Chiang Mai, sometimes written as Chiengmai or Chiangmai, is the largest city in northern Thailand and the capital of Chiang Mai Province. It is 700 km north of Bangkok in a mountainous region. Chiang Mai (meaning "New City" in Thai) was founded in 1296 as the new capital of Lan Na. The city's location on the Ping River (a major tributary of the Chao Phraya River) and its proximity to major trading routes contributed to its historic importance.
The city (thesaban nakhon, "city municipality") of Chiang Mai only officially covers most parts of the Mueang Chiang Mai District, the city's sprawl extends into several neighbouring districts. The Chiang Mai metropolitan area is more than half of the total population of Chiang Mai Province.
The city is subdivided into four khwaeng (electoral wards): Nakhon Ping, Srivijaya, Mengrai, and Kawila. The first three are on the west bank of the Ping River, and Kawila is on the east bank. Nakhon Ping District includes the northern part of the city. Srivijaya, Mengrai, and Kawila consist of the western, southern, and eastern parts, respectively. The city centre—within the city walls—is mostly within Srivijaya ward.
The state railway operates 10 trains a day to Chiang Mai railway station from Bangkok. Most journeys run overnight and take approximately 12–15 hours. Most trains offer first-class (private cabins) and second-class (seats fold out to make sleeping berths) service. Chiang Mai is the northern terminus of the Thai railway system.
Chiang Mai International Airport receives up to 28 flights a day from Bangkok (flight time about 1 hour 10 minutes) and also serves as a local hub for services to other northern cities such as Chiang Rai, Phrae, and Mae Hong Son. International services also connect Chiang Mai with other regional centres, including cities in other Asian countries.
In 2017, the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA) (under Thailand's Digital Economy and Society Ministry) announced that 36.5 million baht would be invested into developing Chiang Mai into an innovation-driven "smart city". The model aims to capture and populate multiple levels of information (including building, social, environmental, governmental, and economic data) from sources like sensors, real-time traffic information, and social forums for access by managers, governments, and citizens using mobile apps, tablets, and dashboards. The "Smart City" outlook (integrating Information and Communications Technology (ICT) with the Internet of Things (IOT)), is viewed to be critical both for secondary cities with burgeoning urban population like Chiang Mai, as well as part of Thailand's move to be digital hub of ASEAN.
The role of private sector investment, together with public sector partnership, is key to promote digital entrepreneurship. Prosoft Comtech, a Thai software company, has spent 300 million baht to build its own "Oon IT Valley" on a 90 rai plot of land as a community for tech start-ups, Internet of Things technology, software programmers and business process out sourcing services. It is aimed to both increase the size of Chiang Mai's digital workforce, as well as attract foreign digital talent to Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai has a population of over 127,200 people. Chiang Mai also forms part of the wider Chiang Mai metropolitan area which has a population of over 960,906 people.
Chiang Mai has agreements with the following sister cities: Uozu, Japan • Saitama Prefecture, Japan • Kunming, Yunnan, China • Harbin, China • Pyongyang, North Korea • Da Lat, Lam Dong, Vietnam.