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Chiang Mai is the most important city of the north of Thailand. It is an old city (founded in 1296) and was the capital of the Lanna kingdom at that time. There is a moat with the remains of the old fortress wall around the city. Chiang Mai is situated in green, hilly surroundings. There is also a lot of green in the city. It is much quieter than in the Thai capital Bangkok, but Chiang Mai has everything that you may expect from a large Thai city. In addition to old temples, you will find bars and restaurants and excellent shopping. Furthermore, Chiang Mai is the base for excursions into the beautiful landscape of northern Thailand.
The city itself only has 170,000 inhabitants, but in the urban area of Chiang Mai live more than one million people.
Chiang Mai is located in the north of Thailand on the river Ping, which joins the Chao Phraya River (on which Bangkok is situated). The town lies at the foot of Mount Doi Pui (1685 m). Further northwest lies Thailand's highest mountain, Doi Inthanon (2565 m). The forest around the mountain is a national park. The Thai capital Bangkok is located approximately 700 kilometers south of Chiang Mai.
The town is the transportation center for the region's agricultural products. Furthermore it is a center for Thai handicrafts. Silver and wooden statues and utensils are made, but also jade jewelry. There is also textile industry. Tourism is very important for the town.
The town's airport, Chiang Mai airport, is located three kilometers south west of the center. You can get to the airport by rental car in about 15 minutes via the Super-Highway (to Bangkok) or via the road to Hod.
Chiang Mai's public transport consists of so-called tuktuks and songtaews. Tuktuks are mopeds, integrated with covered seating (usually for two persons). Before getting on a tuktuk you should negotiate the price. Songtaews are pickups in which two seats have been made. The price you pay depends on the distance. These prices are usually listed on a sign, but most of the times in Thai so you probably won't understand it. Yet, they usually don't raise prices for tourists, unless you rent the songtaew privately.
Chiang Mai is not nearly as busy as Bangkok and therefore you can easily drive around in a rental car. However, some roads can get crowded during morning and evening rush hours. Finding a parking space is not very difficult in Chiang Mai. In most cases you can park for free. Sometimes there are people who ask money for "guarding" your car.
There is a wide range of hotels Chiang Mai, in all price ranges. From very simple youth hostels and boarding houses to luxury hotels. You should know that this town is a popular destination and the best thing to do is to book your accommodation well in advance when traveling during high season. The high season is from half October to half March.
For more information about Chiang Mai we recommend Google and the following sources: