About Chiang Mai
Thailand’s “Rose of the North” is a cultural and natural wonderland with ethnic diversity, a multitude of attractions, and welcoming hospitality.
Chiang Mai literally means “new city” and has retained the name despite celebrating its 700th anniversary in 1996. King Meng Rai the Great founded the city as the capital of the Lanna Kingdom on Thursday, April 12 1296 around the same time as the establishment of the Sukhothai Kingdom. King Meng Rai even conferred with his friends, King Ramkhamhaeng of Sukhothai and King Ngam Muang of Phayao before choosing the site where the capital of the Lanna Kingdom was to be founded. Henceforth, Chiang Mai not only became the capital and cultural core of the Lanna Kingdom, it was also to be the center of Buddhism in northern Thailand, King Meng Rai himself a very religious leader who even founded many of the city’s temples that remain important to this day.
Chiang Mai is one of the few places in Thailand where it is possible to experience both historical and modern Thai culture coexisting side by side: the city features centuries-old chedis and temples next to modern convenience stores and boutique hotels. This dichotomy is best appreciated within the moat-encircled old city, which retains much of the fortified wall that once protected the city center as well as the four main gates that provided access to the former Lanna capital city.
Local InformationEmergency Contact
Chiang Mai has an Emergency Help number, 191, who will pass on your call to the correct service. Government Offices in Chiang Mai are open from 8:30am to 4:30 pm Monday to Friday.
All regions in Thailand including Chiang Mai is at GMT+7.
The official language of the conference is English. Many Thai people speak English well, but many more (and especially people you meet in the streets, like your taxi driver, your market merchant etc.) do understand some English, mostly enough to communicate with you, but they pronounce it quite differently than you expect!
220 volts AC, 50 Hz, flat or round two-pin plugs are standard.
Please contact the information desk if you need medical assistance. They will advise you about where and how to find appropriate medical care.
Currency and Money Exchange
The Thai unit of currency is the BAHT. Most banks are open daily from 9.00-15.30 in weekdays. Small bank branches in Department Stores are open everyday during the store time. USD 1 is approximately 30 baht excluding the exchange charge.
Shopping is one of the premier activities in Chiang Mai, where nearly every souvenir product found elsewhere in Thailand is available for sale. The advantage of shopping in Chiang Mai is that visitors may learn about handicrafts production by watching artisans making the products firsthand. Both in the city itself and in several outlying villages, particularly along the Bo Sang-San Kamphaeng road, there are establishments where visitors can purchase handicrafts and works of art directly from the people who produced them. For the more casual shopper, the Chiang Mai night market features numerous street stalls and shops, the Sunday Market offers more unique, independently created souvenirs and products, and the indoor, air conditioned Central department store shopping complex on Huay Kaeo Road sells international brand name products.
Chiang Mai features many foods that are parts of its own distinctive cuisine, including both those handed down over the generations from the Lanna kingdom and those influenced by its neighbors, especially Myanmar (Burma). Chiang Mai specialties include spicy sausage, khao soy (a type of noodle soup), and the ultimate in northern cuisine, a khan toke dinner; khan toke dinners usually consist of several small dishes, such as curries, crispy fried pork skin, and northern style chili sauces, served with sticky rice on a small round table, usually in front of a traditional dancing show
Songteaws serve as the informal commuter transport in most provincial towns across Thailand and the 'red trucks' of Chiang Mai are seldom far from sight. Flag down one of these pickups, jump into the covered back, and jump off later (offering 20 baht) as it follows a fixed route towards the city. If the red truck is empty they will usually agree to act as a private taxi for a fee that's cheaper than any other mode of transport.
Taxis and tuk tuks are easy to flag down, though taxis tend to limit themselves to the airport run and private calls, leaving the casual trips to tuk tuks and songthaews. These modern, air-conditioned saloons are a good idea to get from the airport to your hotel - 120 baht (about US$4) - though the journey ought to cost a lot less by other means. They are safe, and honest in using their meters, but work on a fixed fee from the airport.
Tuk Tuks are the ubiquitous and quintessential Thailand icon and Chiang Mai has plenty; they are usually gathered in tourist areas. They will take you on 10-minute trip for about 60-100 baht ($2-3) depending on your haggling skills, and can be a fun way to beat the traffic.
For more information:
Thailand Travel Guide for Chiang Mai (Tourism Authority of Thailand)