Short history lesson - In the late 13th century the Lanna Kingdom covered most of Northern Thailand as we know it today as well as neighbouring parts of Myanmar (Burma), China and Laos. Back then it was bordered by Burma (now Myanmar) to the West, China to the North, the Khmer Empire of Angkor (now Cambodia) to the East and Siam (now Thailand) in the South.
The 700 year old city of Chiang Mai was built in 1296 to be the capital city of the Lanna Kingdom (the kingdom of a million rice fields) by its ruler King Mengrai.
Earlier capitals of the Lanna Kingdom had been at Chiang Saen, Fang, Chiang Rai, Lamphun and Wiang Kum Kam. The last capital before Chiang Mai was Wiang Kum Kam which was established in 1281 and situated some 5klms south-east of present day Chiang Mai. Wiang Kum Kam was destroyed by flooding from the Ping River around 1294. It then lay hidden for nearly 700 years and was only rediscovered in 1984. Today the excavated ruins of the ancient city of Wiang Kum Kam are preserved and on show as a national treasure and are well worth a visit.
The Lanna Kingdom was ringed by high mountains, teak tree forests and well stocked rivers and its fertile valleys and plains were a rich source of agriculture. Chiang Mai was the main trading town between southern China and the sea ports of Burma. As such it was frequently attacked by its neighbours who tried to claim this prized gem as their own.
After centuries of defending itself Chiang Mai was successfully invaded and incorporated into Burma as a vassal state in 1557. Over the next 200 years Chiang Mai fell at various times under the rule of the strongest invader, be it Burma or Siam.
In 1774 the then Lanna King with assistance from Siam finally drove the Burmese out of the Lanna Kingdom. The Lanna Kingdom eventually became part of Siam in 1892. The Lanna Kingdom was gradually dissolved and condensed into a 20,000 kmē area centered around Chiang Mai. 1932 the whole Chiang Mai area officially became a province of Siam. In 1949 Siam officially became known as Thailand.
Lanna Kingdom - Chiang Mai - Short History