In recent years, Chiang Mai has become an increasingly modern city and attracts approximately 1 million visitors each year. Chiang Ma gained prominence in the political sphere in May 2006, when the Chiang Mai Initiative was concluded here between the ASEANnations and the "+3" countries (China, Japan, and South Korea). Chiang Mai's historic importance derived from its strategic location on the Ping river and major trade routes. The city has long been a major center for handcrafted goods, umbrellas, jewelry (particularly silver) andwoodcarving.
The city is subdivided into four wards (khwaeng): Nakhon Ping, Srivijaya, Mengrai, and Kavila. The first three are on the west bank of the Ping River, and Kavila is located on the east bank. Nakhon Ping district comprises the north side of the city. Srivijaya, Mengrai, and Kavila consist of the west, south, and east respectively. The city center - within the city walls - is mostly with Srivijaya ward.