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Chiang Mai is the largest city in northern Thailand and has appeared on many lists of the best destinations in the world. Despite its size, Chiang Mai manages to maintain a relaxing and calm atmosphere. The city keeps its history and culture at its core, which allows Chiang Mai to thrive. Lush forests and scenic waterfalls surround the city and offer visitors a chance to observe the natural beauty of Thailand. Whether it’s taking a songthaew through the city markets or hiking through the beautiful countryside, Chiang Mai offers something for everyone.

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1. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Chiang Mai’s most famous temple, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, overlooks the city from a mountain perch. The founding of the temple is unknown, though legend holds that its original purpose was to enshrine a piece of bone from Gautama Buddha’s shoulder. According to legend, a monk carried the bone before it broke into two parts. The king of the area placed one piece on a white elephant. The elephant carried the bone into the forest until it climbed the mountain and died. The king immediately ordered the construction of a temple to enshrine the bone and honor the elephant.

The monastery itself is a beautiful site containing breadfruit trees, religious shrines, monuments, and rock gardens. Within the temple is a meditation center that provides religious outreach and information for monastery visitors. It’s a common sight to see pilgrims leave lotus blossoms and offerings at the various shrines.

R.M. Nunes / Getty Images
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