Ping River Valley



Ping River Valley

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Nearly 600 km (370 miles) long, the Ping River is one of the major waterways in Northern Thailand. It rises on the Myanmar border and flows on to the Bhumibol Reservoir before merging with the Wang, Yom, and Nan rivers. This becomes the Chao Phraya River at Nakhon Sawan, in the Central Plains. The valley is a rural area where traditional life can still be observed.

Chom Thong, just south of Chiang Mai, at the junction of Highway 108 and the road to Doi Inthanon National Park, is a small but busy town. It boasts one major sight, Wat Phra That Si Chom Thong. The wat was built to enshrine a relic of the Buddha and is still an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists. Many will try to make the journey at least once a year. This wat is also widely considered to be one of the most beautiful in Northern Thailand. The gilded chedi, built in 1451, is of Myanmar design, as is the mid-16th-century bot, which features intricate woodcarvings depicting flowers, birds, and naga. A meditation center and a room displaying thrones, religious antiques, and weapons are also located within the temple complex.

The deep Chaem River Valley, west of Chom Thong, is known locally for its many varieties of butterfly and moth. Several villages, spread along the twisting road within the valley, are known collectively as the town of Mae Chaem. The town, once famous for weaving, is now modernizing rapidly. Its main temple, Wat Pa Daet, is worth visiting for its well preserved Lanna buildings and extensive murals.

At the southern end of the valley is the small town of Hot. Originally located 10 miles (5 km) farther downstream, the town was relocated to its present site in 1964, when the land was flooded to form the Bhumibol Reservoir. Today, this reservoir is a major source of Thailand’s electricity. Ruins of the original town can still be seen beside the reservoir, though they are limited to only a few chedis. Excavation of the site has turned up amulets, stucco carvings and gold jewelry. These artifacts are now on display in Chiang Mai’s National Museum. Modernday Hot, meanwhile, is an important market town and a useful staging post for journeys westward to the town of Mae Sariang.

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