Located approximately 700km north-west of Bangkok, and set at an elevation of around 300 metres, Chiang Mai is Thailand's second largest city. With over 300 temples and the backdrop of Doi Suthep Mountain rising to 1876 metres to the west, this is a visually striking city.
The old part of the city is a neat square surrounded by a moat. Several of Chiang Mai's most important temples are located within this area. To the east is the Ping river which cuts through the city from north to south. In recent years several luxury condominiums have been built alongside the river.
Chiang Mai has developed into a first class tourist destination, and is an excellent base from which to explore Northern Thailand.
During most of the year, thanks to its altitude, Chiang Mai is less humid and much cooler, especially at night, than elsewhere in Thailand. The present Royal Family spend a considerable portion of their time staying at Phuping Palace, set in beautiful grounds on the Buag Ha mountain, about 22 kilometres from Chiang Mai. It is possible to visit the grounds of the palace, when the Royal Family is not in residence.
Air-conditioned buses leave Bangkok's Northern Bus Terminal every morning from 9.00am to 10.30am, and from 8.00pm to 9.30pm each evening. The journey takes about nine hours. Several companies operate private tour buses which run from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
The Chiang Mai Express leaves daily from Hua Lampong Station in Bangkok at 6.00pm, arriving in Chiang Mai the following morning around 7.30am.
Thai International operate daily flights to Chiang Mai. Bangkok Airways have flights to Chiang Mai via Sukhothai. Take a taxi or the airport bus for the journey into the city.
Samlors and songthaews operate throughout the city for quite modest fares, but a more interesting way to travel is by bicycle. These can be rented from several places around the old city. Small motorcycles are also available for rent, but make sure you read and understand the agreement before parting with your money.
Most hotels will be able to arrange a car and driver for longer trips.