Temples, Chiang Mai
Concierge.com's insider take:
The trade caravans that trod for centuries between China and Burma gave Chiang Mai its cosmopolitan flavor. This is exemplified by the unique Lanna architectural style: multiple, overlapping roofs and elaborate teakwood finials on the gables of the viharn, a building that houses important Buddha images. In the old city, Wat Chedi Luang once enshrined the sacred Emerald Buddha now displayed in Bangkok's Wat Phra Kaeo. The chedi (a cone-shaped monument that holds relics) towered more than 300 feet upon completion in 1481; partially destroyed by a 1545 earthquake, it still remained the city's tallest structure for 500 years. But don't expect any fortune tellers or trinket sellers; this noncommercial temple houses a Buddhist university and offers daily "monk chats.'' Don't overlook the all-teak viharn of Wat Phan Tao, just next door. A few hundred yards to the west, Wat Phra Singh's exquisite 14th-century viharn contains the city's most venerated Buddha image. Ten miles west of town, mountaintop Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep provides exceptional vistas, except during March and April, the hazy, hot season. Shorts and halter or tank tops are not considered acceptable dress for entry into any temple compound.