Chiang Mai is the capital of northern Thailand and its economic, cultural and communications hub. The city lies approximately 700 kilometers north of Bangkok in the Mae Ping river basin. Lying at an altitude of around 310 metres, Chiang Mai is surrounded by high mountain ranges, including Doi Inthanon, which at 2,565 metres is Thailand’s highest mountain.
Chiang Mai province covers an area of some 20,107 square kilometers making it Thailand’s second largest province behind Nakhon Ratchasima. It is bordered by Myanmar to the north, Lamphun and Tak provinces to the south, Chiang Rai, Lampang and Lamphun provinces to the east and Mae Hong Son province to the west. The mountainous terrain is mostly comprised of jungle, parts of which lie in national parks, which are home to plenty of wildlife and exotic flora. The mountains are also home to the many hill tribes who still retain much of their cultural identity, including the Hmong, Yao, Lahu, Lisu, Akha and Karen.
Most of Chiang Mai’s mountains are oriented from north to south. Together they create a multitude of streams and tributaries including Mae Chaem, Mae Ngat and Mae Klang, which flow into the Ping River. Along the river basins are flat, fertile valleys, where settlement is most dense.