Where Art and Ancient Treasures Come Together
Amongst many cities in Southeast Asia, nothing quite spells out culture as much the 700 year-old city of Chiang Mai in Thailand. Being a famous venue of trade along the historical Silk Road, Chiang Mai’s rich heritage is much alive as it was hundreds of years ago. But how did it manage to retain much of its charm throughout the ages?
For the last 30 years or so, Chiang Mai has seen a resurgence in cultural pride, especially through the word ‘Lanna’. Lanna, directly translated as 1 million rice fields, was a cultural stamp that consisted of a diverse mix of historic, multi-ethnic basis.
Local authorities and academics have recently shifted their focus into driving this term…all in the aim of preserving the culture that makes Chiang Mai what it is today.
Lanna heritage is steeped throughout Chiang Mai, vividly presented in the local language, clothing, art, architecture, music, and food. The regional dialect is known as Kam Muang, or Northern Thai, which slightly differs from standard Central Thai. In addition, local residents still wear the traditional ‘Mo Hom’ and ‘Pah Zin’ – a traditional folk dress that’s widely worn by the population of Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai is also renowned for the amount of its infusion of art and culture, famous for producing the Baan Tawai wood carvers’ enclave and the Bor Sang umbrella.
The architecture at Chiang Mai is nothing short of spectacular. Temples are abundant in the city and can be easily recognized for its unique design in the form of their entrances and their Chedis (stupas). The epochal Wat Prathat Doi Suthep Temple has a long flight of stairs with statues depicting the deity Naga – a mythical serpent of Hindu origin.
And to get an insight into the various culinary delicacies, Chiang Mai has a lot to offer. Unique yet popular local dishes such as Khao Soi Curry is a definite must try – A mild, coconut based curry that’s served over soft egg noodles and topped with a crisp, this dish can be further perfected by optional additions of lime, onion, chilli and pickled cabbage.
Another dish that rings more true to home is the Sai Oa…a collective of all things tastefully Thai in sausages that form a long spiral. The Sai Oa fuses the sourness of lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, whilst retaining the spiciness of chillies and topped with a local gingery aftertaste from the local ginger known as Galangal.
One of the best ways to immerse yourself in the local culture is to check out the heritage shows at various places in the city center that hosts Khantoke dinners. These dinners consist of Lanna culture elements all presented in an enchanting dinner.
Northern Thai and Hilltribe folklore are showcased during the Khantoke dinners where guests are treated to a dazzling presentation of spectacular costumes and lighting while dining on delicious Lanna foods.
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