Chiang Mai Province is the second-largest province (changwat) of Thailand. It is bordered by Chiang Rai to the northeast, Lampang and Lamphun to the south, Tak to the southwest, Mae Hong Son to the west, and Shan State of Burma to the north.
Chiang Mai Province is about 700 kilometres from Bangkok in the Mae Ping River basin and is on average 300 metres above sea level. Surrounded by the mountain ranges of the Thai highlands, it covers an area of approximately 20,000 km². Much of the mountains are covered by rain forest. The highest mountain in Thailand, Doi Inthanon at 2,565 metres is in Chiang Mai Province. Several national parks are located within the province: Doi Suthep-Pui, Mae Ping, Sri Lanna, Huai Nam Dang, Mae Phang, and Chiang Dao, making this province a good candidate if you want to do some hiking in Thailand.
A nice day trip from Chiang Mai, Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain in Thailand is worth the visit. The mountain and its surrounding area are part of a National Park which spans an area of 48,240 hectares with the summit at 2,565 metres above sea level. The altitude means that the ecology and temperature are not what you would typically expect of tropical Thailand. The temperature can drop to single figures, and the ecology is more like that typically found in colder climes such as Europe. It is also famous for its variety of birds, making it a good destination for birdwatchers. The park has several walking trails which allow you to explore the beauty of its flora and fauna.
Private transport is recommended to reach and explore the park. There are many impressive waterfalls to visit along the way such as Wachiratharn, Mae Ya and Mae Klang. Just before the summit another point of interest are the two royal pagodas which offer good views of the valley below.
Doi Angkhang largely unknown to foreign tourists but a famous destination for Thai tourists is a wild and mountainous frontier range which lies at the edge of the Thailand Burma border. A cluster of peaks and valleys it is also home to colourful hilltribes such as the Palong, Lahu, Lisu and Hmong.
You can visit the Thai military base camp situated on a ridge at the edge of the border you can look out over no mans land and the sweeping expanse of Myanmar and its remote Shan states. Another key attractions is the Royal Project Centre where beautifully manicured gardens host a colourful array of flowers, there are also greenhouses where the serious cultivation stuff goes on growing organic crops normally found in colder climes such as strawberries, rhubarbs, persimmons. More than just a beautiful site this place bears particular significance as this is a showcase for the success of the King’s initiative which started 30 years ago to wean the hilltribes off growing opium to more productive crops.
You will need private transport to reach Doi Angkhang. There are several guesthouses and resorts here catering for tourists
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Songkran is the biggest party of the year, held during the hot month of April. In the past, people would throw water among themselves in nice way to bless each other. These days, the festival has evolved into an all-out water fight that takes a whole week. Chiang Mai is the spot in Thailand where Songkran is celebrated for the longest period. The rest of Thailand limits the Songkran festival to some few days. The reason for this is that the festival originated from Chiang Mai in the past and so the city feels more strongly attached to it than anywhere else in Thailand.
Chiang Mai has 3 seasons: winter, summer and rainy season. Being in the north temperatures are slightly cooler compared to Bangkok and the south. During the winter months (November to February) evenings are pleasantly chilly whilst the day is still hot (30 °C). The Summer months (March-April) can be unbearably hot when temperatures can soar to 40 °C. During the rainy season (end of May to September) the weather cools off a bit with daily outbursts of rain that can last up to an hour or so. Despite being wet sometimes, it is otherwise a very nice time to visit as this is when the fields are at their most lush green.
Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX) is the main gateway to the province. A main hub for domestic flights, there are services from/to Bangkok, Phuket, Koh Samui, Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son, Pai, Udon Thani and Khon Kaen. International flights also operate from/to Kuala Lumpur, Luang Prabang, Seoul, Taipei, Yangon and Singapore.
From Bangkok, there are 6 trains daily that depart from Hua Lampong Station. Fan/air- con, slow/fast trains are available taking anywhere from 12 to 15 hours. Overnight trains all have bunks and can save a nights accommodation.
Travellers coming to Chiang Mai by bus will arrive at the Arcade Bus Station, which is near the train station on the east side of the Ping River. Chiang Mai has bus services to most main Thai cities. Buses leave frequently to Bangkok, Chiang Rai, Mae Sai, Nan, and other cities.
From Bangkok, buses depart every hour from 05:30am to 10:00pm at Mo Chit Bus Terminal. There are 3 classes of bus: fan, air-con and VIP. The journey takes approximately 12-15 hours. Buses arrive at the Arcade Bus station on the Eastern part of town. From the bus station it is easy to get a tuk tuk/songthaew to the city centre. Green Bus Thailand covers most routes in the northern regions and tickets can be booked on their website.
For eating cheap Chiang Mai is great, as you can get great food all over the place. Street vendors (hawkers) are selling everything you can imagine. If you find a market, you will have plenty of options to fill you stomach.
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