Broken Buddha images dot the ruins. DAILY XPRESS/PHOOWADON DUANGMEE
You don't have to be an ageing Indiana Jones to explore archaeological ruins and discover their hidden secrets.
Five kilometres east of Chiang Mai is Wiang Kum Kam - an ancient town dubbed the Lost City, where there are enough unsolved mysteries to keep you thrilled for hours on end.
Alas, there's no tatty map showing where X marks the spot - a typical adventure here begins at the Museum and Information Centre. For Bt20, visitors can rent a well-used but sturdy bicycle from here.
"Come back when you're worn out!" says the friendly official.
A glance at the free map provided shows how the square-shaped old town nestles on the east bank of the Ping River.
King Mengrai, the founder of the Lanna Kingdom, established Wiang Kum Kam in 1286, intending to make it the first Lanna capital.
For some reason - scholars disagree and evidence is thin on the ground - the king changed his mind, and instead chose Chiang Mai.
Then, about 700 years ago, floods and mudslides hit Wiang Kum Kam, burying its secrets.
The rediscovery of the "Lost City" came in 1974, when the Fine Arts Department embarked on a painstaking restoration project to dig out the ancient structures. Four metres down, they unearthed old temples, ponds and pagodas.
Huffing and puffing, I make my way along the car-free web of paths to the heart of Wiang Kum Kam, the huge Chang Khum Temple.
Taking a dirt track north, next I discover Nan Chang Temple. From the distance, it looks like an Olympicsize swimming pool. Closer, I make out the remains of a gateway, ruined walls and a prayer hall.
My cycling trip ends at Chedi Liam Temple in the midafternoon - a good time for a bowl of "khao soi" noodles. Before taking up the chopsticks, I doff an imaginary fedora a la Indiana Jones and savour the taste of the Lost City.
Your adventure starts here
>> Wiang Kum Kam is about 20 minutes by vehicle from Chiang Mai.
>> It costs about Bt100 for a tuktuk or motorbike taxi from Tha Pae Gate to the Lost City. Tell your driver to take you to the Museum and Information Centre, the best place to start your adventure.