Chiangmai Wall 1899
Chiangmai Wall 2004

Chiang Mai's rich history goes back hundreds of years. Because of its prime location and fertile land, the valley that extends from the base of Suthep Mountain to the Ping River was settled in early times by several different ethnic groups, including the hilltribe group known as the Lua tribe. Later, King Mengrai unified the different towns and villages into what came to be known as the Lanna Thai Kingdom. In 1296, he fortified the fertile valley area with a rectangular shaped brick wall measuring 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) wide, and 2.0 kilometers (1.25 miles) long. Parts of the wall are still intact today, and the area within it is often called the "old city". King Mengrai went on to expand his kingdom to both sides of the Ping River and beyond, naming it "Nop Buri Sri Nakorn Ping Chiang Mai". This city became the center of the Lanna Thai Kingdom that later expanded and covered much of Northern Thailand. After that there was sporadic warfare for several generations, and Chiang Mai fell several times to both the Burmese and to a powerful kingdom to the south that was centered around the Choa Phaya Basin. In the end, Chiang Mai was taken by Krung Thon Buri, the capital of Thailand during that time, and under the fifth Rama, became a part of Thailand. Since the time of the Lanna Thai Kingdom, Chiang Mai has been a city for a total of 701 years.

Ring River & Nawarat Bridge 1961
Now a day 2004 ???

With a population of 1,547,085 Chiang Mai is one of Thailand's largest provinces. Of the above number, 170,348 are currently living in Chiang Mai's city area with the rest distributed throughout Chiang Mai's 21 districts, 2 sub-districts. 80% of the people in Chiang Mai are locals by birth, and speak a dialect that is a slight variation of the central Thai language. The remaining 20% is made up of Thai nationals and foreigners who have moved to Chiang Mai to work, study, or retire.
There are many hilltribe people living in the mountainous districts surrounding Chiang Mai such as Omkoi, Mae Jam, Chiang Dao, and Mae Ai. Statistics reported by the Tribal Research Institute of Chiang Mai stated that in the year 1992 there were 1,049 hilltribe villages in the Chiang Mai province, constituting a total of 174,195 people. Of this amount, 106,116 were from the Karen tribe, 27,392 from the Lahu (Musur) tribe, 17,198 from the Hmong (Meo) tribe, 10,873 form the Lisu tribe, 8,862 from the Lua tribe, 2,609 from the Akha tribe, 1,145 from the Mien (yao) tribe, and 485 from the Palong tribe. The hilltribe people are agricultural; planting fields, raising animals, and hunting for a living. Since each tribe has its own culture and language, they blanket the hills of Chiang Mai with an interesting patchwork quilt of diverse variety.
The majority (80%) of the Chiang Mai people earn a living through agriculture and agricultural related professions. The second largest vocation is tourism and its directly and indirectly related jobs. General commerce and industry--mainly in the form of handicrafts, and of processing agricultural products--are the two other major professions in which the Chiang Mai people are involved.

General Info:
Popularly known as the Rose of the North, Chiang Mai is blessed with stunning natural beauty and unique indigenous cultural identity. Founded by King Mengrai the Great as the capital of the Lanna Thai kingdom by merging the various city-states in the region in 1296. Today Chiang Mai is the economic, communications, cultural and tourism centre of Northern Thailand.
About 700 kilometres from Bangkok, Chiang Mai is situated on the Mae Ping River basin some 310 metres above sea level. Surrounded by high mountain ranges, it covers an area of approximately 20,107 square kilometres. The terrain is mainly jungles and mountains, parts of which are within national parks which are still fertile and verdant with plentiful flora and fauna. There are many sites and locations where tourists prefer to visit to study the lifestyle of the tribal people who live on high hills.

Distances from town to neighbouring districts :
Chom Thong
58 km
Chiang Dao
68 km
Chai Prakan
13 km
Doi Tao
121 km
Doi Saket
18 km
154 km
103 km
Mae Chaem
156 km
Mae Taeng
40 km
Mae Rim
8 km
Mae Wang
35 km
Mae Ai
174 km
Wiang Haeng
150 km
54 km
San Kamphaeng
13 km
San Sai
12 km
San Pa Tong
22 km
10 km
Hang Dong
15 km
Om Koi
179 km
88 km
Mae On
29 km

Hill Tribes
Over 100 years ago, the Hilltribe peoples migrated south from China into what are now Burma, Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand. The six major tribes are the Karen (Kariang, Yang), the Hmong (Meo), the Yao (Mien), the Akha (Ekaw), the Lisu (Lisaw), and the Lahu (Mussur). The main profession of all these tribes is farming, and all of them tend to migrate whenever they feel that the soil at their present location is becoming depleted. Each tribe is district, with its own culture, religion, language, art, and dress. With Thailand undergoing rapid modern development, it is difficult yet to say whether these tribes will continue in there traditional ways of life, or whether they will eventually be absorbed into the surrounding, and ever more-encroaching,Thai society.

Akha (Ekaw)
-: Akha (Ekaw) villages are distinguished by their carved wooden gates, presided over by guardian spirits. The Akha live in raised houses, within which one small room is set aside for paying respect to ancestors. The focal point of community life is the open ground -- the "common", if you will -- where the tribe celebrates its major festivals, especially that of the Giant Swing and where young men and women come to meet (under the watchful eye of the elders). This tribe is easily recognized by the black caps covered with silver coins, worn by the women.
Hmong (Meo)
-: The Hmong (Meo) live in houses that sit right on the ground, not on stilts as do most on the other tribes. However, the main floor of their houses is not at ground level, but rests upon a kind of above-ground basement or root cellar that they use for food storage. Moreover, their house-fronts slope outward and downward, an architectural feature that is the trademark of their villages.
: The Hmong , even more than the other tribes, practice a strict male-female division of labor. One custom that especially illustrates this is that of giving a newborn boy a gift of metal from which he will one they forge a weapon, whereas newborn girls receive no special gift. The Hmong are a diligent, patient, and independent people, fond of wearing their silver ornaments during ceremonies and much devoted to the sky spirit they believe has created both the world and their own ancient way of life.
Lisu (Lisaw)
-: The Lisu (Lisaw) like to settle near the tops of mountains, as close as possible to streams or waterfalls. Their houses never have more than one door and are oriented to stand parallel to the face of the mountain on which they live. Each village has a spirit house, and each house has a small shrine to spirits an ancestors. In addition, because the Lisu are the "engineers" among the Hilltribes, most of their villages feature a large bamboo pipe, a conduit, that carries to the village water from the nearest source. The Lisu are a handsome people, perhaps the best-looking of all the tribes, and they like to think of themselves as a cut or two above their other Hilltribe neighbors. Consequently, they are among the least bashful of these ethnic groups, and, although patient, like to be a bit competitive as well.
Karen (Kariang, Yang)
-: The Karen (Kariang, Yang) like to settle in foothills, and live in bamboo houses raised on stilts, beneath which live their domestic animals: pigs, chickens, and buffaloes. They, like all the tribes, are skilled farmers who practice crop rotation, and they also hunt for game, with spears and crossbows, and use tame elephants to help them clear land. Karen women are skilled in sewing and dyeing, and dress in white blouse-sarong combinations with colorful patterns or beads for trim. They wear their long hair tied back in a bun and covered with white scarves. The Karen are gentle, peaceful, and cooperative people, who, like all the Hilltribes, reserve their highest veneration for their ancestors and living elders.
Lahu (Mussur)
-: Since "Lahu", the name of their tribe, means "hunter", the Lahu (Mussur) obviously pride themselves on their skills in hunting and trapping. They are also famous for their knowledge of herbal medicine.The Lahu are an independent people, physically larger than the members of the other tribes, but rather than their greater stature leading to aggressiveness, they love entertainment and the easily life. Lahu women wear several kinds of distinctive dress, although the men clothe themselves pretty much uniformly. The women wear colorful turbans and like to sport beautiful earrings, usually of silver. This is another mountain-top tribe with their houses on stilts, and a "basement-corral" for their many domestic animals: chickens, pigs, ducks, and buffaloes.
Yao (Mien)
-: The Yao (Mien) prefer to live among low hills near dense forest. Their houses also sit on the ground, and feature a space designed for a cooking fire in the center of their main room, as well as a small shrine dedicated to their ancestors and to the guardian spirit they believe to inhabit each individual house. Their language, long ago derived from Chinese, is written in Chinese Characters, and their paintings, mostly of religious subjects, reflect certain very ancient Chinese artistic styles, although the Yao paintings have a unique flavor of their own, and are coveted by many Western collectors. The Yao are the "businessmen" among the Hilltribes, and they also excel in the making of metal farm implements such as axes and plows. Because they've long had a written language --unlike several of the other tribes, who had no written version of their language prior to the coming into their midst of Christian missionaries -- they also know how to make high quality paper.