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Geography and history

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With its own very distinctive culture, arts, festivals and traditions, as well as an interesting mix of local, ethnic and expatriate communities from all over the world, Chiang Mai has often been voted one of the best places to live within Asia. While Chiang Mai is a modern city, it hasn't lost any of its traditional charm.

Geography and history


Covering an area of about 20,000 square kilometers, Chiang Mai is Thailand 's second largest city. The province acts as a hub for the north of the country. It is located about 700 kilometers north of Bangkok by road, and 761 km by rail.

Chiang Mai is a region of forested hills and lush fertile valleys. Mountains and forests generally run in a north-south pattern and include several streams and tributaries, such as the Mae Jam, Mae Ngud and Mae Klang. These in turn feed important rivers and irrigation canals, such as the Muang and Faay rivers, which provide the water necessary for the province's agriculture.



The largest and most important river in the province is the Ping River . Originating in the mountains of Chiang Dao, it flows southwards for over 540 km. The flat fertile valley area of Chiang Mai lies along the banks of the river. Insert photo: ping_bridge

Chiang Mai is also home to numerous National Parks, including the famous Inthanon Mountain , which stands 2,575 meters above sea level making it the country's highest mountain. The province is bordered by Chiang Rai province to the northeast, Lampang and Lamphun to the east, Tak to the south and Mae Hong Son to the west. To the north, Chiang Mai shares a border with Myanmar



Chiang Mai, which actually means “ new city ” was founded in 1292 by King Mengrai, who moved the capital of Lanna there from Chiang Rai after conquering the Haripunchai around what is now Lamphun province.

Within the city walls, King Mengrai founded the temple called Wat Chiang Man, while outside the city he built many small forts, such as Wiang Kum Kam, to consolidate his power. He ruled for 21 years and founded a dynasty that ruled the north for 200 years.

The kingdom reached its zenith in the late 15 th century under King Tilokaracha, who commissioned a special temple (Wat Jed Yod) there for the Eighth Buddhist Conference in 1477, which celebrated Buddhism's 2,000 th anniversary. Chiang Mai fell under Burmese rule in the late 16 th century amid one of the many wars between Siam and the Burmese. It remained under foreign rule for 200 years. When King Taksin finally expelled the Burmese in the late 18 th century, he claimed Chiang Mai as a tributary of the kingdom of Siam . It remained a separate state until the death of the last Prince of Chiang Mai in 1939, when it came under the central administration of Bangkok.