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Chiang Mai

Chiang Maiis the largest and most culturally significant city in northern Thailand, and is the capital of Chiang Mai Province. It is located some 700 km (435 mi) north of Bangkok, among some of the highest mountains in the country. The city stands on the Ping river, a major tributary of the ChaoPhraya river. In recent years, Chiang Mai has become an increasingly modern city; and although it lacks the cosmopolitan nature of Bangkok, it has many attractions for the thousands of foreign visitors who come each year. Chiang Mai's historic importance is derived from its strategic location on an ancient trade route. Long before the modern influx of foreign visitors, the city served as a major centre for handcrafted goods, umbrellas, jewellery (particularly silver) and woodcarving. While officially the city (thesaban nakhon) of Chiang Mai only covers most parts of the Mueang Chiang Mai district with a population of 150,000, the urban sprawl of the city now extends into several neighboring districts. This Chiang Mai Metropolitan Area has a population of nearly one million people, more than half the total of Chiang Mai Province. The city itself is subdivided into four wards (khwaeng): Nakhon Ping, Srivijaya, Mengrai, and Kavila. The first three are on the west bank while Kavila is located on the east bank of the Ping River. Nakhon Ping district covers the north side of the city. Srivijaya, Mengrai, and Kavila cover the west, south, and east side respectively. The central part (the old walled town) is covered mostly by Srivijaya and partly by Nakhon Ping and Mengrai wards.