Local Information

Chiang Mai has a striking mountain backdrop, over 300 temples and a quaint historical aura. It's also a modern, friendly, internationally-flavoured city with much to offer the visitor - food, accommodation and shopping are all top quality and cheap, and the nights are relatively cool.

Thailand's second-largest city and the gateway to the country's north was founded in 1296. You can still see the moat that encircled the original city. Doi Suthep, topped by one of Thailand's holiest wats, rises behind the city, providing a dramatic backdrop and fine views of the city.

Orientation

Located in northwestern Thailand, old Chiang Mai is a neat square bounded by moats and partial walls. The Moon Muang, along the east moat, is the centre for inexpensive accommodation and places to eat. The Tha Phae, the main street, runs from the moat here at the main square east and over Mae Nam Ping (River). Here it changes its name to The Charoen Meuang and passes the post office and train station almost 3km (1.8mi) from the eastern city moat.

Getting Around

Chiang Mai has only one city bus line of limited use, so most residents get about in săwngthăew (pick-up truck taxis) or on bicycle or motorcycle.

The best way to get around is bicycle. They are cheap to hire, environmentally friendly, give the lungs a workout and can be rented conveniently from many guesthouses and along the east moat. There are also hordes of túk-túk (three-wheeled motorised taxis) and săamláw (three-wheeled pedicabs) which are cheap enough but contribute to unnecessary traffic congestion and pollution. There are plans to initiate a mass transit system in Chiang Mai: a rail system would certainly help with the current congestion woes.