Chiang Mai was founded in 1296, once the capital of the ancient Lanna kingdom is today an interesting city culturally and historically, the fifth largest city in Thailand with a population close to 1 million people when including the metropolitan area, and 160.000 only for the Mueang Chiang Mai district (Chiang Mai city).
Lying on a valley some 310 mt above sea level and located 700Km north of Bangkok, the city sits astride the Ping River, a major tributary of the Chao Phraya River. It is much greener and quieter than the capital, very cosmopolitan and host to a significant expat population, the tourism has a big role in the economic life of the city, in 2013 Chiang Mai had 14.1 milion visitors including 4.6 million foreigners.
Chiang Mai’s historic importance is derived from its close proximity to the Ping River and major trading routes, is the largest and most culturally important city in Northern Thailand with many historical sites and over 300 Buddhist temples (or “Wat” in Thai).
The city center is enclosed within a moat and still visible are the remains of the ancient walled city with sections of the wall standing at the gates and corners. The modern city has expanded in all directions, especially to the East towards the river Ping, but the bulk of hotels and guest house are located around Loi Kroh Rd in the ancient city and centre of the city’s night life.
The old city is a square of around 1.5Km per side and very easy to walk around, the International airport is quite close to the centre and the city has a train station and two official bus stations. To move around the city the easiest way is to catch a songthaew (collective taxi) or a tuk tuk.