Homes in Chiang Mai and northern Thailand

What is referred to as "northern" Thailand is actually the north-northwestern part of Thailand, as opposed to north central and northeastern (Isaan) Thailand. There is a major mountain range that tended to keep the areas fairly separate in culture for a long time. Northwestern Thailand was part of the Lanna Kingdom which also spread into what's now northeastern Myanmar. The borders were drawn during British colonial times and do not represent a natural border.

Chiang Mai was a most popular place for expats to stay when I first arrived in 1994, and there's even been an American Consulate there for a long time, plus consulates for 4 other countries, the most for a city outside of Bangkok. In the old days, Chiang Mai was often chosen for its cooler temperatures (or "less hot" if you are sensitive to the heat), sufficient expat conveniences, and significant expat community. Chiang Mai has always been a popular tourist destination.

As Thailand has developed, many other places in northern have grown in popularity for expats to live, such as Chiang Rai in the extreme north, the town of Pai in Mae Hong Son province amongst many mountains, and many other places scattered around. Condominiums are common in Chiang Mai, the largest and most populous city in the region.

This is the most mountainous region in Thailand, generally, especially as you get closer to the border with Myanmar. The highest point in Thailand, Doi Inthanon, is in Chiang Mai province.

However, expats have settled down seemingly all over this region, though it seems to me lower in number these days than in northeastern Thailand / Isaan, due to more marriages to Thai wives from the northeast.

A drawback to northwestern Thailand is periods of smoke from the burning of agricultural waste between planting seasons, much of it from northeastern Myanmar which is poorly governed. It has been bad enough to shut down airport traffic including fairly recently. I have expat friends who have sent me photos from the street in Chiang Mai and said that's not fog, that's smoke. Mae Hong Son and Chiang Mai provinces have been known to have some of the worst air pollution in Thailand due to the burning of agricultural waste at times.

If you have children, then you should also see the section on schools.

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