Photo by Greg Rodgers
An annual problem, the smoke and choking pollution is back in Northern Thailand.
And this time, the sputtering tuk-tuks and heavy traffic circulating the moat can't take all of the blame.
Caused by slash-and-burn agricultural fires that get out of hand around this time each year, the air quality in Chiang Mai and surrounding areas is poor enough to cause health problems.
Residents are already donning masks and reporting respiratory problems connected to the lingering haze. Despite plenty of criticism, and threats from Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the fires continue to burn. At least until the first monsoon rains come sometime in April or May to clean the air.
Particulate matter in Chiang Mai was at around 125 micrograms per cubic meter on Friday. The European Union considers anything above 50 micrograms per cubic meter to be unsafe. That puts the air quality in Chiang Mai almost three times above the safe limit.
Bad news for one of Thailand's tourism hotspots, especially this time of year when thousands will be filing in for the Songkran festival next month. And the problem isn't only in Chiang Mai. Fires burning along the border of Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand are creating enough smoke to cloud Pai, Mae Hong Son, Chiang Rai, and other popular areas for tourists.
Travelers with asthma and respiratory problems should probably avoid that part of Thailand and opt for the cleaner air near the Thai islands instead.
See some better destination ideas for Asia in April.