Welcome to Chiang Mai. If you’ve come from Bankgok, you’ve come 751 kilometres – as the crow flies, about the distance from Paris to Dublin, or from New York City to Columbus, Ohio, from Sydney to Brisbane, or from Tokyo to Kyoto and back. Chiang Mai province will be the 13th of Thailand’s 76 provinces that you’ve travelled through.
Chiang Mai means “New City”. It was the new city that King Mengrai, of the La Na, built anew in 1296 after he conquered the Mon kingdom of Hariphunchai based out of Lamphung a short distance to the south. Incidentally, the “old city” by his reckoning was Chiang Rai, the former capital of the La Na, about 150km to the Northeast of here.
But there was apparently a township here before King Mengrai. Wiang Nopburi belonged to the “Wa” people. They’re still around today – they can be found in the tiny, but fiercely independent and belligerent Wa State in Eastern Myanmar.
Chiang Mai station is about 2.5 km to the East of the old town, and a bit further to the trendier northern side of town. Unless you have a transfer organised, the only real taxi options are in the back of utility vehicles – usually red ones.