Chiang Mai (เชียงใหม่) is the hub of northern Thailand. With a population of over 170,000 in the city proper (but more than one million in the metropolitan area), it is Thailand's fourth-largest city. On a plain at an elevation of 316 m, surrounded by mountains and lush countryside, it is much greener and quieter than the capital and has a cosmopolitan air and a significant expatriate population, all factors which have led many from Bangkok to settle permanently in this "rose of the north".
Founded in 1296 CE, Chiang Mai is a culturally and historically interesting city, at one time the capital of the ancient Lanna kingdom. In the rolling foothills of the Himalayas 700 km north of Bangkok, until the 1920s it could only be reached by an arduous river journey or an elephant trek. This isolation helped preserve Chiang Mai's distinctive charm, which remains intact.
Chiang Mai's historical centre is the walled city ("city" is chiang in the northern Thai dialect while mai is "new", hence Chiang Mai translates as "new city"). Sections of the wall dating to their restoration a few decades ago remain at the gates and corners, but of the rest only the moat remains. Read more