The Tangible Heritage of Chiang Mai​

Golden chedi with umbrella
Wat Phrathat Chae Haeng with umbrella

Table of Contents

What is Tangible Cultural Heritage?

Cultural Heritage is either tangible or intangible. The term tangible heritage refers in general to all the material traces such as archaeological sites, historical monuments, historical buildings and houses, artifacts, and objects that are significant to a community, a nation, or/and humanity. They can  be considered significant to the archaeology, architecture, science or technology of a specific culture. Tangible Cultural Heritage has a physical presence.  They are therefore considered worthy of preservation for the future. 

Tourism contributes to the preservation of Tangible Cultural Heritage

Tourism and hospitality, be it well-managed and organized, can and should contribute to the preservation of Tangible Cultural Heritage. Below we have identified places that are worth visiting as well as preserving.

Buddhist temple
The viharn of Wat Phra That Lampang Luang

Chiang Mai

Buddhist Temples of Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai has more than 300 Buddhist temples and monasteries. Many of them are of great historical significance and some of them are important tourist attractions such as Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Chiang Man. These temples are located in the preservation area of the proposed UNESCO World Heritage.

Ruins of Wiang Kum Kam

The Tangible Heritage of Chiang Mai consists of ruins, buildings, temples, the city walls, heritage houses, churches and pagodas. I hope I didn’t forget anything. It should start of course with Wiang Kum Kam, the long-neglected first settlement with brick structures. King Mangrai founded Wiang Kum Kam in 1282AD. Temples in Lamphun predate those of Wiang Kum Kam. Only in the 1980s, Thai archaeologists started excavating Wiang Kum Kam. We highly recommend visiting the ruins of Wiang Kum Kam. Don’t forget to start with the very informative visitor centre. Just click on the picture to go the Wiang Kum Kam page.

Chiang Mai Heritage Houses

The Charoenprathet road runs parallel to the Ping River from Chang Klan to Thapae Roads. There are several significant historical places and heritage houses on this street. There are churches, mosques, schools, former consulates and houses that are part of Chiang Mai’s tangible heritage. Just click on the picture to go the Charoenprathet Heritage Houses.

After the opening of the railroad from Bangkok to Chiang Mai in 1922, Thapae Road became the centre of economic activity in Chiang Mai. Most of the iconic houses on this street date from around that period. To learn more about the Thapae Road Heritage Houses, please click on below picture.

Chiang Mai Historical Houses and Buildings

Chiang Mai Historical Houses and Buildings is a collection of significant houses and buildings in and around the old city. If you want to learn more about this, please click on the picture below.

Colonial style building Chiang Mai Historical Houses
Former British Consulate Chiang Mai in 1995. Picture by Albert Cosi


Buddhist and Monasteries of Lamphun

The small town of Lamphun has some very significant and historical temples such as Wat Hariphunchai, Wat Phra Yuen and Wat Chamathewi aka Wat Kukut. In 2013 Lamphun was still included in the UNESCO World Heritage initiative with Chiang Mai under the banner: “Lamphun and Chiang Mai, twin cities”.

Lamphun Heritage Houses

Heritage houses and buildings of interest include the Khum Jow Yod Ruen, the Khum Sanpanthawong and the Lamphun Railway Station.

Lamphun archaeological sites

Wiang Thakan is an ancient settlement and archaeological site, about 18 km south west of Lamphun. It is a very interesting place if you go a bit further than the main ruin Wat Klang Wiang.

Ku Chang and Ku Ma, where the ashes of the elephant and horse of Queen Chamathewi are interred, are also sights of interest for the archaeological interested visitors.

Brick chedi
Ku Chang Lamphun


Buddhist Temples and Monasteries of Lampang

Lampang has the largest collection of Shan and Burmese influenced temple architecture in the country, besides Thai temple architecture. Examples of Burmese and Shan temple architecture are Wat Sri Chum, Wat Mon Pu Yak and Wat Sri Rong Muang. Wat Phrathat Lampang Luang is one of the most famous Thai temples in North Thailand.

Lampang Heritage Houses

Lampang has a significant amount of heritage houses of which many date back to the period in which the city was the center of the teak logging industry, roughly from1890 until 1941. These houses and buildings are Western, Burmese or Chinese influenced. Apart from those there are many wooden, local style houses. Examples are the Moung Ngwe Zin Building, the Baan Phraya Suren, the Louis T.Leonowens House,  but also the Lampang Railway Station.

Lampang archaeological sites

There are a number of archaeological sites in and around Lampang that attract few visitors such as Wat Phrathat Muen Kruen, remains of the old city wall and the Amok Tower.

Ruins of Buddhist temple
Wat Phrathat Muen Khruen Lampang

Chiang Rai and Chiang Saen

Buddhist temples and monasteries

The city of Chiang Rai has a number of significant temples such as Wat Phrakaew and Wat Phra Singh. It has recently added a couple of “new” Buddhist sites such as the Wat Huay Pla Kang and the Blue Temple. Wat Rong Khun is not a temple but an object or art. Wat Sang Kaew Photiyan is another recently constructed temple complex. Chiang Saen has several Buddhist temples of historical significance such as Wat Phrathat Pha Ngao and Wat Chom Kitthi.

Archaeological sites

The ancient walled city of Chiang Saen is the most significant archaeological site in Chiang Rai province. It is worth spending a night in Chiang Saen itself, which is a lovely place on the Mekong River. Apart from that the seldom visited ruins of Wiang Lo are of interest. The city of Chiang Rai doesn’t have much of archaeological interest, apart from Wat Fang Min.

Row of chedis
Small ruined chedis at Wat Fang Min