Chiang Mai (เชียงใหม่) is located about 700km north of Bangkok with a population of about 250,000 in the city and 1.6million in the province (also named Chiang Mai). Although it is the principal city of northern Thailand, it is markedly different from Bangkok. The feel of Chiang Mai city is much more relaxed and the people are even more easy-going and laid-back. So, this is one of the favourite travel destinations for those staying in Bangkok. It is fondly referred to as the “The Rose of the North”. “Chiang Mai” in Thai means “New City”.
Although rapid development in recent years has brought problems like traffic jams and pollution, Chiang Mai still manages to preserve its charms. The old part of the city, located within a 1.5km square moat, remains untouched by tall buildings. The ancient gates are well preserved too. The most famous is Thapae Gate (Pratu Tha Pae), located right in the middle of the city, splitting the old section from the new.
Founded in 1296 by King Mengrai as the capital of the Lanna Kingdom, Chiang Mai has had a long history. Its people even have their own dialect and customs. The rich culture extends to their cuisine and architecture. The ancient temples are also unique in their northern Thai architectural style.
Chiang Mai is also surrounded by natural beauty. Within a day you can visit some of the most picturesque mountains, waterfalls and valleys in Thailand, including Thailand’s highest mountain, Doi Inthanon. That is just one of the many national parks in the vicinity of the city. The elephant camps, hot springs and botanical gardens just outside of the city are also great options for a countryside visit.
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