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Courtesy of Four Seasons Chiang Mai

After a few days in the pulsing coming-of-age city of Bangkok, with its constant traffic jams, urban noise and overgrown malls, touching down in Chiang Mai, with its green mountains and lazy afternoon fog is an instant breath of fresh air. Chiang Mai is Thailand’s northernmost province and second-largest city. Two million people live within its borders, with a small percentage of urban dwellers outnumbered by the rural rice farmers and hill tribes.

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Lay of the Land

“Asia is not going to be civilised after the methods of the West. There is too much Asia and she is too old.”
~Rudyard Kipling

The largest city in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is located along the Ping River, about 435 miles north of Bangkok. The river divides the city’s four wards: Nakhon Ping, Srivijaya, and Mengrai are on the west bank, while Kawila sit on the eastern bank. The city center is mostly located within Srivijaya.

Once a rather charming town (and ex-pat enclave), Chiang Mai today is congested and far from pretty. The walled-in Old City is the location of most of the historical sites and temples. The best luxury hotels lie just outside the city center in the region’s famous rice fields. The Four Seasons is just a 30-minute drive from downtown. The area surrounding the city consists of mostly forested mountains, the site for numerous elephant camps (read about Indagare’s recommended camps). Within the city, tuktuks are the main form of transportation. Numerous trains run into Chiang Mai daily from surrounding cities.

When to Go

The best time to visit is between November and February, when temperatures are bearable, and there is little rain. Note that the yearly crop burn begins in late February, so air pollution becomes an issue. Year-round, temperatures range between 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Beyond… Chiang Mai

Consider combining your trip with one of these destinations.

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