Chiang Mai is a city surrounded by beautiful mountains and hill tribes. It preserves the walls and moats of its history as its cultural and religious center.
Chiang Mai, when translated means ‘new city’. It was founded in 1296, as the new capital of Lan Na, as it succeeded its former capital, Chiang Rai.
Chiang Mai, the largest city located in Northern Thailand, happens to be the former capital of the kingdom of Lan Na. The kingdom of Lan Na became the kingdom of Chang Mai, a tributary state of Thailand from 1774 to 1899. Chiang Mai is located 700 kilometers or 435 miles from the north of Bangkok, it is surrounded by the highest mountains of Thailand. The Ping River, which is one of the side channels of Chao Phraya River, is located in the city of Chiang Mai. The river has become the major trading routes, which mold the historic importance of Chiang Mai.
The city of Chiang Mai includes parts of the District of Mueang Chiang Mai, with a population of 160,000, while the metropolitan area of Chiang Mai holds a population of nearly a million people, which is more than half of the population of the Chiang Mai province.
There are four divisions or khwaeng of Chiang Mai: Nakhon Ping, Srivijaya, Mengral, and Kawila. In the east of Chang Mai, a river that is said to be the largest in the region is located, it is the river of Mae Ping. Mae Ping is originated at Chiangdoa, by the law, it is part of the Chiangdoa National Reserved Forest and Sri Lanna National Park. It served to be the route of trade and communication between Chiang Mai and the neighboring states.
In politics, Chang Mai gained stature by May 2006. This happened when the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China, Japan, and South Korea conjectured with the multilateral currency swap arrangement, the Chang Mai Initiative.
For the World Expo in 2020, Chiang Mai is one of the cities in Thailand who bids to be their contender. However, the Thailand Parliament chose Ayutthaya to be registered as their contender for the international competition.
Last 2015, Chang Mai applied for the UNESCO Heritage City, however, its application is still for under consideration. The main concern of the UNESCO committee is the proceeding conflicts between the local business interests and the native-born passion of the residents with their traditional way of life and cultural environment. However, in the early month of December 2017, the UNESCO branded Chiang Mai as the Creative City.
The city of Chiang Mai, being the northern most city in Thailand, is home to a number of local businesses from hotels, tourist attractions, travel companies, vast range of restaurants, nightlife, industy and marketing companies like SEO Heroes Chiang Mai.
History of Chang Mai
In 1926, Chang Mai was founded by Mangrai, the person who founded Chang Mai was the 25th king of Ngoenyang, and the first king of Lan Na. He declared Chang Mai on the site of an older city, Wiang Nopbun, the place of the Lawa people.
The Wa people are closely related to the Lawa people, before, they lived in the small cities of Chiang Mai valley.
Chiang Mai supersedes Chiang Rai as the capital of the kingdom of Lan Na. Pha Yu amplified and strengthened the city, in honor of his father, Kham Fu, Pha Yu built Wat Phra Singh. The ruler of a Thai monarchy is called Chao.
The city of Chiang Mai was surrounded by moats and high walls built for defense. This structure is made because Taungoo Dynasty of Bamar is located nearby and was a constant threat, moreover, the Mongol Empire armies conquered most of Yunnan, China.
The city lost its importance when the decline of Lan Na begun, as a result, the Taungoo successfully occupied the city in 1556. In 1775, Chiang Mai formally became a part of the kingdom of Thonburi, this is through the agreement of Chao Kavila and Taksin, the Thonburi king. Chang Mai had its downfall in between 1776 to 1791, the people abandoned it due to the counterattacks of Taungoo. Lampang served to be the capital of Lan Na. Chang Mai went its way back through the growth in cultural, trading, and economic importance. However, it is still the unofficial capital of Northern Thailand, it is the second in importance to Bangkok.
In 1915, the modern municipality dates to a sanitary distinct were made. On March 29, 1935, Chiang Mai was upgraded to a municipality. Most importantly, on April 5, 1983, the city of Chang Mai was expanded, from 17.5 square kilometers to 40.2 square kilometers.
The city emblem depicts the sturpa at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep on its center. The clouds in the city emblem represent the moderate climate in the mountains of Northern Thailand. Also, you can see a ñaga, a mythical snake that is said to be the source of Ping River, and rice talks, which wants the fertility of the land.
Climate of Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai experiences a tropical savanna climate, this relies on the low latitude and moderate elevation. The people of Chiang Mai come across a warm to hot weather all year-round, luckily, during the dry season, they can experience a cooler and much lower temperature in the nighttime compared on how high the temperatures are in the daytime.
Tropical savanna climate has a monthly mean temperature of 18 degrees Celsius. The highest temperature recorded in Chiang Mai was 42.4 degree Celsius in May 2005.
Chiang Mai experiences Air Pollution
Back in 1996, the Fourth International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement conference was held in Chiang Mai. Dr. Jakapan Wongburanawatt, the Dean of the Social Science Faculty of Chiang Mai University was invited by the Governor Virachai Naewboonien, to discuss the effects of air pollution in Chiang Mai. It is claimed by Dr. Wongburanawatt, that in 1994, there is an increasing number of city residents who sought medical assistance in the hospital due to respiratory problems that are associated with the air pollution happening in Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai is facing a progressing environmental issue, each year an incidence of air pollution appears towards the end of the dry season, between the months of February and April. In the period of February to March, the air quality of Chiang Mai reduces below the recommended standards. It has a fine-particle dust level that reaches twice the standard limits.
In an article in the Bangkok Post, the largest contributors to smoke pollution are those corporations in the agricultural sectors (excluding the farmers). It is the source of fire and smoke when the forested area is being cleared to make room for new crops. After the smoke clears out, the new crops are planted, however, these are not rice and vegetables to feed the locals. Corn is the single crop that is responsible.
In 2007, there is a slight obscuration of the lower atmosphere. It has been tracked down at the local level and at the macro market level to the growth of the animal feed business. They quoted that the true source of this smoke pollution is the ones who are sitting in the boardrooms of corporations who are determined enough to expand their production and profits. It is seen in the chart of the growth of Thailand in the world of corn markets, which can be overlaid on a chart of the number of fires. Scapegoat hill tribes and slash-and-burn is no longer acceptable, as it poses severe health and economic damage that has resulted from the annual pollution. The said data were ignored by the government of Chiang Mai. Moreover, the number of tires has increased every year, and the data shows that there is a rise in pollution during the late of February, then the late February of 2015.
In the mountains along Thai and Myanmar border, the northern center of the Meteorological Department has reported that the low-pressure areas from China trap forest smoke. In the research conducted between 2005 and 2009, the average rates of PM10 in Chiang Mai in the months of February and March were considerably above the country’s safety level of 120 μg/m3, peaking at 383 μg/m3 on 14 March 2007. The acceptable level of PM10 is 50 μg/m3, this is confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The transport section of Shiang Mai greatly contributes to the increasing amount of the emitted greenhouse gases, thus the advocates of Chiang Mai’s city government proposed the use of non-motorized transport (NMT). Moreover, it does not only have the potential to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions, but it addresses the problems like traffic congestion, air quality, income generation for the poor, and the long-term viability of the tourism industry.
It is said that the worst month to visit Chiang Mai is during the month of March, the smoke pollution is evident during that time.
Religious Sites in Chiang Mai
In Chiang Mai, there is over 300 wat (or Buddhist Temple). These temples are:
- Wat Phra That Doi Suthep – this is the most famous temple in Chiang Mai. It stands on Doi Suthep, which is a hill located at the north-west of Chiang Mai. The temple was built back from 1383.
- Wat Chiang Man – this is the oldest temple in Chiang Mai. It was built back in the 13th century. During the city was built, King Mengrai resided in this temple. You can visit two important and venerated Buddha figures in this temple, the marble Phra Sila, and the crystal Phra Satang Man.
- Wat Phra Singh – this is the temple situated within the city walls, it is built back from 1345, and it showcases the classic Northern Thai style of architecture. You can visit the Phra Singh Buddha, a highly venerated figure which was brought in Chiang Mai from Chiang Rai.
- Wat Chedi Luang – this temple was built back in 1401, it was ruled by a large Lan Na style chedi, which resulted for the temple to be finished after a couple of years. Only two-thirds of the temple remained when an earthquake damaged the chedi in the 16th century.
- Wat Ku Tao – this temple is the Chang Puak District of the city in the 13th century, the unusual alms-bowl-shaped stupa of the temple contains the ashes of King Anawrahta, the first Bamar ruler of Chiang Mai.
- Wat Chet Yot – this temple is located in the suburbs of Chiang Mai, it was built in 1455. The Eighth World Buddhist Council that took place in 1977 was held in this temple.
- Wiang Kum Kam – is located in the old city in the suburbs of southern Chiang Mai. Before Chiang Mai was founded, King Mangrai resided in the temple for 10 years.
- Wat Umong – is a forest and cave wat in the foothills located on the west of Chiang Mai. This temple is known as the fasting Buddha, it represents the Buddha at the end of his long and fruitless fast to gain enlightenment.
- Wat RamPoeng (Tapotaram) – is located near Wat Umong, it is known as the Northern Insight Meditation Center. It teaches the traditional vipassana technique and the student will stay 10 days or more than a month, the students meditate at least 10 hours a day. It has the largest collection of Tipitika, the complete Theravada canon translated into several Northern dialects.
- Wat Suan Dok – this temple was built in the 14th century, it is located on the west side of the old city wall of Chiang Mai. It was purposely built by the king for a reverend monk that visits from Sukhothai for a rainy season retreat. The temple is also located at Mahachulalongkorn Rajavidyalaya Buddhist University, the place where monks pursue their studies.
- ‘First Church’ – it was built in 1868 by the Laos Mission of Reverend Daniel and Mrs. Sophia McGilvary. There are about 20 Christian churches in Chiang Mai, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Chiang Mai is seated at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
- Mosques – There were Muslim traders who traveled to north Thailand before and settled in Chiang Mai, thus there were 16 mosques in Chiang Mai, these mosques serve the Chinese or Chin Haw Muslims, and the Muslims of Bengali, Pathan, and Malay.
- Siri Guru Singh Sabha and Namadhari – two gurdwaras (worship place for Sikhs) that serve the Sikh community in Chiang Mai.
- Hindu temple Devi Mandir – that sets to be the temple of the Hindu community in Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai’s Culture
Chiang Mai holds several Thai festivals, which includes:
- Loi Krathong or known as Yi Peng, this festival is celebrated during the full moon of the 12th month on the traditional Thai lunar calendar, since it is the full moon of the 2nd month of the old Lanna calendar. If you base it on the Western calendar, it will happen in November. Each year, thousands of people prepare an assembled floating banana leaf containers that is decorated with flowers and candles. They let it float on the waterways to worship the Goddess of Water. Also, they prepare Lanna-style sky lanterns, or a hot air balloon that is made from paper. These are hurled into the air to get rid of the local troubles, or it is sometimes used as decorations in the houses and streets.
- Songkran is celebrated by the Chiang Mai people every middle of April, it is to celebrate the traditional Thai New Year. During this time of the year, Chiang Mai is the most visited location, it is because of the various religious, fun-related activities, and Miss Songkran beauty competition.
- Chiang Mai Flower Festival is celebrated for three days, it is held in the first week of February, it is celebrated when Chiang Mai is temperate and the tropical flowers are in full bloom.
- Tam Bun Khan Dok, the Inthakhin (or city of Pillar) festival is celebrated on the day of the waning moon of the 6th lunar month and lasts 6 to 8 days.
Those who live in Chiang Mai speaks the language Northern Thai, which is also called Lanna or Kham Mueang. To write their language, they use Tai Tham alphabet as the script, it is studied by scholars. Their language is commonly written with the standard Thai alphabet.
- Chiang Mai City Arts and Cultural Center
- Chiang Mai National Museum, this museum highlights the history and the region of Lan Na.
- Tribal Museum, this museum upholds the history of the tribes in the local mountain.
- Mint Bureau of Chiang Mai, or also called Sala Thanarak, Treasury Department, Ministry of Finance, Rajdamnen Road. It has an old coin museum that is open for public viewing during business hours. The Lan Na Kingdom utilized leaf or line money that was made of brass and silver bubbles, which is also called ‘pig-mouth’ money.
- Bank of Thailand Museum
In Chiang Mai, a century-old tradition of Lan Na is being practiced, it is the Khan tok. This kind of dinner is an elaborate lunch or dinner that is offered by the host to their guests at various ceremonies, such as parties, weddings, celebrations, housewarmings, novice ordinations, and funerals. Khan Tok can also be held when there are specific buildings like Thai temple during Buddhist festivals like Khao Pansa, Og Pansa, Loi Krathong, and Songkran.
Education in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai has technical and teacher colleges, as well as, prestigious universities, which includes:
- Chiang Mai University
- Chiang Mai Rajabhat University
- Rajamangala University of Technology Lanna
- Payap University
- Far Eastern University; and
- Maejo University
Chiang Mai University was the first government university that was built outside Bangkok, and Payap University was the first private institution in Thailand that was granted with a university status.
Embrace the Nature of Chiang Mai
- Doi Inthanon National Park is a nearby national park in Chiang Mai, it includes the highest mountain in Thailand, Doi Inthanon.
- Doi Pui-Doi Suthep National Park starts on the western edge of Chiang Mai. The Wai Doi Suthep Buddhist Temple is situated near the summit of Doi Suthep. Thus, it makes this natural park an important and famous tourist attraction.
- Pha Daeng National Park or sometimes called, Chiang Dao National Park, it includes the mountains of Doi Chiang Dao and Pha Daeng, which is near the border of Myanmar.
- Akha, Hmong, Karen, and Lisu are the most visited local hill tribe. There are a number of tour companies that offer hill-tribe tourism and trekking among the local hills and forests of Chiang Mai, it can be on foot and on the back of an elephant.
- Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden
Recreational Parks in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai Zoo stretches out over a vast land area, it is also known to be the oldest zoo in Northern Thailand.
Shopping Centers: Chiang Mai offers a large and famous night bazaar for local arts and handicrafts. They have night markets that expand within the city of Chiang Mai, inside the buildings, temple grounds, and open squares. The handicraft and food market opens on the afternoon of Sunday and ends at late night on the main street of the historical center, the Rachdamnoen Road. During Saturday evening, the handicraft market is situated at Wua Lai Road, the silver street of Chiang Mai that is located on the south side of Chiang Mai Gate. Both locations of the handicraft market are closed to traffic.
Thai Massage: Chiang Mai offers an abundant variety of massage parlors, they offer from quick, simple, face, and foot massages, to month-long courses in the art of Thai massage. These massage parlors are located on the back street and main street of Chiang Mai.
Thai Cookery: Discover the variety of Thai foods, there are a number of Thai cooking schools in Chiang Mai.
Horse racing: Betting is legal in Chiang Mai, you can witness the races every Saturday at 12:30 pm at the Kawila Race Track.
IT Shopping: Those who are seeking with gadgets, at the south of Night Bazaar you can visit Pantip Plaza. Computer Plaza, Computer City, and Icon Square are located at the corner of the north-west moat. It is also available in Kad Suan Kaew Mall in their IT City department.
Transportation in Chiang Mai
In the Central, Southeast and Northern part of Thailand, there are a number of bus stations linked to them. Central Chang Puak terminal is located in the northern part of the Chiang Puak Gate. It can provide transportation services to over 20 destinations in Thailand, which includes Bangkok, Pattaya, Hua Hin, and Phuket. There are several services a day from Chiang Mai Arcade terminal to Mo Chit Station in Bangkok.
The state railway of Chiang Mai operates 10 trains in a day to Chiang Mai Station from Bangkok. Most of the railway trips run overnight since it will take 12 to 15 hours. These trains offer a 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.
Approximately 28 flights a day from Bangkok is being received by the Chang Mai International Airport. It also serves as the local hub by the northern cities such as Chiang Rai, Phrae, and Mae Hong Son. Asian countries can also connect international services with Chiang Mai.
The local mode of transportation in Chiang Mai is a personal bike and private car. For the public transport, it is through a tuk-tuk, songthaew, or rickshaws.
The population density of Chiang Mai progressively rises, thus there is a need to improve the transportation system of Chiang Mai. Roads are highly congested during the peak hours. As the city officials, researchers and experts plan a feasible solution, they have come up to a conclusion that what led to this problem is the lack of public transport, increasing number of motor vehicles, inefficient land use plan and urban sprawl.
Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA) has approved a draft decree on the light railway transit system project in Chiang Mai. If given the chance that the draft will be approved by the Thai cabinet, in 2020 the construction will take place, and it is to be done by 2023. It is believed that this system can alleviate the traffic in Chiang Mai to a large degree.
Chiang Mai’s breathtaking Tourism
From the records of Tourist Authority of Thailand, in the year 2013, Chiang Mai had 14.1 million visitors, of which 4.6 million are foreigners and 9.5 million are Thais. In 2016, the number of tourist arrivals is expected to increase by approximately 10 percent to 9.1 million, with Chinese tourists increasing by 7 percent to 750,000 and international arrivals by 10 percent to 2.6 million. Annually since the year 2011, the tourism of Chiang Mai has grown by 15 percent, this is mostly due to the Chinese tourists who account 30 percent of the international arrivals.
There are 32,000 to 40,000 hotel rooms available in Chiang Mai. After the Suvarnabhumi (BKK) and Don Mueang (DMK) in Bangkok, and Phuket (HKT) airports, the fourth largest airport in Thailand is the Chiang Mai Airport (CNX).
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 percent to 4.24 billion baht in 2013 and the number of MICE travelers to rise by five percent to 72,424.
The rush of tourists in Chiang Mai has put a strain on its natural resources. It has faced with rampant unplanned development, air and water pollution, waste management problems, and traffic congestion, and Chiang Mai has launched a non-motorized 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 policy-makers and citizens gave their full support on the climate compatible development strategies, as it has numerous health benefits.
Notable Persons of Chiang Mai
- Chookiat Sakveerakul, born in 1981, and is a notable film director and screenwriter of Chiang Mai.
- Nat Sakdatorn, born in 1983, and is a notable singer-songwriter, actor, writer, and model of Chiang Mai.
- Natthapong Samana, born in 1984, a famous footballer of Chiang Mai.
- Noppawan Lertcheewakarn, born in 1991, a famous tennis player of Chiang Mai.
- Rodjaraeg Wattanapanit, she is the first Thai who won the International Women of Courage Award.
Twin Towns and Sister Cities of Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai had a form of legal or social agreement with the following four cities:
- Uozo, Japan (since August 8, 1989)
- Saitama Prefecture, Japan (since November 9, 1992)
- Kunming, Yunnan, China (since June 7, 1999)
- Harbin, China (since April 29, 2008)