Mai is Thailandís principal northern city. Chiang Mai
is the provincial capital of a largely mountainous province, also
called Chiang Mai, which is some 20,000 square kilometers in area.
Chiang Mai is
700 kilometers north of Bangkok, was founded in 1296, and is located
in a fertile valley some 300 meters above sea level.
Chiang Mai was the
capital of Lanna Thai (Kingdom of One Million Rice fields), the
first in dependent Thai kingdom within the fabled Golden Triangle.
Chiang Mai flourished as a major religious, cultural and trading
center until 1556 when a Burmese invasion reduced it to a casual
state. The Burmese were expelled in 1785, whereupon Lanna Thai once
again became part of northern Thailand.
Many lowland Thais
regard Chiang Mail city and province as being something of a
national Shangri-la, thanks to its beautiful women, distinctive
festivals, historic temples dating from the 1300s, arresting scenic
beauty, temperate fruits such as apples peaches and strawberries,
and a crisp, invigorating cool season climate.
The people of Chiang
Mai enjoy one of the most distinctive cultural identities in the
whole of Thailand. Largely farmers and artisans, they have their own
lilting dialect, their own customs, their own festivals, their own
architectural traditions, their own indigenous handicrafts, their
own dances and their own distinctive cuisine, Hilltribes also lend a
great deal of character and color to the crisply beautiful