Getting to Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is 700 kilometers (440 miles) north of Bangkok and is just beginning to sprawl across its own mountain valley. It is a day’s drive or an hour’s flight away. Better to fly unless you particularly want to see the intervening countryside, much of which is flat and uninspiring. Or, take the thirteen-hour overnight train ride, which is comfortable and, after air travel, the next best way to get there. In any case, make reservations as far in advance as you can, particularly around New Year, Songkran (the traditional Thai New Year celebrated in mid-April) or Loy Krathong (the enchanting water festival during full moon in November).
For plane travelers, Thai International’s number in Bangkok is (02) 280-0090. Chiang Mai airport is on the western outskirts of town. If you already have a hotel reservation, look for the name of your hotel among the small sea of bobbing boards at the passenger exit. The board carrier will turn out to be your hotel’s minibus driver, and he will show you to the bus. Otherwise, stop at the taxi and car-rental counter on your right as you leave the domestic baggage hall and hire a cab. You can reach most places in town for about 80 baht, but take time to study the price list. You will notice many out-of-town destinations, and the prices are a fair guide to going rates—they’ll help you to bargain later on.