Si Chiangmai, also known as Sri Chiang Mai, Thailand, lies directly across the Mekong River from Vientiane, Laos, in a region of interesting villages 320 mi/515 km north of Bangkok. Founded by the Laotian King Setthathirath, the grandson of a former queen of Chiang Mai, this ancient capital was named as such to honor the family matriarch. Other villiages in the region include Nong Khai and Sangkhom (with good hiking in the area). The ancient Buddhist site of Wat Phra That Bang Phuan lies between Si Chiangmai and Nong Khai.
One of this area's most sacred buildings, the temple in Si Chiangmai was commissioned by King Setthathirath as part of a plan to surround his kingdom with grand stupas. Unfortunately, centuries of monsoon caused the original structure to acquire a serious lean before finally collapsing in the 1970s. The temple was rebuilt in 1977, but it's the crumbling stupas sprinkled all around that create the time-worn atmosphere.
This is one of the most pleasant parts of Thailand, but if you go, expect simple accommodations.
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