Top left: East moat, Chiang Mai; top right: Chedi, Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep; middle left: View from Doi Suthep of downtown Chiang Mai; middle right: Tha Phae Gate; bottom left: A songthaew shared taxi; bottom right: Wat Chiang Man
Location of the city within Chiang Mai Province
|Province||Chiang Mai Province|
|• Type||City municipality|
|• Mayor||Tatsanai Puranupakorn|
|• City Municipality||40.216 km2 (15.527 sq mi)|
|• Metro||2,905 km2 (1,122 sq mi)|
|Elevation||310 m (1,020 ft)|
|• City Municipality||148,477|
|• Density||3,687/km2 (9,550/sq mi)|
|• Metro density||315.42/km2 (816.9/sq mi)|
|Time zone||ICT (UTC+7)|
|Airport||IATA: CNX – ICAO: VTCC|
Chiang Mai (//, from Thai: เชียงใหม่ [tɕʰiəŋ màj] ( listen), Lanna:ᨩ᩠ᨿᨦᩉ᩠ᨾᩲ᩵ [t͡ɕīaŋ.màj] ( listen)) sometimes written as "Chiengmai" or "Chiangmai", is the largest and most culturally significant city in Northern Thailand. It is the capital of Chiang Mai Province and was a former capital of the Kingdom of Lanna (1296–1768), which became a tributary state of the Kingdom of Chiang Mai from 1774 to 1939. It is 700 km (435 mi) north of Bangkok and is situated amongst the highest mountains in the country. The city sits astride the Ping River, a major tributary of the Chao Phraya River.
Chiang Mai gained prominence in the political sphere in May 2006, when the Chiang Mai Initiative was concluded between the ASEAN nations and the "+3" countries (China, Japan, and South Korea). Chiang Mai was one of three Thai cities contending for Thailand's bid to host the World Expo 2020 (the others were Chonburi and Ayutthaya). Ayutthaya, however, was the city ultimately chosen by the Thai Parliament to register for the international competition.
Chiang Mai has positioned itself to become a Creative City and is considering applying for Creative City status with UNESCO. Chiang Mai was one of two tourist destinations in Thailand on TripAdvisor's 2014 list of "25 Best Destinations in the World", where it stands at number 24.
While officially the city (thesaban nakhon) of Chiang Mai only covers most parts of the Mueang Chiang Mai district with a population of 160,000, the city's sprawl extends into several neighboring districts. The Chiang Mai Metropolitan Area has a population of nearly one million people, more than half the total of Chiang Mai Province.
The city is subdivided into four wards (khwaeng): Nakhon Ping, Srivijaya, Mengrai, and Kawila. The first three are on the west bank of the Ping River, and Kawila is on the east bank. Nakhon Ping district comprises the north part of the city. Srivijaya, Mengrai, and Kawila consist of the west, south, and east parts, respectively. The city center—within the city walls—is mostly within Srivijaya ward.
King Mengrai founded the city of Chiang Mai ("new city") in 1296:209 on the site of an older city of the Lawa people called Wiang Nopburi. Gordon Young, in his 1962 book The Hill tribes of Northern Thailand, mentions how a Wa chieftain in Burma told him that the Wa, a people who are closely related to the Lawa, once lived in the Chiang Mai valley in "sizeable cities".
Chiang Mai succeeded Chiang Rai as the capital of the Lanna kingdom. Pha Yu enlarged and fortified the city, and built Wat Phra Singh in honor of his father Kham Fu.:226–227 The ruler was known as the "chao". The city was surrounded by a moat and a defensive wall since nearby Burma was a constant threat, as were the armies of the Mongol Empire, which only decades earlier had conquered most of Yunnan, China, and in 1292 overran the bordering Thai Lü kingdom of Chiang Hung.
With the decline of the Lanna Kingdom, the city lost importance and was occupied by the Burmese in 1556. Chiang Mai formally became part of Siam in 1775 by an agreement with Chao Kavila, after the Thai King Taksin helped drive out the Burmese. Because of Burmese counterattacks, Chiang Mai was abandoned between 1776 and 1791. Lampang then served as the capital of what remained of Lanna. Chiang Mai then slowly grew in cultural, trading, and economic importance to its current status as the unofficial capital of Northern Thailand, second in importance only to Bangkok.
The modern municipality dates to a sanitary district (sukhaphiban) that was created in 1915. It was upgraded to a municipality (thesaban) on 29 March 1935, as published in the Royal Gazette, Book No. 52 section 80. First covering just 17.5 km2 (7 sq mi), the city was enlarged to 40.2 km2 (16 sq mi) on 5 April 1983.
The city emblem shows the stupa at Wat Doi Suthep in its center. Below it are clouds representing the moderate climate in the mountains of Northern Thailand. There is a naga, the mythical snake said to be the source of the Ping River, and rice stalks, which refer to the fertility of the land.
Chiang Mai has a tropical wet and dry climate (Köppen Aw), tempered by the low latitude and moderate elevation, with warm to hot weather year-round, though nighttime conditions during the dry season can be cool and much lower than daytime highs. The maximum temperature ever recorded was 42.4 °C (108.3 °F) in May 2005.
|Climate data for Chiang Mai (1981–2010)|
|Record high °C (°F)||35.5
|Average high °C (°F)||29.8
|Average low °C (°F)||14.9
|Record low °C (°F)||0.5
|Average rainfall mm (inches)||4.2
|Average rainy days (≥ 1 mm)||1||2||2||6||14||14||16||18||20||14||5||1||113|
|Average relative humidity (%)||68||58||52||57||71||77||79||81||81||79||75||73||70.9|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||272.8||251.4||269.7||258.0||217.0||177.0||170.5||161.2||156.0||198.4||234.0||263.5||2,629.5|
|Source #1: Thai Meteorological Department (normal 1981–2010, avg. rainy days 1961–1990)|
|Source #2: Hong Kong Observatory (sunshine)|
A continuing environmental issue in Chiang Mai is the incidence of air pollution that primarily occurs every year towards the end of the dry season between February and April, and is largely attributable to slash-and-burn farming methods. In 1996, speaking at the Fourth International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement conference—held in Chiang Mai that year—the Governor Virachai Naewboonien invited guest speaker Dr. Jakapan Wongburanawatt, Dean of the Social Science Faculty of Chiang Mai University, to discuss air pollution efforts in the region. Dr. Wongburanawatt stated that, in 1994, an increasing number of city residents attended hospitals suffering from respiratory problems associated with the city's air pollution.
The Thailand Pollution Control Department of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is actively engaged in finding solutions and is responsible for public awareness campaigns and other initiatives. During the February–March period, air quality in Chiang Mai often remains below recommended standards, with fine-particle dust levels reaching twice the standard limits.
The northern centre of the Meteorological Department has reported that low-pressure areas from China trap forest fire smoke in the mountains along the Thai-Myanmar border. Research conducted between 2005 and 2009 showed that average PM10 rates in Chiang Mai during February and March were considerably above the country's safety level of 120 μg/m3, peaking at 383 μg/m3 on 14 March 2007. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the acceptable level is 50 μg/m3.
To address the increasing amount of greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector in Chiang Mai, the city government has advocated the use of non-motorised transport (NMT). In addition to its potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the NMT initiative addresses other issues such as traffic congestion, air quality, income generation for the poor, and the long-term viability of the tourism industry. It has been said that smoke pollution has made March "the worst month to visit Chiang Mai".
- Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, the city's most famous temple, stands on Doi Suthep, a hill to the northwest of the city. The temple dates from 1383.
- Wat Chiang Man, the oldest temple in Chiang Mai, dating from the 13th century.:209 King Mengrai lived here during the construction of the city. This temple houses two important and venerated Buddha figures, the marble Phra Sila and the crystal Phra Satang Man.
- Wat Phra Singh is within the city walls, dates from 1345, and offers an example of classic Northern Thai-style architecture. It houses the Phra Singh Buddha, a highly venerated figure brought here many years ago from Chiang Rai.
- Wat Chedi Luang was founded in 1401 and is dominated by a large Lanna style chedi, which took many years to finish. An earthquake damaged the chedi in the 16th century and only two-thirds of it remains.
- Wat Ku Tao in the city's Chang Phuak District dates from (at least) the 13th century and is distinguished by an unusual alms-bowl-shaped stupa thought to contain the ashes of King Nawrathaminsaw, Chiang Mai's first Burmese ruler.
- Wat Chet Yot is on the outskirts of the city. Built in 1455, the temple hosted the Eighth World Buddhist Council in 1977.
- Wiang Kum Kam is at the site of an old city on the southern outskirts of Chiang Mai. King Mengrai lived there for ten years before the founding of Chiang Mai. The site includes many ruined temples.
- Wat Umong is a forest and cave wat in the foothills west of the city, near Chiang Mai University. Wat U-Mong is known for its "fasting Buddha", representing the Buddha at the end of his long and fruitless fast prior to gaining enlightenment.
- Wat RamPoeng (Tapotaram), near Wat U-Mong, is known for its meditation center (Northern Insight Meditation Center). The temple teaches the traditional vipassana technique and students stay from 10 days to more than a month as they try to meditate at least 10 hours a day. Wat RamPoeng houses the largest collection of Tipitaka, the complete Theravada canon, in several Northern dialects.
- Wat Suan Dok is a 14th-century temple just west of the old city wall. It was built by the king for a revered monk visiting from Sukhothai for a rainy season retreat. The temple is also the site of Mahachulalongkorn Rajavidyalaya Buddhist University, where monks pursue their studies.
- "First Church" was founded in 1868 by the Laos Mission of the Rev. Daniel and Mrs. Sophia McGilvary. Chiang Mai has about 20 Christian churches Chiang Mai is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Chiang Mai.
- Muslim traders have traveled to north Thailand for many centuries, and a small settled presence has existed in Chiang Mai from at least the middle of the 19th century. The city has mosques identified with Chinese or Chin Haw Muslims as well as Muslims of Bengali, Pathan, and Malay descent. In 2011, there were 16 mosques in the city.
- Two gurdwaras (Sikh Temples), Siri Guru Singh Sabha and Namdhari, serve the city's Sikh community.
- The Hindu temple Devi Mandir serves the Hindu community.
Chiang Mai hosts many Thai festivals, including:
- Loi Krathong (known locally as Yi Peng), held on the full moon of the 12th month of the traditional Thai lunar calendar, being the full moon of the second month of the old Lanna calendar. In the Western calendar this usually falls in November. Every year thousands of people assemble floating banana-leaf containers (krathong) decorated with flowers and candles and deposit them on the waterways of the city in worship of the Goddess of Water. Lanna-style sky lanterns (khom fai or kom loi), which are hot-air balloons made of paper, are launched into the air. These sky lanterns are believed to help rid the locals of troubles and are also used to decorate houses and streets.
- Songkran is held in mid-April to celebrate the traditional Thai new year. Chiang Mai has become one of the most popular locations to visit for this festival. A variety of religious and fun-related activities (notably the good-natured citywide water fight) take place each year, along with parades and a Miss Songkran beauty competition.
- Chiang Mai Flower Festival is a three-day festival held during the first weekend in February each year; this event occurs when Chiang Mai's temperate and tropical flowers are in full bloom.
- Tam Bun Khan Dok, the Inthakin (City Pillar) Festival, starts on the day of the waning moon of the sixth lunar month and lasts 6–8 days.
The inhabitants speak Kham Muang (also known as Northern Thai or Lanna) among themselves, though central Thai is used in education and is understood by almost everyone. English is used in hotels and travel-related businesses, and many educated people speak English. The Kham Muang alphabet is studied only by scholars, and Northern Thai is commonly written with the standard Thai alphabet.
- Chiang Mai City Arts and Cultural Center.
- Chiang Mai National Museum highlights the history of the region and the Kingdom of Lanna.
- Tribal Museum showcases the history of the local mountain tribes.
- Mint Bureau of Chiang Mai or Sala Thanarak, Treasury Department, Ministry of Finance, Rajdamnern Road (one block from AUA Language Center) has an old coin museum open to the public during business hours. The Lanna Kingdom used leaf (or line) money made of brass and silver bubbles, also called "pig-mouth" money. Nobody has been able to duplicate the technique of making pig-mouth money, and because the silver is very thin and breakable, good pieces are now very rare.
- Bank of Thailand Museum
Khantoke dinner is a century-old Lanna Thai tradition in Chiang Mai. It is an elaborate dinner or lunch offered by a host to guests at various ceremonies or parties, such as weddings, housewarmings, celebrations, novice ordinations, or funerals. It can also be held in connection with celebrations for specific buildings in a Thai temple and during Buddhist festivals such as Khao Pansa, Og Pansa, Loi Krathong, and Thai New Year (Songkran).
Chiang Mai has several universities, including Chiang Mai University, Chiangmai Rajabhat University, Rajamangala University of Technology Lanna, Payap University, Far Eastern University, and Maejo University, as well as numerous technical and teacher colleges. Chiang Mai University was the first government university established outside of Bangkok. Payap University was the first private institution in Thailand to be granted university status.
- Nearby national parks include Doi Inthanon National Park, which includes Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain in Thailand; Doi Pui Suthep; and Obkhan.
- Doi Pui Suthep National Park is just outside town. From all over Chiang Mai the Wat Doi Suthep Buddhist temple can be seen looking down on the town from Doi Suthep mountain.
- Doi Pha Daeng National Park, formally known as "Chiang Dao National Park" which includes Doi Chiang Dao or Doi Luang Chiang Dao and Pha Deang mountain near border of Burma.
- Elephant Nature Park: Approximately 60 km (37 mi) north of the city or about one hour's drive, Elephant Nature Park is home to approximately 30 rescued elephants.
- Hill tribe tourism and trekking: Many tour companies offer organized treks among the local hills and forests on foot and on elephant back. Most also involve visits to various local hill tribes, including the Akha, Hmong, Karen, and Lisu.
- Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden
- The Chiang Mai Zoo, the oldest zoo in Northern Thailand, sprawls over an enormous tract of land.
- Shopping: Chiang Mai has a large and famous night bazaar for local arts and handicrafts. The night bazaar extends across several city blocks along footpaths, inside buildings and temple grounds, and in open squares. A handicraft and food market opens every Sunday afternoon until late at night on Rachadamnoen Road, the main street in the historical centre, which is then closed to motorised traffic. Every Saturday evening a handicraft market is held along Wua Lai Road, Chiang Mai's silver street on the south side of the city beyond Chiang Mai Gate, which is then also closed to motorised traffic.
- Thai massage: The back streets and main thoroughfares of Chiang Mai have an abundance and variety of massage parlours which offer anything from quick, simple, face and foot massages, to month-long courses in the art of Thai massage.
- Thai cookery: A number of Thai cooking schools have their home in Chiang Mai (see also Thai food).
- For IT shopping, Pantip Plaza just south of Night Bazaar, as well as Computer Plaza, Computer City, and Icon Square near the northwestern corner moat, and IT City department store in Kad Suan Kaew Mall are available.
- Horse racing: Every Saturday starting at 12:30 there are races at Kawila Race Track. Betting is legal.
|This section does not cite any references (sources). (June 2012)|
Chiang Mai is well-connected by bus, train, and air transportation services. A number of bus stations link the city to Central and Northern Thailand. The Central Chang Pheuak terminal (north of Chiang Phwuak Gate) provides local services within Chiang Mai Province. The Chiang Mai Arcade bus terminal northeast of the city (which can be reached with a songthaew or tuk-tuk ride) provides services to over 20 other destinations in Thailand including Bangkok, Pattaya, Hua Hin, and Phuket. There are several services a day from Chiang Mai Arcade terminal to Mo Chit Station in Bangkok (a 10–12 hour journey).
The state railway operates 10 trains a day to Chiang Mai Station from Bangkok. Most journeys run overnight and take approximately 12–15 hours. Most trains offer first-class (private cabins) and second-class (seats fold out to make sleeping berths) service. Chiang Mai is the northern terminus of the Thai railway system.
Chiang Mai International Airport receives up to 28 flights a day from Bangkok (flight time about 1 hour 10 minutes) and also serves as a local hub for services to other northern cities such as Chiang Rai, Phrae, and Mae Hong Son. International services also connect Chiang Mai with other regional centers, including cities in other Asian countries.
The locally preferred form of transport is personal motorbike and, increasingly, private car.
Local public transport is via tuk-tuk, songthaew, or rickshaws. Local songthaew fare is usually 20–50 baht per person for trips in and around the city. For groups, the fare per person is less. Tuk-tuk fare is usually at least 20 baht per trip (the vehicles are comfortable for two passengers, but some can squeeze in four passengers); fares increase with distance.
According to Thailand's Department of Tourism, in 2013 Chiang Mai had 14.1 million visitors: 4.6 million foreigners and 9.5 million Thais.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand's Chiang Mai office expects the number of tourists from China to increase by at least 20% in 2013 over 2012, driven by the success of the Chinese film Lost in Thailand. More than 80% of the film was shot in the province.
Chiang Mai has more than 32,000 hotel rooms and Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX) is Thailand's fourth largest, after Suvarnabhumi (BKK) and Don Mueang (DMK) in Bangkok, and Phuket (HKT).
The Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) aims to market Chiang Mai as a global MICE city as part of a five-year plan. The TCEB forecasts revenue from MICE to rise by 10% to THB4.24 billion in 2013 and the number of MICE travellers to rise by 5% to 72,424.
The influx of tourists has put a strain on the city's natural resources. Faced with rampant unplanned development, air and water pollution, waste management problems, and traffic congestion, the city has launched a non-motorised transport (NMT) system. The initiative, developed by a partnership of experts and with support from the Climate & Development Knowledge Network, aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create employment opportunities for the urban poor. The climate compatible development strategy has gained support from policy-makers and citizens alike as a result of its many benefits.
Twin towns and sister cities
- Uozu, Japan (8 August 1989)
- Saitama Prefecture, Japan (9 November 1992)
- Kunming, Yunnan, China (7 June 1999)
- Harbin, China (29 April 2008)
- Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai
- Chiang Mai Creative City
- Chiang Mai Initiative
- Royal Flora Ratchaphruek
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Samsudin Bin Abrahim is the Imam of Chang Klan Mosque in Chiang Mai and a vibrant personality within Chiang Mai's 20,000 Muslim community
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