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Chiang Mai, also sometimes written as "Chiengmai", is the second-largest city in Thailand, the largest and most culturally significant city in northern Thailand, and the capital of Chiang Mai Province. It is located at 18°47'20?N, 98°59'00?E, some 800 km north of Bangkok, among some of the highest mountains in the country. The city stands on the Ping river, a major tributary of the Chao Phraya river.
In recent years Chiang Mai has become an increasingly modern city, although it lacks the cosmopolitan gloss of Bangkok. It has many attractions for the thousands of foreign visitors who come to the city each year. Chiang Mai's historic strength derived from its important strategic location near a southern branch of the ancient Silk Road, and long before the modern influx of foreign visitors the city served as an important centre for handcrafted goods, umbrellas, jewellery (particularly silver) and woodcarving.
Chiang Mai Province has an estimated population of about 1.6 million, with some 6-700,000 living in the city of Chiang Mai. The population figures vary a lot: some think that only people living in the "Central District" (Amphoe Muang) of Chiang Mai must be counted as city residents, but Chiang Mai has an undoubted case of suburban sprawl. Is a person living in Mae Jo, or Hang Dong, to be counted as a "resident of Chiang Mai city?" Similar questions apply to New York, Los Angeles, and Tokyo. At the end of the day, however, it is pretty easy to tell when you are in the city of Chiang Mai (pop. 700,000), and when you are out in the sticks of Chiang Mai Province (pop. 1,600,000).
Beyond all doubt, however, the city is growing rapidly, as it has been perceived as the most livable city in all of Asia.
Information provided by Wikipedia
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Chiang Mai is a popular place for arranging hill trekking. As usual in Thai cities massage places abound, both for treatments and for learning the art yourself, and cooking schools are also popular.
Let's Relax 2F Chiang Mai Pavilion and B1F Chiang Inn Plaza, Chang Khlan Road, does professional massage in very clean if not downright sterile surroundings complete with air-con, the sound of running water and gentle scents. A 45-minute foot reflexology session costs 350 baht, nearly twice the price of the competition, but is worth every satang after a long trek.
Kawila Boxing Stadium not far from Narawat Bridge, has real Muay Thai (Thai boxing, the national sport of Thailand) fights every Friday at 20:00 with 10 bouts ranging from young debutant fighters, local champions, and locals vs foreigners. Entry is 400 baht (as of March 2006).
Lanna Muay Thai on Soi Chiang Khian, off Huay Kaew Road - Muay Thai coaching.
Rafting down the Maetang river is offered by several companies and can often be combined with elephant riding or mountain biking (The Peak is one of the better companies, and also offers many other interesting trips). During the dry season (Jan-Feb) water levels are relatively low with only grade 2-3 rapids, but during the rainy season (Jun-Oct) higher water levels make for a more exciting grade 4-5 trip.
Royal Flora Exposition is a magnificent showcase of 50,000 orchid plants representing nearly 10,000 orchid species, plus much more.
Motorcycle touring is a great way to explore Northern Thailand - the GT-Rider website has a wealth of information, including routes and maps for both short and long rides. One route out of Chiang Mai not mentioned is a day trip up and over Doi Suthep, which will take riders up to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, and beyond the mountain to the reservoir.
Scooter Touring is another great way to explore the region going out as far as Mae Hong Son and suitable for the less experienced motorcyclist. Motorbike Thailand offer great tours using Honda 125cc stepthrough scooters riding into some of the more remote regions and also offer rider training on route.