I am a frequent visitor to Chiang Mai. In my mind it is the perfect Thai city in many ways. It is big, but not too big. It has a cool season and the city area is surrounded by thick rain forest, loads of lakes and waterfalls and is generally an easy place to navigate.
However, the "burning season" is incredibly bad there and for a few months of the year the city has the worst air quality in the world and this can be attributed to crop burning that is technically illegal. An AQI (Air Quality Index) of anything over 50 is considered unsafe but for nearly 3 months Chiang Mai routinely has levels from 300-500.
The last thing that this fine city needs is a massive forest fire and unforunately, that is precisely what has been going on in the past few weeks. The start of the fire is unknown but it is almost certainly some sort of controlled burning that became "not so controlled" and then spiraled into wildly out of control.
For a while there, it looked as though the entire area was in danger of being consumed but a massive firefighting effort finally has the blaze contained. It is still burning now and a massive plot of land is now scorched earth. It is simply sad to see.
At first the fire was treated with a very lackadaisical attitude by local authorities but then when the famous temple Doi Suthep was threatened the city's administration sprung into action. Thankfully, it was contained but there is another terrible side effect of this all.
The AQI in Chiang Mai teeters on nearly 1000 on the index and is considered twenty times the safe level. This all comes at a time when Thailand is already facing plenty of hardship due to the death of tourism, which so many depend on, the threat of Corona-virus that only recently the government started to take seriously, and a general feeling of economical unrest among the locals.
I am hopeful that things will improve for my favorite city in Chiang Mai, but eventually (Corvid aside) the government is going to be forced to address this problem with burning in the mountains and start to hold some people responsible.