Chiang Mai, one of Thailand’s top tourist destinations is currently experiencing some of the worst smog and haze in recent years. Smog and haze levels are now so bad it’s making breathing difficult and the Thai government is warning the elderly and children should stay indoors if possible. If you have a vacation booked to Chiang Mai in the next couple of weeks, I would suggest canceling it and considering traveling somewhere else in Thailand instead. The health situation is that bad.
The thick smog and haze currently in Chiang Mai is coming from hundreds of fires that have been lit by subsistence farmers to burn fields before replanting starts. The fires, however, are not just coming from the northern Thai area, but also from over the border in Laos, where farmers are doing the same. The health hazard from all these fires has now been critical for almost two weeks.
Chiang Mai always has smog problems from fires at this time of year and the Thai government has done little about it in past years a fact few who live in the city can understand. But this year is particularly bad. So much so that the Thai prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, has now ordered urgent action from the ministries of Natural Resources and Environment, who are sending the military to pour water on fires lit by farmers in an effort to stop them.
Unfortunately for Thailand, which just lost hundreds of millions of dollars last year in tourist revenue due to devastating floods hitting one third of the country, not only are the fires a huge health hazard, but they are also destroying the tourist industry in eight northern Thai provinces, including Chiang Mai.
Unfortunately for tourists, if you have a trip planned to Chiang Mai, it really is not a city you will enjoy visiting at the moment. Thick smog covers all of the city and flights in and out of it are being canceled as pilots have less than 10 meters visibility. Not only will it be inconvenient to get there, and may require being bused in from another airport, but once you are there you will not be able to see many of the city’s beautiful tourist attractions — literally.
If you can cancel your trip to Chiang Mai, I suggest doing so. Fires are likely to continue at least another few weeks, making any visit to the city extremely unpleasant.
If rescheduling is not a problem, consider coming to Bangkok (we don’t have the smog here), or down to southern tourist destinations like Phuket or Koh Samui. They’re beautiful and completely smog-free.