Chiang Mai Heritage Tour: past and present

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Tour by samlor (bicycle taxi)

Wat Loi Kroh

Lanna Ancient House

Iron Bridge

First Christian Church

San Pakoy Market

Wat Ket Karaam Museum

Chansom Memorial foot bridge

Kad Luang (Ton Lamyai and Warorot Markets)

Gymkhana Club

McKean Senior Center, former Leprosy Hospital

The ruins of Wiang Kum Kam


Chiang Mai Heritage Tour: past and present

Chiang Mai Heritage Tour by samlor

Your guide and driver will meet you at the hotel for a day full of the tangible and living heritage of Chiang Mai. Your vehicle is a converted pickup truck that has been a form of public transportation in Chiang Mai for many decades. It is locally known as “songtaew,” which means “two rows.” Drive to Wat Loi Kroh, where are our samlors are waiting. The samlor is a traditional bicycle taxi. Just as the songtaew, we consider the samlor also living heritage of Chiang Mai. Each person will have his/her samlor. Let’s take off on our Chiang Mai Heritage tour.

We ride past the former outer city wall to our first stop: the Lanna Ancient House, one of the oldest houses in Chiang Mai.  Then we cross the famous Iron Bridge to the east side of the Ping River. We will stop at the First Christian Church, founded in 1867 by American reverend Daniel McGilvary. American missionary doctor Marion Cheek constructed the church. We continue our ride through backstreets to Wat Ket Karaam, a temple that houses a fascinating museum. We will stop along the way at the Sanpakoy Market to stretch the legs and taste a local snack. The Sanpakoy Market is full of living Chiang Mai Heritage. Surprisingly few tourists visit this market.

Wat Ket Museum and Kad Luang

At the Wat Ket Museum, we say goodbye to our samlors.  We will meet Mr.Somwang, the curator of this lovely museum. Jack Bain, the son of William Bain, founded this museum. William Bain was the last manager of the Borneo Company Limited, which has its office on this side of the Ping River. This British company was involved in teak logging. The museum exhibits old photos of Chiang Mai and many other interesting objects such as the old flag of Thailand, a white elephant on a red flag.

From Wat Ket, we walk to the famous Chansom Memorial Footbridge and learn about the bridge’s history. Kad Luang (Thai for big market) is a vast complex with several submarkets such as Warorot and Ton Lamyai. It is the oldest and primary market of Chiang Mai, a place where you can wander around for several hours. In 1968 a tragedy took place: a fire started in a textile shop and spread rapidly. The fire destroyed the whole market complex. We will have lunch in a local restaurant at the market.

The Gymkhana Club

After lunch, we continue to the Gymkhana Club. In 1898 a group of mostly British residents of Chiang Mai bought the land founded this club. For the western residents of Chiang Mai, primarily British “teak people” and American missionaries, the club was their place for sports and social gatherings. It is a beautiful compound with large, old trees. Next to the club is the small Chiang Mai Christian Cemetery, where we will have a brief look. Many famous and not famous western residents of Chiang Mai have found their last resting place here, amongst others the Rev Daniel McGilvary and W.A.R.Wood, the famous British consul.

McKean Senior Center and Wiang Kum Kam

Our next stop is the McKean Senior Center. American missionary Dr. James W. McKean founded this center in 1908 as a leper colony. The ruler of Chiang Mai donated the land. McKean has some historical sites and an interesting museum. It is a beautiful place with many huge trees that are at least 100 years old. There is very little traffic in McKean, which makes it an ideal place for cycling. Over time it has become a rehabilitation center for elderly and physically disabled people.

The last stop today is Wiang Kum Kam, sometimes called the “Atlantis of Chiang Mai.” Wiang Kum Kam was a settlement that predates Chiang Mai. First, we will visit the small but excellent visitor center, after which we will visit some of the ruins such as Wat E-Kang and Wat Pupia. Then it’s time to call it a day. We will drop you off at your hotel. Thanks for traveling with us! For more great things to do in Chiang Mai, please have a look here.

The ruins of Wiang Kum Kam also are featured in this tour.

old Buddha statue Wiang Kum Kam
Buddha statue Wiang Kum Kam