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Chiang Mai Old City

    Old City Gates & Moat –
sri phum

The old city of Chiang Mai was a large square area, enclosed by a moat and walls. It was a designed as a cosmological representation, with the city pillar in the center of the "universe," the brick walls as mountains, surrounded by oceans (the moat). As the city grew, the walls were taken down and bricks used for other purposes, but the gates, corners (chaeng) and moat remain.


The four city gates and four corners are guardians of the city, and each gate has a guardian deity. (A fifth gate was later added, and is used for funeral processions.) Northern gate, White Elephant Gate (Patru Chang Phuak) was the one used by the king, and the deity guards Chiang Mai's power. The northeast corner, Light of the Land (Sri Phum) is also very auspicious, and beautifully preserved.

tha phrae gate

Tha Phae Gate (Tha Pae) This is the easiest to see, and includes the gate, plus a fully restored section of the wall with crenellations. The guardian deity of Tha Phae is Surakkhito, who protects the city's origins. This gate is where the Sunday walking market begins.


Suan Dok Suan Dok means "flower garden," and this western gate is associated learning and spirituality. The gate is one block west from Wat Phra Singh.


Chaeng Sri Phum (Sri Poon) This is our favorite old city corner, Light of the Land. You can climb on top of the brick work, look down over the moat in either direction, and see how the wall was constructed. A bodhi tree nearby was tied with colored scarves, blessed by the monks. Tip: You can walk from Tha Phae Gate up to Sri Phum, nice and cool, with fountains in the moat.


Tip: In the City Art and Cultural Centre are models of each of the city wall corners.

    Chiang Mai City Arts & Cultural Centre –
elephant diorama

The museum has exhibits relating to Chiang Mai, from prehistoric people who lived in the area, to the creation of a new capital in 1296, the golden age of Chiang Mai in the 15th century, development of Buddhist arts and learning, traditional farming and fishing, cultural life of the hill tribes.


One of the best aspects of the museum are dioramas, illustrating scenes from the history of Chiang Mai – building the first chedi, each of the four corners of the city, king's coronation procession, royalty standing before a Buddha, elephants transporting logs in teak forests, boats on the Ping River, rice farming, and scale models of city landmarks.

city market

In one gallery is a life size re-creation of the city market, with people in shops, skilled craftsmen making silver items, vendors selling their vegetables, and a home in the old city.


Upstairs, check out the exhibits of daily life of the Karen, Hmong, and other hill tribe people. Beautiful examples of embroidered hill tribe clothing, and dioramas of ceremonies and village life.


The cultural center has a nice cafe for cold drinks and snacks, and gift shop with local crafts.

three kings monument

Three Kings Monument In front of the museum is a bronze statue of three kings King Mongrai, founder of Chiang Mai, is in the center, with his buddies Ramkamhaeng from Sukothai, Ngam Muang of Payao on either side.

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