Chiang Mai is a beautiful, ancient city in the northern part of Thailand. It's located at the base of a huge mountain, with the Doi Suthep temple glittering at the top and beautiful waterfalls flowing all the way down into the Maeping River. Because of its altitude, Chiang Mai is cooler than many parts of Thailand, making it ideal for walking tours and outdoor activities.
Chiang Mai means "new city" in Thai, but it hasn't been new for several centuries – it was founded back in 1296. The entire area is brimming with opportunities for sightseeing, shopping for local handicrafts, and learning about Thai culture. Photography aficionados will love the ancient temples – all 300 of them) many of which date back to the 12th and 13th centuries. The city was originally surrounded by a huge wall and moat for protection – several sections of this remarkable historic landmark still stand. In addition, a series of picturesque waterways still flow through the center of the old city. When you're tired and sore from walking around Chiang Mai, make sure you take time to savor the experience of a traditional Thai massage.
Chiang Mai is also famous for its elephants, including eight that were entered into the Guinness Book of World Records for painting the "Most Expensive Painting by a Group of Elephants." Their huge work of art was purchased by a Thai native living in California for THB1.5 million. An elephant masterpiece of your own would make a most unusual souvenir for yourself or loved ones, and also help support the local elephant sanctuaries.