Experiencing the merging of the past into the present in Chiang Mai
where locals are proud of the city’s 700-year history. Its rich
traditional heritage and unique culture is a perfect foundation for the
development of the city. Chiang Mai is one of the few places in Thailand
where it is possible to find in the heart of the city centuries-old
chedis and temples next to modern convenience stores and boutique
hotels. The original city layout still exists as a neat square
surrounded by a moat with vestiges of the fortified wall and its four
main gates offering prime access to the old town.
For years, tourists have mistaken Chiang Mai as the northern junction
and the base from which they can explore other provinces. The phrase "a
day in Chiang Mai is enough to see things around" was common. Today,
tourists are surprised by the fact that there is always something new to
discover Chiang Mai. Intriguing diversity among ethnic tribes coupled
with breathtaking scenery makes Chiang Mai one of Asia’s most attractive
tourist destinations. Two weeks in Chiang Mai may not be long enough for
The old city of Chiang Mai with its fascinating indigenous cultural
identity such as diverse dialects, cuisine, architecture, traditional
values, festivals, handicrafts and classical dances is a prime location
in its own right. In addition, the presence of hill tribes and their
wealth of unique cultures enhance Chiang Mai’s distinctive diversity.
Chiang Mai is also blessed with pristine natural resources of mountains
(dois), waterfalls, and other nature-based tourist attractions. At the
same time, Chiang Mai residents are warm, gracious and congenial
providing authentic hospitality making visits memorable and meaningful.
Moreover, visitors from all walks of life can collect handicrafts of
silk, silver and wood produced locally as timeless souvenirs. Chiang Mai
is a place where both backpackers and luxury tourists can enjoy
themselves to the fullest.
Chiang Mai literally means new city and has retained the name despite
having celebrated its 700th anniversary in 1996. King Meng Rai founded
the city as the capital of the Lanna (A Million Rice Fields) Kingdom on
Thursday, 12th April 1296 during the same period of time as the
establishment of the Sukhothai Kingdom. King Meng Rai the Great
conferred with his friends, King Ramkhamhaeng of Sukhothai and King Ngam
Muang of Phayao before choosing the site where the capital of the Lanna
Kingdom was to be founded.
From then, Chiang Mai not only became the capital and cultural core of
the Lanna Kingdom, it was also the centre of Buddhism in northern
Thailand. King Meng Rai himself was very religious and founded many of
the city’s temples, which are still important today.
At the height of its power, the Lanna Kingdom extended its territory far
into Burma and Laos, and southwards to Kamphaeng Phet a province above
The Burmese conquered the Lanna Kingdom in 1556 ending the dynasty
founded by King Meng Rai that lasted over 250 years. As Burma had
occupied Chiang Mai for nearly 200 years, Burmese architectural
influences are visible in many temples. At the end of the 18th century,
King Taksin the Great regrouped the Thais in the south and finally drove
the Burmese out with the help of King Kawila of Lampang thereby
regaining Thai independence from Burma. Chiang Mai was then governed by
a succession of princes who ruled the north as a Siamese protectorate
under the Chakri dynasty. In the late 19th century, King Rama V
appointed a high commissioner in Chiang Mai and it was only in 1939 that
Chiang Mai finally came under the direct control of the central
government in Bangkok the same time the country was renamed Thailand.
In the past, Chiang Mai was only accessible by river and elephants. More
convenient access was achieved only when the railway line was completed
in the late 1920’s. Moreover, the first motor vehicle driven directly
from Bangkok arrived in Chiang Mai in 1932. Such isolation was more
favorable to Chiang Mai as it helped to nurture and preserve the unique
When we look at Chiang Mai today, it is the economic, cultural and
communications hub of northern Thailand complete with excellent
infrastructure, good roads, by passes and road tunnels, and reliable
Chiang Mai, with an altitude of approximately 310 meters above sea level,
is situated approximately 700 kilometers from Bangkok on the Mae Ping
River basin. Surrounded by high mountain ranges, the city covers an area
of approximately 20,107 square kilometers and is the country’s second
largest province. Chiang Mai borders Myanmar on the north, Lamphun and
Tak Provinces on the south, Chiang Rai, Lampang and Lamphun Provinces on
the east and Mae Hong Son Province on the west. The terrain is mainly
comprised of jungles and mountains, which are home to the hill tribes.
In addition, wildlife and exotic flora may be found in the national
Most of Chiang Mai’s mountains are oriented from north to south.
Together they create a multitude of streams and tributaries including
Mae Chaem, Mae Ngat and Mae Klang. One of Chiang Mai’s distinctive
features is Doi Inthanon, Thailands highest peak, which is 2,575 meters
above sea level. In addition, the province boasts flat, fertile valleys,
which spread along the banks of the largest and most important river in
Chiang Mai Mae Nam Ping (Ping River) which originates from the Chiang
Dao mountain range.
By Car from Bangkok (approximately 8 hours)
Route 1: Drive on Highway No.1 (Phahonyothin) and turn left to Highway
No.32 (Asian Highway) which passes Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Ang Thong,
and Nakhon Sawan, then take Highway No. 117 to Phitsanulok and Highway
No. 11 to Lampang, Lamphun and Chiang Mai. The total distance is 695
Route 2: From Nakhon Sawan, take Highway No. 1 passing Kamphaeng Phet,
Tak, Lampang, and Chiang Mai. Total distance is 696 kilometers.
There are ordinary, 2nd class and 1st class air-conditioned buses
leaving for Chiang Mai daily (8.00 a.m. to 09.00 p.m.) from the Bangkok's
Northern Bus Terminal (Mochit 2 Bus Terminal). Call 02 936 3600, 02 936
2852, and 02 937 8055 for a more updated bus timetable. Private buses,
which can be conveniently booked in tourist-oriented places in Bangkok,
are also available. However, the public buses from the Northern Bus
Terminal are generally more reliable. The journey takes approximately
10-12 hours, depending on traffic.
From Chiang Mai
If you travel to any districts in Chiang Mai, use Chang Phuak Bus
Terminal located on Chotana Road, tel. 053 211 586. Destinations include
those located along the northern route (Highway No. 107) which passes
through Mae Rim, Mae Taeng, Chiang Dao, Chaiprakan, Fang and Mae Ai.
Some buses continue to Tha Ton, the northern-most province of Chiang
If you wish to travel outside the province, use Chiang Mai Arcade Bus
Station. Contact tel: 0 5324 2664 for a more updated bus timetable.
Destinations include Golden Triangle, Mae Sai, Chiang Saen, Chiang Rai,
Nan, Phayao, Phrae, Lampang, Lamphun, Phitsanulok, Sukhothai, Mae Hong
Son (both old and new routes), Mae Sot, Mae Sariang, Khon Kaen, Nakhon
Ratchasima (Khorat), and Udon Thani.
Express and rapid trains operated by the State Railways of Thailand
leave for Chiang Mai from Bangkoks Hua Lamphong Station 6 times a day
from 8.00 a.m.-10.00 p.m. The trip takes about 11-12 hours for express
trains. For more information, contact tel. 1690, or 02 223 7010, 02 223
7020. Chiang Mai Railway Station, tel. (053) 24 2094, 244 795, .247 462
Domestic airlines including Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Air Asia, Nok
Air, Orient Thai Airlines, Air Andaman and Phuket Air operate several
flights daily between Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
Thai Airways also operates domestic flights from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong
Son, Chiang Rai and Phuket. International flights to and from Chitakong,
Luang Phrabang, Khunming, Yangon and Japan (Narita) are also provided.
Call 02 628 2000 (Bangkok), 053 211 044-7 (Chiang Mai), or visit
www.thaiairways.com for more information.
Bangkok Airways also offers several flights daily on the Bangkok -
Chiang Mai route, some with a stopover at Sukhothai. International
routes to and from Jinghong and XiAn are also available. Call 02 265
5555, 265 5678 (Bangkok Office) or 053 27 6176 (Chiang Mai Office) or
visit www.bangkokair.com for more information.
SGA offers flights to Chiang Mai. For more information, call Bangkok
Office 66 2664-6099 or visit: www.sga.co.th
For Nok Air call 1318 or visit www.nokair.co.th for reservations. Apart
from Bangkok-Chiang mai flight, the airlines also operate flights
between Chiang mai and Udon Thani twice aweek. For the flights Chiang
Mai-Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai-Mae Hong Son, and Chiang Mai-Pai, please
For Orient Thai Airlines, call 02 267 2999 or visit www.orient-thai.com
for more information.
Foreign Airlines operating flights from Chiang Mai to several
Air Mandalay operates flights between Chiang Mai and Yangon on Sundays
and Thursdays. Contact 053 818 049 (Chiang Mai office), visit
www.myanmars.net/airmandalay or write to email@example.com for
Mandarin Airlines operates flights between Chiang Mai and Taipei three
times a week on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. For more information call,
053 201 268-9 (Chiang Mai office) or visit www.mandarinair.com
Lao Airlines operates flights on the Chiang Mai Luang Phrabang route
three times a week on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Call 053 223 401 (Chiang
Mai office), visit www.laoairlines.com or write to firstname.lastname@example.org
for more information.
Silk Air operates flights between Chiang Mai Singapore three times a
week on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Call 053 276 459 053 276 495 (Chiang
Mai office) or visit www.silkair.com for reservations.
Travelling within Chiang Mai
From Airport, Train and Bus Terminal to town
There is a licensed airport taxi service available at the taxi kiosk
outside the baggage-claim area. Purchase a ticket and present it to the
drivers waiting by the arrivals exit area. The trip will cost
approximately 100 bahts for a sedan car that seats 4-5 people (with
From the airport, train station and bus terminal, you can easily get a
song taew (red mini-bus). To charter a minibus or car, please check the
correct fare at the TAT counter first.
Normally, first-class hotels provide complimentary transportation
between the airport, railway station or bus terminals and the hotel for
guests who have made advance reservations.
1. For relative short distances you can take a sam lor or tuk-tuk (a
tricycle). Fares must be bargained in advance. Short rides within the
city costs between 20 and 30 bahts. Longer rides may cost as much as 50
2. Just new in town is the taxi-metre, the same as those running around
Bangkok. The minimum (starting) fare is 35 bahts.
3. Song taew (red mini-bus) is the most common means of transportation
in town. Passengers can hop in and out as they wish. Simply tell the
driver the destination and negotiate the price before boarding. Fares
range from 10-20 bahts depending on the distance.
4. Bicycles Some travelers prefer to ride a
bicycle around the city as most of the roads and alleys are accessible
by bicycle. Bicycles can be rented from bicycle shops and certain
5. Rental cars All major car rental companies
such as AVIS, Budget, and Hertz, as well as Thai car rental companies
are ready to provide suggestions on travel itineraries. The easiest way
to locate a car rental company is to ask at the airport or the hotel, as
those are the places where most companies are located.
Chiang Mai roads are in good condition with signs posted
in English. Why not take a car for a spin