Chiang Mai is the capitol of Lanna (Thai Kingdom) and was founded by King Mengrai in 1296. He was the first independent King of Thai (northern Lanna, or Laos) recently unified, but the King quickly expanded and unified more tribes. It wasn’t until 1311 that Mengrai finally gave tribute to the Mongols to avert further threats from the north. After Mengrai’s first son attempted to seize the throne from his father, he was executed, leaving the second son as the new ruler in 1317, when the King died from being struck by lightning.
King Mengrai was the 25th in line for the ruler of Laos; he came to the throne in 1259 in Nakhon Hiran Ngoen Yang, close to the city of Chiang Saen. He was a dominant and powerful ruler who captured rich cities easily. The first capitol that he made was called Wiang Kum Kam which didn’t last because of floods. He found a better place that was closer to the Ping River and looked more promising. The new capitol Chaing Mai was built a little farther northwest and remains the capitol today.
Mengrai quickly made Chiang Mai a very grand capitol with many temples (around 300). There were plans to build five gates around the defensive walls, but there isn’t any evidence that were all built because the walls were often destroyed and had to be restored. Today there are four gates, one on each side. The main gate, called Thapae, faces the Ping River on the eastern side. Even though this was completely rebuilt, it shows how the gates looked when they were first built. There was only this one known defensive wall surrounding the moat, which although the inner wall was destroyed, some of the outer wall remains today.
After 1558 the city came under Burmese rule. The Kingdom of Siam and the people of Lanna came together to get rid of the Burmese. The city was a ruin and abandoned for years until 1776 where it became part of the kingdom of Siam.
Today, Chiang Mai (often called “the rose of the north”) is brimming with tourism and is the biggest city of the region after Bangkok. Even though much of it has been destroyed, the moat still remains and is used today. The city has been expanded beyond the wall, but there is still some of the old city still intact. People like to fish there, wash their feet, and can even run on the inside or outside which is four to four and half miles. Everyone wants to come see the great monument of Mengrai. This memorial to the great King is a place where locals all go to pay tribute before a long journey, and it is also where you can find souvenirs. You can find it in a town by the intersection that leads up to Mae Chan. You can actually visit the Kings ashes too. The White Temple plus many other holy relics can be found along with the Cultural Center and Doll Museum.