Thailand: Jaeng Katam (Katam Bastion) at Loy Krathong festival time, Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai, sometimes written as 'Chiengmai' or 'Chiangmai', is the largest and most culturally significant city in northern Thailand, and is the capital of Chiang Mai Province. It is located 700 km (435 mi) north of Bangkok, among the highest mountains in the country. The city is on the Ping river, a major tributary of the Chao Phraya river. King Mengrai founded the city of Chiang Mai (meaning 'new city') in 1296, and it succeeded Chiang Rai as capital of the Lanna kingdom. The city was surrounded by a moat.