated, and as links between the various “principalities” continue to expand and improve, a new sense of what it means to be Khon Muang is emerging, and the people of the north are rediscovering and celebrating their unique cultural identity.

Which leads us, naturally, to define the area—north Thailand—inhabited by the Khon Muang. In past centuries frontiers were less rigid, and certainly more permeable than they are today. At the height of its power and influence, in the mid-16th century, the Lan Na Kingdom stretched far to the west of the present frontiers of Thailand, deep into what is now Shan State. To the north it incorporated the Tai Khun city of Chiang Tung (better known in Shan as Kengtung), as well as the Tai Lu city of Chiang Hung—now known in Chinese as Jinghong, the capital of the Dai Autonomous region of Xishuangbanna (in Thai, Sipsongpanna). Today these territories have been “lost” to Lan Na (though they remain part of the greater Tai-speaking world), and the region of north Thailand inhabited by the Khon Muang is limited to the southern and eastern part of the old Lan Na Kingdom. Thus, the Khon Muang are the dominant lowland population in the old Lan Na heartland of Chiang Mai, Lamphun and Lampang, as well as of Chiang Rai, Phayao, Nan and Phrae provinces. Further to the west, they have settled in the main towns of once remote Mae Hong Son—really an extension of Shan State deep into Thailand—and further down the frontier, through Karen territory, into Tak and even the remoter reaches of Umphang. In times past, other small groups of Khon Muang were relocated as prisoners of war to points as far south and east as Saraburi, Ratburi and Nakhon Ratchasima.

This said, the cultural, political and social capital of the Khon Muang remains, beyond shadow of doubt, the wonderful old walled city of Chiang Mai. It has become commonplace amongst travel writers to denigrate King Mangrai’s city, to bemoan the modernisation which has taken place, and—at least amongst certain self-styled “old hands”—to dismiss the northern capital as another Bangkok in the making. In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth. Bangkok is more than forty times larger than Chiang Mai, and far less attractive. Moreover, in recent years the Chiang Mai authorities have taken many steps to improve the city, restoring walls and ramparts, paving the many attractive back lanes or soi with red cobblestones, dredging and cleaning the moats, and prohibiting the construction of high-rise buildings and condominiums anywhere within the Old City.

Because of the predominance of Chiang Mai, Lamphun and Lampang in the history and culture of the Khon Muang, the first section of the present study looks at the history and legend surrounding these major principalities, whilst the second section continues with a series of essays on the Khong Muang “heartland”. A third section, devoted to the more obscure and outlying principalities, represents a collection of essays on the Khon Muang “borderlands”. Finally, following a short introduction to the various and colourful festivals of the Khon Muang, the volume concludes with an examination of the cultural resurgence increasingly apparent amongst the people of the north.

Seven hundred years ago the area which is now Thailand was divided into several large kingdoms and numerous smaller principalities. Ayutthaya—let alone Bangkok—had not been founded, and the major powers in the regional politics of the time were Sukhothai, Angkor, Lopburi and Lan Na, the Kingdom of One Million Rice Fields, centred on Chiang Mai. For around two centuries Lan Na enjoyed a golden period of political and cultural independence, but this was snuffed out by Burmese occupation in the mid-16th century. By 1774, when the Burmese were finally expelled, the old Lan Na Kingdom had been reduced to a shadow of its former self, and was gradually absorbed by the vigorous Chakri Dynasty in Bangkok. Yet despite the loss of independence by the north—the last chao, or independent ruler of Chiang Mai died in 1897 and was interred near the summit of Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s highest mountain—many vestiges of Lan Na’s past survive. These may be found both as legend in oral histories, and in more concrete forms such as bastions, temples, cultural traditions and palm-leaf manuscripts.


The Legend of Queen Chamadevi

The quiet, provincial town of Lamphun—once capital of the Mon Kingdom of Haripunchai—just 26 kilometres south of Chiang Mai, is nowadays generally promoted as an enjoyable side trip from the northern capital. A combination of tranquil, lotus-filled moats, some of the most distinguished religious buildings in Thailand, and the story of Queen Chamadevi, combine to attract Thai and overseas visitors alike.

Undoubtedly, a visit to Lamphun is a rewarding experience. Yet it is also an experience which raises questions regarding the elusive Mon queen, Chamadevi. Who exactly was she? And what was her significance in the development of Lan Na? Visitors to Lamphun town centre can gaze up appreciatively at the commanding statue of Chamadevi, yet precious few details of the lady's life can be found either in guide books, or in the well-maintained provincial museum.

The main reason for this dearth of information is, of course, that the events surrounding the founding of Haripunchai occurred more than a thousand years ago. As a consequence, much of Chamadevi's life story is irrevocably lost. The Lan Na chronicles, duly verified by archaeology and other corroborative texts, suggest that the foundations of the Kingdom of Haripunchai were laid at Lamphun by a group of Buddhist monks from Lopburi some time in the 9th century AD.

These monks asked the Mon ruler of Lopburi to provide them with a temporal ruler, and he sent them his daughter, Chamadevi, who arrived in Lamphun accompanied by a large retinue of Mon retainers. The new queen was a woman of strong character, who tenaciously defended the independence of Haripunchai against the local Lawa people, and actively promoted Buddhism in the region. She founded a dynasty which was to last until the mid-11th century, and established her capital, Lamphun, as an important cultural and religious centre which was to survive long after the demise of the Mon Kingdom of Dvaravati in the south.

Today the chief relics of Chamadevi which grace Lamphun include the revered Wat Phra That Haripunchai and Wat Chamadevi, also known locally as Wat Ku Kut. Both structures, although restored many times, show clear evidence of Mon-Dvaravati style, and must rank amongst the most important architectural sites in Thailand. Yet beyond these cultural treasures, what is known of Chamadevi herself? Sadly, little definite in the sense of verifiable historical fact survives—but at least a wealth of fascinating Lan Na folklore remains, providing the visitor with a whole new perception of Queen Chamadevi, who was indeed a most unusual woman.

According to the myths and legends surrounding Haripunchai collected and set down by the Lan Na scholar Ajaan Kraisri Nimmanhaeminda, Chamadevi was a strikingly beautiful woman who nevertheless had a serious personal problem. In her childhood she had stepped across a burning lamp placed in front of a revered Buddha image at Lopburi. As punishment for this sacrilege, fate cursed her with a body odour problem. To be specific, though gorgeous to look at, Chamadevi's distinctive odour could be detected over a distance "measured by three elephant trumpets plus seven beatings of a gong". Professor Kraisri is very specific about this, calculating that an elephant can be heard over a distance of three miles, whilst the sound of a gong "of medium size" travels for about one mile. Hence, Chamadevi's peculiar smell could be detected from a distance of sixteen miles!

Chamadevi's journey upstream from Lopburi via the Chaophraya and Ping rivers took about three months. Unfortunately, the waters of the Phra Bhumibol Dam above Sam Ngao have now submerged most of the sites associated with her journey in legend. At one place on the Ping, later known as Ab Nang (Lady's Bathing Place), she stopped for a day to bathe in a waterfall. As the legend has it, the odour of the queen polluted the waters and attracted a number of vultures that mistakenly thought an elephant had died in the vicinity. These vultures perched on a high rock overlooking the fall, and were later turned into stone, becoming a permanent feature of the Ab Nang skyline.

Tradition notwithstanding, Chamadevi's personal odour cannot, surely, have been as bad as is recounted. After all, she had become pregnant before leaving Lopburi—her husband had apparently subsequently entered the monkhood—and no sooner had she arrived in Lamphun than the local Lawa chieftain, King Luang Viranga, fell in love with her. We are told that Viranga lived on the slopes of nearby Doi Kham, a small hill west of the present-day Chiang Mai International Airport. Viranga, attracted by the queen's beauty, sent emissaries to Lamphun requesting her hand in marriage.

At this time, again according to legend, the Lawa were a fierce nation of head-hunters. Moreover, they were dark-skinned non-Buddhists. Chamadevi, the beautiful, pale-skinned representative of Mon civilisation and Buddhism, could not tolerate the thought of marriage to the Lawa chieftain. Fortunately, at this stage she was still pregnant, so she sent a message to Viranga explaining that she would accept his suit only after her child had been born and weaned.

In the event, Chamadevi gave birth to twin sons, both "healthy and handsome". She named them Anantayot and Mahantayot. In course of time they reached eight years of age, but still the wily queen declined to wean them. Eventually Viranga lost patience, and calling together his Lawa subjects he stormed Lamphun, determined to possess the object of his desire.

The Lawa forces, who were stronger than those of the Mon, managed to cross the defensive moats and climb the high walls of the city. Once within the inner fastness, they wasted no time opening the main gate for King Viranga to make his triumphant entry, mounted on a war elephant.

At this point Chamadevi's twin sons appeared, riding an extraordinary elephant with blackish-purple skin and green tusks which rejoiced—not surprisingly—in the name of "Blackish-Purple". At the command of the twins, this prodigious beast forced back Viranga's elephant, causing the terrified animal to bolt through the northern gate. During this debacle, Viranga was caught between his elephant and the city wall, as a result of which his leg was broken. From that time forth, Lamphun's northern gate was renamed Pratu Chang Si, or "Elephant Crush Gate".

Unfortunately for Chamadevi, "Blackish-Purple" soon died, and when news of this reached Viranga, he determined to renew his assault on Lamphun. In a further attempt to fend off the Lawa chieftain, the queen requested a truce at which she promised to marry Viranga if he could throw a javelin from the top of Doi Pui to any place within the walls of Lamphun—a distance of about 30 kilometres. Viranga, "whose lust for the queen's beauty had grown stronger", readily agreed, and summoning all his supernatural powers climbed to the summit of Doi Pui to try his skills.

By the agreement worked out at the truce, Viranga was allowed three attempts to throw his javelin to Lamphun. On the first attempt the Lawa chieftain hurled his javelin at the heart of the city, but it fell just short of the walls, creating a huge crater which filled with water and is today known today as Nong Sanao, or "Javelin Swamp".

This amazing feat so terrified Chamadevi that she determined to sap Viranga's strength through trickery before he could make any more attempts. Accordingly, whilst the Lawa chieftain was resting on Doi Pui in preparation for his second throw, Chamadevi sent him a gift of a hat she had made with her own hands. Of course, this was no ordinary hat. It was made from the cloth of the queen's petticoat, embroidered with gold and silver, and dyed a delicate shade of red.

In the words of Ajaan Kraisri: "as is well known throughout Southeast Asia, the dignity and spiritual power of a man is particularly concentrated in his head. A dishonour to his head will cause him to lose his spiritual strength. And the most potent threat to masculine power is the petticoat or other undergarments of a woman, particularly a menstruating woman."

No sooner did Viranga see the hat than he rushed forward and proudly put it on his head. Immediately his supernatural powers began to melt away. His second javelin failed to get anywhere near Lamphun, landing a mere five kilometres away at the foot of Doi Suthep, where its impact created another "Javelin Swamp" near the settlement of Ban Tindoi. In despair, the ailing chieftain threw his third javelin high in the air, tore open his clothes to expose his chest, and allowed the falling weapon to pierce his chest.

Defeated by Chamadevi's wiles, Viranga was laid to rest on the summit of a nearby peak with his face towards Lamphun, so that even in death he would gaze towards his beloved. With him died the spirit of Lawa independence. Never again would his people attempt to subdue or expel the Mon—or, later, the Thai. Instead they came gradually to embrace Buddhism and to acknowledge the authority of Lamphun, becoming loyal subjects of Haripunchai. And this is what the legend of Queen Chamadevi is really about—the triumph of guile over strength, of city over the forest, of settled rice-growing peoples over the hunter-gatherers of the wild.


The Story of King Mangrai

The founder of the Lan Na Kingdom of Chiang Mai, Phya Mangrai, was born on October 23, 1239, by the banks of the Mekong River at Chiang Saen. Mangrai was of noble blood. His father was the ruler of the principality, and his mother was the daughter of the ruler of the neighbouring principality of Chiang Hung in Sipsongpanna—today known as Jinghong, capital of the Tai autonomous region of Xishuangbanna in China's Yunnan province.

In 1259, when he was 20 years old, Mangrai succeeded to his father's throne at Chiang Saen. According to legend, Mangrai is said to have looked about him and to have observed that all the Thai principalities of the region were disunited and fighting amongst themselves. He noted that the people were suffering, and that he alone of all the local rulers was the scion of a legitimate royal house, graced with the full Indic rites of coronation and in possession of authentic regalia. Accordingly, he determined to establish his authority over the region, and in quick succession conquered his immediate neighbours at Muang Lai, Chiang Kham and Chiang Khong.

After three years of his reign Mangrai began to extend his power to the south and west, first by founding a new city at Chiang Rai in 1262, and then by taking control of the region around Fang. By 1274 he was firmly established as the lord of all the territory covered by modern Chiang Rai province, and was casting his eyes further afield, at the neighbouring kingdom of Phayao and, still further, at the venerable Mon kingdom of Haripunchai, with its capital at Lamphun.

Mangrai decided to move first against Phayao, where a contemporary of his, Phya Ngam Muang, was king. According to tradition, Ngam Muang was an educated and personable young nobleman who had studied at the court of Lopburi. During this period he had made the acquaintance of another north-central Thai prince, who was later to become King Ramkhamhaeng of Sukhothai—and herein lies the origin of a future triple alliance on which the prosperity of Lan Na would depend.

Ngam Muang had succeeded his father as ruler of Phayao in 1258, and was still on the throne when Mangrai brought up an army to invest the city in 1276. In the usual fashion, Ngam Muang came out to meet Mangrai, but instead of fighting the two rulers concluded a treaty of friendship by which Chiang Rai and Phayao became allies—though in fact the more forceful Mangrai was clearly the senior partner.

The next chapter in the unfolding drama of Mangrai's rise to supreme power in north Thailand was of a rather more personal nature. A serious conflict arose between Ngam Muang of Phayao and Ramkhamhaeng of Sukhothai when the latter seduced the former's wife. Strictly speaking, Ngam Muang would have been within his rights had he called for the execution of Ramkhamhaeng, but the astute and worldly-wise Mangrai saw other opportunities. He interceded to prevent bloodshed and the possible alienation of Ramkhamhaeng's powerful relatives ruling at Lopburi and Nakhon Sri Thammarat. As a result of his intercession, Ramkhamhaeng agreed to pay Ngam Muang an indemnity of 990,000 cowry shells by way of reparation.

The three rulers met to seal this agreement and at the meeting—thought to have taken place in 1287—swore a pact of eternal friendship. Modern scholarship interprets this triple alliance as a logical development founded on common descent and common Thai identity in an uncertain world. More specifically, it may be seen as an alliance against the burgeoning power of the Mongols to the north, who had already made forays into nearby Burma and Vietnam.

Meanwhile, relying on intrigue as much as on military power, Mangrai had successfully conquered the Mon Kingdom of Haripunchai in 1281, thereby making himself undisputed master of all north Thailand. He spent many of the following years travelling around the north, establishing new cities, raising fortifications and endowing monasteries. Mangrai was conciliatory as a victor, and particularly respectful of Mon cultural and religious traditions. In pursuing these far-sighted policies Mangrai was, in fact, laying the ground for the development of a new social, cultural and political identity for the north, which would gradually emerge as that of the Khon Muang, or “People of the Principalities”.

After the conquest of Haripunchai Mangrai decided to establish a new capital city from which to administer his realm, the "Kingdom of One Million Rice Fields"—a vast area stretching from the Shan States in Burma to Laos, and from the fringes of Sipsongpanna to the northern frontiers of his friend and ally, Ramkhamhaeng of Sukhothai. Initially Mangrai's choice fell on the east bank of the Ping River, about fifteen kilometres north of Lamphun, where he established a new fortified capital at Wiang Kum Kam. Here he dwelt for a few years, embellishing the city with Buddhist temples. Some of these were clearly inspired by Mangrai's admiration for Mon religious architecture at nearby Haripunchai—most notably the stepped stupa of Wat Si Liem, which is closely modelled after Lamphun's Wat Ku Kut, also known as Wat Chamadevi.


Unfortunately, however, Wiang Kum Kam proved to be unsuitable. The new city suffered from flooding, and the king determined to move once again. Finally, on March 27, 1292—after careful consultation with astrologers and religious functionaries, as well as consideration of defensive capabilities—Mangrai selected the site for his new capital, to be known as Chiang Mai or "new city". According to tradition, the actual site chosen lay close to Sri Phum corner, at the northeast corner of the present city fortifications. Before construction of the new city commenced—on April 18, 1296—Mangrai consulted at length with his brother rulers, Ngam Muang and Ramkhamhaeng, concerning the structure of the city, its defenses and layout. Mangrai's grandly conceived new city, built on epic lines, was to prove a great success. Within a few years it had emerged as the main cultural and religious capital of the Khon Muang, as well as the economic focal point of the north.

Phya Mangrai settled down to spend the remainder of his days at his palace within the walls of Chiang Mai—the buildings are, unfortunately, long since gone, but they are said to have been located on a site now occupied by Yupparat School near the centre of the old city. As befits a ruler who had unified the warring principalities of the north, promoted friendship and understanding between the various peoples and cultures of his extensive realm, dignified the Buddhist religion, and entered into a close alliance with the neighbouring rulers of Phayao and Sukhothai, Mangrai met no ordinary end. According to the Thai chronicles, King Mangrai the Great was struck by a bolt of lightning in the year 1317. By this time he had founded not just a kingdom, but a dynasty which would rule northern Thailand for the next two centuries.

What traces remain of Mangrai today, beyond reverence and respect in the hearts of the people of the north? Fortunately, there are quite a few. In Chiang Rai, the first city founded by Mangrai, a statue of the venerated monarch stands close by a reconstructed section of the city walls. Similarly, in the centre of old Chiang Mai—right in front of the former city hall—stands the Three Kings Monument, showing Phya Mangrai in consultation with his close friends Phra Ramkhamhaeng and Phya Ngam Muang. Both monuments are always festooned with bouquets of flowers, wooden elephants, burning candles and smoking incense—for Mangrai remains very much alive in the hearts of the Khon Muang.

The place where Mangrai is said to have been struck by lightning is also marked. Today it is the site of the lak muang, or city pillar, of Chiang Mai, located within the precincts of Wat Chedi Luang. Because the Lak Muang is often closed up, and therefore difficult to honour, in 1975 a special pillar was erected to the memory of this unique king on Ratchadamnoen Avenue—and again, it is always covered in flowers and offerings.

Beyond these memorials, other more mysterious manifestations of Mangrai continue to exist. At Wat Mangrai, not far from Chiang Mai Gate, the main Buddha image reputedly has the visage of Mangrai himself. Still more intriguingly, at Wiang Kum Kam, in the grounds of Wat Chang Kham, there is a beautifully maintained and deeply venerated spirit house, which is said to this day to contain the spirit of this great king.


Burmese Influences on Chiang Mai

Today the ancient northern Thai Kingdom of Lan Na, together with its capital, the city of Chiang Mai, is very much an integral part of the Thai polity. It was not always thus, however. Union with Siam took place within the last two centuries, and Bangkok's absolute control was not fully established until the beginning of the 20th century. Five hundred years ago, in the time of Chiang Mai's King Tilokaraja, Lan Na was independent and enjoying a golden age. To the east lay the Kingdom of Lan Xang, centred on modern Laos. To the south Ayutthaya flourished as the capital of Siam, whilst to the west the Kingdoms of Pegu and Ava were centres of Burma's burgeoning influence and strength.

After his founding of the Lan Na Kingdom in the mid-13th century, King Mangrai established friendly relations with Burma when he travelled to the court of King Suttasoma of Pegu. King Suttasoma cemented this friendship by giving Mangrai his daughter, the Lady Phai Kho, in marriage. According to the Chiang Mai Chronicle "the two rulers met at the Asa (Sittang?) River, and feasted their retainers with food and drink, and staged great entertainments for three days and three nights. They pledged their undying friendship in every way". According to the same source, the King of Pagan in Upper Burma was also on good terms with Mangrai, and sent five hundred families of artisans, including silver, gold, bronze and iron workers, as a gift to the Lan Na court.

For the next two and a half centuries Lan Na flourished as an independent state, trading and exchanging goods and ideas with neighbouring countries. Links were established with distant Sri Lanka via the Burmese port of Martaban, and Theravadin monks travelled between the great Sri Lankan Buddhist centre of Anuradhapura and Chiang Mai. As a result of these links, in 1477 King Tilokaraja sponsored the 8th Buddhist Council at Wat Jet Yot—then somewhat outside Chiang Mai, today well within the city confines beside the new superhighway. Delegates travelled to the council from Ava, Pegu, Sri Lanka and all over the Buddhist world. Lan Na was in its prime, a respected regional power able to treat on equal terms with both Burma and Siam.

Of course, there were wars too. The kings of Chiang Mai were under constant pressure from the Siamese to the south, and during the century of decline which followed the death of Tilokaraja in 1487 suffered attacks not just from Ayutthaya, but also from various Tai states and even Vietnam. For strategic reasons, the armies of Pegu did not take part in these generalised attacks until King Bayinnaung succeeded in subduing Upper Burma and the Shan region in the late 1550s. From this time on, however, Bayinnaung became the main player in the region, and by 1558 the whole of Lan Na was in his hands.

For the next two centuries Chiang Mai was a tributary of Burma. Unlike the Siamese of central Thailand, the people of Lan Na do not retain bitter memories of the Burmese conquest. Judging by the histories, when a suzerain was just and his rule generous, the Khon Muang would support him even against the Siamese. In the beginning, this was indeed the case. As the Chiang Mai Chronicle reports, "The Burmese did no ill or oppression of any sort". Later, however, as conditions deteriorated, resistance began to develop—though to little or no avail. Only after the armies of Burma had devastated Ayutthaya in 1767 did Chao Kavila, the ruler of Lampang, decide to throw in his lot with the Siamese. As a result, on the 14th February, 1775, a joint Lan Na-Siamese army seized Chiang Mai. From then on began the process of integrating the Lan Na Kingdom with Siam.

Visitors to Chiang Mai today do not have to look far for reminders of the city's long links with neighbouring Burma. Unfortunately, little remains from the two hundred year period of direct Burmese rule. This is hardly surprising—when Chao Kavila entered the city in 1775 he found it depopulated and impoverished as a result of the long years of war. Not until March, 1797, did Kavila re-enter the city and set about rebuilding it. The red brick bastions and moats which ring the Old City date from this time, as do the city's outer earthen ramparts. To this extent they are a link with Burma, but only in so far as they managed to keep the armies of Ava at bay!

Happily, even in times of war the armies of Southeast Asia's great Buddhist nations generally consider religious buildings sacrosanct. Because of this, at least one legacy of the original Burmese conquest survives. In 1565, just seven years after Bayinnaung's conquest, the Burmese military commander in Lan Na had a huge bronze Buddha image cast, in cooperation with Queen Wisutthithewi of Chiang Mai. It was named Buddha Muang Rai, possibly to honour King Mangrai, the city's founder. The image has survived the intervening centuries, and today can be seen at Wat Chai Phra Kiat, on the north side of the Old City's central Ratchadamnoen Avenue, not far from Wat Phra Singh. It is in Lan Na style, and so was doubtless cast by local artisans.

Wat Ku Tao, to the north of the Old City by the old sports stadium, is another survivor from the days of Burmese suzerainty. Here, beneath an unusual stupa formed like five inverted alms bowls, are said to lie the ashes of Burma’s Prince Tharawadi Min, the son of King Bayinnaung, who ruled over Chiang Mai between 1578 and 1607. The stupa is remarkable for its unique design, which is also considered to show Yunnanese influence. Another stupa from this period is Chedi Khao, or "White Chedi". Standing by the banks of the River Ping near the gates of the United States Consulate-General, it now serves as the centre of a roundabout at the junction of busy Wichayanon and Wang Sing Kham Roads. According to legend, the chedi commemorates a trial of will between a Burmese soldier and his Lan Na counterpart. Once, when Burmese armies stood at the gates of the city, it was decided to settle the issue by "single combat". Whichever army's champion could stay under water longest would decide the victory. Both sides chose their best swimmers, but once beneath the waters of the River Ping the Lan Na volunteer tied his clothing to a rock. He thus won the contest at the cost of his life, and Chedi Khao was built in his honour.

Another fascinating but little-known reminder of Burma's long connection with Chiang Mai may be found at Khuang Singh, or "Place of Lions". This was erected by Chao Kavila at the end of the 18th century as a symbol of power designed to overawe the armies of Burma. To see the lions, go north along Chotana Road beyond the White Elephant Shrine to the superhighway. Continue along Chotana towards Mae Rim for a hundred metres or so, then take the first turning on the left, called—appropriately enough—Soi Anusawari Singh, or "Lion Monument Lane".

A little down the lane on the left hand side is Wat Khuang Singh—"Place of Lions Temple". To the right, just before an extensive Chinese cemetery, is a small artificial island that may be reached by a low footbridge. Here, on a raised platform surrounded by trees, stand two brick-and-stucco lions in separate masonry dens, one facing approximately due north, the other due east. In the centre of the dais is a well, and to the northwest corner of the island, facing the slopes of Doi Suthep, stands a row of spirit houses. The atmosphere is strangely tranquil, and generally the island will be deserted except for, perhaps, a sleeping pedicab driver.

The recapture of Chiang Mai by Kavila in 1775 may have ended Burma's control over Lan Na, but it certainly did not end the relationship between the two neighbours. From the early 1850s people from what is now Burma settled in Chiang Mai and other cities of north Thailand to take part in the region's expanding teak logging industry. Many became rich as a result, and invested some of their savings in acts of merit-making. The most vivid surviving reminders of Burmese influence in Chiang Mai date from this period.

In the southeast corner of the Old City stands Wat Myanmar, a fine example of a 19th century Burmese temple that would not look out of place in Mandalay. This temple is mainly associated with the lowland Burman tradition in the city, and pictures of Shwedagon and Sule Pagoda adorn the walls. Further to the east, on the north side of Chang Moi Road in the commercial heart of Kavila's "new" city, may be found Wat Dok Kham, also closely linked to Burma, but in this case with the Pa-o people from Shan State. Once again the buildings are markedly non-Lan Na in style, and more evocative of Taunggyi than of Chiang Mai. Finally, just to the northeast of the Old City, in an area of Shan settlement near Sanam Gila Road, Wat Pa Pao remains the spiritual heart of the Shan community in Chiang Mai. A venerable building with time-warped walls and leaning gateways, this is the oldest of the city's temples linked with Burma. Nearby, at Wat Chiang Yeun, an octagonal Shan pagoda shelters a Mandalay-style Buddha. In the tea shops and restaurants of this area one can enjoy Shan noodles and even lapet pickled tea. Afterwards, should it appeal, the visitor can try a Burmese cheroot from the plentiful supplies available at Chiang Mai's Warorot Market. Here too one may find a wide selection of lungyi—sarongs—from Mandalay, Lashio and even Mytkyina. After all, Burma isn't very far away.


The Twenty Second Nat

One of the most interesting, and least known, associations between Burma and its former tributary of Chiang Mai, is the existence of a Lan Na phi, or ghostly spirit of a departed hero, in the pantheon of nat which play so great a part in the religious and spiritual traditions of the Burmese nation. In fact there are thirty-seven nat, all the spirits of departed heroes, except in the case of the chief of the order, Thagya Nat, who originates from Indian Brahmanic tradition. According to Sir Richard Carnac Temple, who wrote the definitive English language study on The Thirty-Seven Nats in 1906, all Burmese nat—with two exceptions, including Thagya Nat—are the spirits either of former royalty, or of persons connected with royalty. Most lived between the 13th and 17th centuries, and nowadays each is associated with a special cult, that is a specific ceremony or festival, together with an appropriate place and time for performing it.

Sir Richard Temple describes in considerable detail the full order of thirty-seven nat, of which one in particular stands out where Chiang Mai—known in the Burmese annals as Zimme—is concerned. This is the twenty-second nat, or Yun Bayin Nat, a member of Temple’s 5th Group of nat, belonging to the Bayin Naung Cycle. These are defined as a group of four nat ‘whose direct reference is not clear, but are… of a very late date and are connected with the great conqueror Bayin Naung of Pegu and his dynasty in the 17th century’. Of these four nat, Yun Bayin Nat is the only non-Burmese spirit hero associated with the Burmese nat cult, and as such occupies a very special place in the pantheon, emphasising Chiang Mai’s once central association with the courts of Ava and Pegu.

In fact, little enough is known of Yun Bayin Nat. According to Temple, he was the “Yun Shan”—that is, effectively, Khon Muang—ruler of Chiang Mai, who was taken prisoner by King Syinbyumyashin of Hanthawadi (Pegu), the “Lord of Many White Elephants”, and taken to Yangon. He is known as Yun Bayin, or “King of the Yun”, with reference to the old name for the Khon Muang, or Tai Yuan. He is reported to have died of dysentery in 920 BE, or 1558 AD, and thereafter to have become a nat. Yun Bayin Nat, who is still widely revered throughout Burma, is generally represented as seated on a lotus throne, in high court dress, holding a sheathed sword.

There is no direct reference to the Yun Bayin Nat, or indeed to a ruler of Lan Na dying in captivity in Pegu, in the Chiang Mai Chronicle. The Chronicle does, however, record an invasion of Lan Na and the seizure of Chiang Mai by the king of Pegu in 1558. The Chiang Mai ruler at that time was King Mae Ku, who ruled from 1551 to 1564, and who was obliged to pay at least nominal homage to Pegu. Perhaps the Yun Bayin Nat was, in fact, the prince of Muang Nai, a subject of King Mae Ku. Certainly the Chronicle has the King of Pegu informing his vassal, Mae Ku, that ‘The Prince of Muang Nai has come to present himself and children and his country completely to us as our vassals’. Be this as it may, the Yun Bayin Nat remains a fascinating if little-known reminder of the formerly close links between Chiang Mai and old Burmese kingdoms.


Bastions of Chiang Mai

The sleepy moats, timeworn bastions and carefully restored gates which encompass old Chiang Mai are, without doubt, the dominant features of this ancient city. Evocative of a troubled past, symbolic of cultural continuity and northern Thai pride, the inner city fortifications have come to epitomise Chiang Mai for Thai and foreign visitors alike.

Since its establishment by King Mangrai, Chiang Mai has endured a long history of investment, conquest and counter-conquest at the hands of its neighbours. Formerly renowned as the capital of the Lan Na Kingdom, Chiang Mai since the late 19th century has been the unofficial capital of the north and Thailand's second city.

As early as 1296, in recognition of the city's strategic significance, King Mangrai laid the foundations of the first city wall—according to legend at today's northeastern bastion, close to Wat Sri Phum. Tradition further recounts that Chiang Mai's illustrious founder went on to complete the fortification of the northern capital. By the time of his death, he had established Chiang Mai as the major city of Lan Na, a rich trading centre where merchants and farmers alike could take shelter behind a series of battlements and narrow gates which were kept securely closed from sunset to sunrise.

It seems probable that, over the centuries, the centre of gravity of Chiang Mai has shifted eastwards, following the changing course of the Ping River. Certainly by the beginning of the last century the main marketing and business centres lay outside the Old City walls, in the area between Thapae Gate and the river's west bank, whilst the fortified Old City was already more administrative than commercial in character.

Nowadays this arrangement remains very much in evidence, with the main shopping areas, major hotels and renowned Night Bazaar all clustered to the east of the Old City along Thapae and Changklan Roads. If you are seeking a bargain, be it a fake antique Sawankhalok bowl, an embroidered hill tribe jacket or a bolt of pure Thai silk, this is the place to be. But when you've had enough of the hurly-burly of commerce, when the mind turns to history, culture and relative tranquillity, then head for the Old City battlements—due west to Thapae Gate.

Today the walls and moats of Chiang Mai, albeit much changed since the time of King Mangrai, still serve to demarcate the boundaries of the Old City—a square area measuring approximately 1.5 kilometres on each of its four sides. Although the greater part of the ramparts were demolished during the Second World War, and the rubble used for road building, the four corner bastions still stand firm, dating in their present form from the restorations carried out by Chao Kavila at the end of the 18th century.

By their very nature, bastions—in marked contrast to gates—are quiet places where little happens (except, one may reasonably suppose, in times of battle). Such is certainly the case in Chiang Mai, though each bastion, known in Northern Thai as jaeng, or "corner", has its own particular character. One rewarding way of visiting them all is circumambulating the city walls, though this is really only for the dedicated walker. The overall distance is just over six kilometres, and though much of the way is shaded by moatside trees, except in the cool season it is probably better to go by bicycle, samlor or tuk-tuk.

Starting from Thapae Gate and turning southwards (clockwise), the first bastion reached is Katam, or "Fish Trap" Corner, where local people used to catch fish in a large pond which has long since disappeared. Today Katam Corner is a quiet place, little favoured by the local fishermen who seem to prefer the western and northern moats, though the bastion itself looks spectacular enough when Chiang Mai municipality turns on the fountains and—on special nights—the illuminating lights.

Proceeding due west, past Chiang Mai and Suan Prung gates, the next bastion reached, at the Old City's southwest corner, is Jaeng Ku Ruang. The origins of this name are obscure, though Chiang Mai city council has erected a sign that helpfully explains that "the name means a stupa-like structure containing the ashes of a person called Ruang". It is further postulated that this "may derive from the period 1321-25, when Prince Khrua, son of King Mangrai, was held prisoner at this point under the guard of a person called Ruang". Be this as it may, the southwestern bastion is today in excellent condition, with well-preserved battlements offering clear views of Doi Suthep. The surrounding area, too, is pleasant, with children often to be seen swimming in the moats, a local park, and, at certain times of the year, a series of garden centres offering potted plants and ferns for sale.

A further 1.5 kilometres due north, passing Suan Dok gate en route, brings the traveller to Jaeng Hua Rin, the city's northwestern corner. This bastion, which faces Huai Kaeo Road and once again offers fine views of Doi Suthep, is also well preserved. The battlements on top are high enough to protect a small, circular redoubt, and the whole area is made more attractive by stands of red irises and tall palm trees lining the moat banks. It is here that fresh water enters the moat—formerly at this point the waters of Huai Kaeo, the "Crystal Brook", were channelled along an aqueduct over the moat to supply the Old City—and from this derives the name Hua Rin, or "Head of the Waterway".

The fourth and last of the Old City bastions, Jaeng Sri Phum or "Light of the Land" corner, is situated at the Old City's northeastern extremity, about 750 metres due north of Thapae Gate. As we have seen, according to legend this bastion marks the first point in the original city walls founded by King Mangrai more than 700 years ago. Formerly, not far from here, stood a giant Banyan tree, held to be highly auspicious and regarded as a source of Chiang Mai's power, prosperity and security. Today, sadly, the Banyan tree is no more—though the shrine of San Lak Muang Jaeng Sri Phum stands close by the bastion, and regularly receives offerings and reverence from the townspeople.

Of the four bastions, Jaeng Sri Phum is in some ways the most attractive. This does not reflect on its state of preservation—indeed, it is clearly the most timeworn of the Old City corners. Yet it is from this obvious age that Sri Phum derives its special charm and venerability. The ancient bastion is not so much broken down as melted down. Subsidence beneath the surrounding moat has caused the heavy fortifications to settle unevenly over the centuries, so that the rose-coloured brickwork appears warped and strangely surreal—an attractive effect made still more pleasing when observed reflected in the placid waters of the surrounding moat.

In marked contrast to the sleepy corner bastions, Chiang Mai Old City's five gates—known in Thai as pratu—tend to be noisy places, teeming with life and vibrating to the throb of a continuous stream of traffic. To be sure, they were not always like this. Photographs and descriptions which have come down to us from times past show that the traditional gateways were narrow structures, easily closed at night, designed for merchants and travellers on foot, elephants from the surrounding hills, and mule trains from nearby Yunnan rather than for tour buses, pick-ups and tuk-tuks. In a further contrast to the corner bastions, which date in their present form from the late 18th century, Chiang Mai's gateways are uniformly modern structures, recreated from old photographs and oral history by the Chiang Mai authorities, in conjunction with the Department of Fine Arts, Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai Teachers College and "a group of dedicated private citizens" between 1966 and 1969.

The most authentic of these reconstructions is probably Pratu Thapae, the city's eastern entranceway. This gate was for many centuries known as Pratu Chiang Ruak after a neighbouring village located beyond the city walls. The name Pratu Thapae was first applied to a gate in the outer earthen ramparts built by Prince Kavila in about 1800 and situated near Wat Saen Fang—the name Thapae, or "raft landing" derives from its location close by the River Ping. At some stage during the 19th century Pratu Chiang Ruak became known colloquially as Pratu Thapae Nai, or "Inner Thapae Gate", in contradistinction to Kavila's gate, which was finally demolished in the late 19th century.

Nowadays Pratu Thapae is distinguished by being the only gateway to Chiang Mai Old City, which is not designed for a flow of vehicles. About 5 metres across (or, reportedly, the width of an elephant with one person on either side), and protected by heavy, steel-bound wooden doors, the reconstructed gate, which closely parallels a photograph taken in 1899, sits on a flagstoned square, surrounded by traffic, dominating an area which has become the focal point for Chiang Mai political rallies, festivals and celebrations of all kinds. A popular meeting place for locals and visitors alike, on ordinary evenings crowds of young men gather there to play takraw, or simply to chat with each other and the local girls in kham muang—the lilting northern dialect of Chiang Mai.

Proceeding, once again, clockwise around the Old City, the next gate encountered is Pratu Chiang Mai. Built by Mangrai in 1296, restored by Kavila in about 1800, and rebuilt entirely in 1966-69, this gateway used to lead to the old Hot Road. In its present incarnation Pratu Chiang Mai has been widened to allow a heavy flow of traffic, and an extensive market—Gat Pratu Chiang Mai—has grown up in the vicinity, selling a wide variety of fresh and cooked food, general household items and hardware. On a still day the fragrance of joss sticks burning at the shrine of San Chao Pu Pratu Chiang Mai, the guardian spirit of the gateway, is readily discernible in the air.

Pratu Suan Prung, located in the Old City's southwestern quarter, is something of a curiosity. Unlike the other four gates—all of which were founded by King Mangrai in and around 1296—the first known reference to Pratu Suan Prung dates from 1545, almost 250 years later. Perhaps this additional gate was built at a later time because Pratu Chiang Mai, the original southern gateway to the city, was located too far to the east for convenience, though this remains purely speculative. It is known, however, that for centuries Pratu Suan Prung has been used by the citizens of Chiang Mai to take their dead out of the city for cremation. Today Suan Prung is perhaps the quietest and most attractive of Old Chiang Mai's gates. Formerly surrounded by towering trees which were recently cut down to widen the rather narrow road, the gateway boasts a "cemetery" for old spirit houses and a relatively low flow of traffic.

Continuing west and then north beyond Ku Ruang corner, the ancient walls extend for some distance towards Chiang Mai's western entrance, Pratu Suan Dok or "Flower Garden Gate". In former times outside this gateway lay the gardens of King Ku Nu who, in 1371, founded Wat Suan Dok, or "Flower Garden Temple". This was once a fortified wiang, or monastery, built on the site of a royal garden and surrounded by its own moats. Today the wat, situated on Suthep Road about one kilometre west of Pratu Suan Dok, is frankly of more interest to the visitor than the gateway itself. During the daytime Pratu Suan Dok suffers from the curse of Chiang Mai's moatside traffic—especially during the afternoon rush hour when the local schools empty—but it can be a fine place to watch the sunset over Doi Suthep in the early evening.

Finally, set square in the centre of the Old City's northern wall, is the venerable Pratu Chang Puak—not that the gateway itself is especially remarkable today. Originally established by King Mangrai in 1296, this gate was once known as Pratu Hua Wiang, or "Head of the City Gate", for it was by this way that rulers of the Kingdom of Lan Na once entered the capital en route to their coronation. During the reign of King Saen Muang Ma (1385-1401), however, the neighbouring Chang Phuak (Albino, or "White" Elephant) monument was erected, and the name of the northern gate was subsequently changed to Pratu Chang Phuak.

Nowadays Pratu Chang Phuak must rate as perhaps the least attractive of the ancient entrances to Chiang Mai Old City. Reconstructed in 1966-69, it is far wider than it appears in old photographs. It has little of the studied authenticity of Thapae, and none of the charm of Pratu Suan Prung—though it does share some similarities with Chiang Mai Gate in having an extensive (and excellent) food market and many hardware and electrical stores catering to local customers.

Just beyond Chang Phuak Gate, however—northwards past the unexpected white walls and green dome of the Nur al-Din mosque, founded by Chiang Mai's Bengali community earlier this century—is the charming Chang Phuak monument itself. Here two albino elephants—greatly revered and customarily considered royal property in traditional Thai society—stand formed in brick and stucco, one looking north and the other westwards. Each has its own stone "stable", and both are at all times bedecked with offerings from reverent local people. Sweet-smelling Jasmine and Frangipani blossoms hang from their tusks, candles burn before their stylised front feet, and incense wafts on the wind.


Chiang Mai’s "Earthen Ramparts"

Any visitor to Chiang Mai is soon aware of the broad moats and city walls, which surround the Old City. These brick ramparts add considerably to the northern capital's atmosphere, and are as synonymous with the place as Wat Phra Singhthe city’s most important templeand Doi Suthep, the mountain that dominates the western skyline. By contrast few people, whether visitors or residents, are conscious of Chiang Mai's outer city wall which snakes, largely unseen, hidden by houses and dense vegetation, through the city's southern and eastern suburbs.

After Chiang Mai was captured by the Burmese in 1558, it remained under their domination for over two hundred years, until finally, in 1776, it was retaken by King Taksin of Siam. By this time the north was a shadow of its former self during the golden years of King Mangrai, and Chiang Mai—exhausted and depopulated by decades of almost continuous warfare—was abandoned for 20 years. Only in 1787, in the 6th year of the reign of King Rama I, was a decision taken to resettle and revive the city as a bastion of Siamese power in the north. The task of re-establishment fell to Chao Kavila, ruler of Lampang, who in 1796 was established as viceroy of the north in Chiang Mai and immediately began the task of resettling and defending the city.

Over the next four years, on Kavila's orders, Chiang Mai's city fortifications were restored and strengthened as a bulwark against the frequent attacks of the Burmese. By 1800 the main walls and gates enclosing the Old City had been rebuilt, and Kavila was able to turn his attention to the rapidly expanding southern and eastern suburbs, located between the Old City and the River Ping—an area which today includes Thapae, Changmoi and Changklan Roads, and which constitutes Chiang Mai's busy financial and commercial centre.

For the defense of this region a high earthen rampart, faced with brick and reinforced in places with brick bastions, was built southwards from Jaeng Ku Ruang, the Old City's southwestern corner. Curving first to the east and then northwards, these new ramparts encompassed a broad sweep of land between the present Tippanet and Thapae Road areas, before finally swinging northwest to rejoin the Old City wall at Sri Phum in the northeast. On the outer side of this new wall, as an additional defence, local streams were redirected to form a moat—in the west, flowing southwards from the Old City moat, the waters of the Huai Kaeo, or Emerald Stream, and in the east the waters of the Klong Mae Kha. The new outer defences were finished around 1800, and seem to have played an important role in defending the city against Burmese attack in 1802. In any case, following Kavila's restorations, the Burmese were never again to succeed in taking Chiang Mai.

During the course of the 19th century the southeastern suburbs enclosed by Kavila's wall continued to flourish, eventually surpassing the walled section of the Old City in terms of commercial importance. As a consequence, when the Western traveller Holt S. Hallett visited Chiang Mai in 1890, the outer town where the markets were located was the busiest area. Writes Hallett:

After passing through the gates we entered the market, which extends for more than half a mile to the gates of the Inner City, and beyond them for some distance towards the palace [subsequently demolished to make way for Yupparat School and other government offices]. On either side of the main road, little covered booths or stalls are set up; but most of the women spread a mat on the ground to sit upon, and placing their baskets by their side, expose their provisions on wicker work trays or freshly cut plantain leaves. It is a very pretty sight in the early morning to watch the women and girls from the neighbouring villages streaming over the bridge, their produce dangling from each end of a pole of bamboo over their shoulders, or accurately poised on their heads...

Today Kavila's wall is very much the poor cousin of the extensively rebuilt Old City fortifications, commemorated primarily in the name Thanon Kamphaeng Din—"Road of the Earthen Ramparts"—a formerly notorious red light area, today upwardly mobile, where the old fortifications are most readily visible, and where a few fading houses of ill repute still cluster beneath the earthen walls in the disapproving shadow of the prestigious Mae Ping Hotel.

Yet for history buffs, or visitors who wish to explore another side of Chiang Mai, Kavila's wall is still there—often buried, it is true, beneath ramshackle shanty dwellings or concealed behind high temple walls and lush vegetation. Although less immediately impressive than the extensively rebuilt and essentially modern Old City walls, it is unadorned, and completely authentic.

Some of the best-preserved sections of the outer wall are to be found in its western extremities, winding through, behind, and indeed under residential sections of southern Chiang Mai. Here the accompanying stream, formed by the waters flowing out of the main city moats, runs clear and clean through a recently-created park. They flow southwards, in the shadow of the old earthen ramparts, from a small spirit house close by Suan Prung hospital towards Tippanet Market. At this point a well preserved brick tower—really Chiang Mai's fifth and least-known bastion—rises above the houses, topped with a shrine to the local spirit guardian, Chao Pu Chumchon Tippanet, the ancient brickwork seemingly bound together by the massive roots of an old tree.

Beyond this point, as the wall swings eastwards, is an area known to the local inhabitants as "Pratu Haiya", or Haiya Gate. Little remains of this once southernmost point of entry to Chiang Mai's fortified section, but the observant pedestrian or driver on Tippanet Road will notice yet another shrine where the remains of the crumbling outer wall are pierced by 20th century tarmac.

From Pratu Haiya the old wall is somewhat easier to follow, as its course is traced by narrow tracks—often suitable only for walking or cycling—leading through a maze of poorer districts lying behind Wat Nantaram. Here the accompanying moat stream takes a decided turn for the worse, as it meets the polluted waters of the Klong Mae Kha before running away southwards. From this point the wall marches northwards beside the Mae Kha until the best-known stretch, at Kamphaeng Din, is reached. Here substantial sections of the outer wall are clearly visible. Houses—some of them quite middle class—alternate with slum dwellings, though the neighbourhood becomes obviously more affluent as it approaches the Night Bazaar, and the first shops appear.

Beyond Kamphaeng Din, really nothing of the old ramparts remain, though we know that where they crossed Thapae Road—close by the old Tantrapan department store—was the site of the original Thapae Gate, and that from this point, following the outer walls of Wat Saen Fang, they curved inwards along Sitthiwong Road, past the New Asia Hotel, to meet the inner walls by Wat Chai Sri Phum.

The Chiang Mai city authorities have recently cleared and restored sections of the outer wall, making an attractive park by Suan Prung hospital in the west. Elsewhere, however, and in particular behind and beneath the clustered houses of Nantaram district, Kavila’s earthen ramparts are likely to remain little visited and less known.




 Text copyright © Andrew Forbes / CPA Media 2011.

Category:  Thailand

Go back to the list of news stories