Update 14th April: It was a false alarm, the smokey season didn’t end. In fact today it is as bad as ever at 194 AQI. This is probably as bad as it has been, I haven’t seen the readings this high. The mountain has gone again. Plus what’s worse is that nearly everyone in Chiang Mai will spend most of the day outdoors today for Songkran. Yesterday it seemed like everyone spraying water cleaned up the pollution a lot by evening, but today has started much worse.
CHIANG MAI IS THE WORST PLACE FOR AIR QUALITY IN THE WHOLE WORLD TODAY 14th APRIL 2018
Here is the league of PM2.5 fine particle readings complied by AirVisual:
- Chiang Mai, Thailand 194 (AQI)
- Lahore, Pakistan 177
- Port Harcourt, Nigeria 172
- Delhi, India 170
- Kathmandu, Nepal 168
Chiang Mai Smokey Season 2018 just ended 2 days ago after some wind and rain made the transformation in the photo below. Which means you can pretty much rely on early to mid April being the end of the burning season (lets now call it the end of April), when Chiang Mai pollution levels are often some of the very worst in the world.
Chiang Mai is the unhealthiest tourist destination in the world in February, March and April
There has been at least one day where Chiang Mai was the unhealthiest place in the world in March 2018. I think it may have been 1 month ago on the 6th March. Only a few days ago the PM2.5 pollution levels were at 187 AQI, which made Chiang Mai the 2nd most polluted city behind Beijing.
Most cities in the pollution list aren’t tourist hot spots so I think it is (un)safe to say Chiang Mai is the unhealthiest tourist spot to visit in March. There are loads of people checking the air quality and the website I used was actually this one on my blog post about surviving Chiang Mai’s smokey season, as I embedded a widget with the daily pollution levels on.
Visit AirVisual to see more information and daily league table of the worst polluted air levels in the world. Today, probably for the first time in over 3 months we have a green reading of 23 AQI, meaning healthy.
When is it Unsafe to Vist Chiang Mai due to Pollution?
Now we have reassuring rain clouds brewing in the sky and some wind, which picks up very fast when we have air purifying mini storms, usually in the 2nd half of the day. From our few years experience the worst of the pollution has generally gone around the time of Songkran around the 13th April (Thai New Year). Edit: Not this year where it is worse than ever on a day which everyone spends outdoors. Time to break out the gas mask again.
This year was a particularly bad burning season with the smoke starting to become noticeable in January. It is easy to know because you just need look at the mount to see how clear it is. It is 2-4 miles from where I took the photos above. Thankfully now I can get a clear photo of the temple on the mountain (Doi Suthep). Edit: today it is invisible except for a little at the sides.
The dates I used to tell people to avoid are mid February to early to mid April. It wasn’t terrible in January but from now on I will be adding a disclaimer that it can start earlier in January. You should 100% avoid Chiang Mai for a holiday in February, March and April. We had to use protective masks, buy air conditioning filter, avoid going out a lot and in the end we even bought a purifier.
If you do get stuck in Chiang Mai in March, see my post about surviving the smokey season in Chiang Mai. Outside of March, you should be OK, but anyone with any respiratory issues should avoid the first quarter of the year and the same goes for anyone else who wants a healthy holiday destination.
Next week we have the giant country-wide (probably world’s biggest) water fight celebration for Songkran, which feels like a celebration of the end of the smokey season too. Songkran is always the most fun in Chiang Mai, so from early to mid April onward, make sure you visit. 3 days of non stop smiles and refreshing water splashing fun. Edit: it started yesterday and was great fun. Waking up today to the worst pollution levels in the world is not a fun start, lets hope the gas masks work when wet.