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Chiang Saen National Museum

The ancient Thai capital of Chiang Saen is now a small but intriguing village scattered with silent, brooding ruins on the alluvial plain where the town's lowlands alternate with the hills. This place was once home to King Mengrai, who later founded the Kingdom of Lanna with Chiangmai ("New Walled City") as it's capital.

The remaining earthen ramparts still seen at Chiang Saen today are just a fraction of the defensive walls originally constructed. The Mae Khong River flows along the northern side and Chiang Saen Lake, 4 kms. south of the town, has been developed for recreation with swimming, boating and fishing.

One of the town's main attractions is its charming branch of the National Museum of Thailand. The Chiang Saen National Museum displays excavated artifacts dating back to the very earliest appearance of man in the district.

Chiang Saen's chronicles say that King Saen Phu of the Mengrai Dynasty founded the town, after which at least three princes of the Lanna Kingdom ruled the town before succeeding to the throne at Chiangmai. It was also an important Buddhist center until it was conquered in 1558 A.D. by the Burmese.

From the middle of the 16th century to the mid-18th century, Chiang Saen served as an important military outpost for the Kingdom of Ayuthaya during warfare with Burma. During the first reign of the Bangkok period, when the Burmese were being driven out of Siam, Chiang Saen became a battlefield and the town was burnt. Its people were removed to other towns in the north, or to Bangkok.

The town remained deserted until 1861, when King Rama I ordered a prince from Lamphun to lead people from Lamphun, Chiangmai and Lampang to resettle the town. This prince, Chao Inta, then became ruler of Chiang Saen and received the title Phraya Ratchawong in 1890. Later, the status accorded Chiang Saen suffered, and it has been merely a district of Chiangrai Province since 1907.

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