Chiang Mai Burning Season: 5 Tips to Deal with the Smoke

As some of you may know every year around this time (March 10th - April 10th approximately) the clear skies of Chiang Mai suddenly turn into smoke.  This is due to the farmers burning their fields each year to prepare for next year's crops.

This year it is worse than ever.

Updated for 2016: The Air is Still terrible during these months. I recently signed up to donate $300 a year to solve the burning issues with introducing Biochar to farmers as an alternative to burning their fields and causing smoke.

If you are planning a trip to Chiang Mai, don't come between the above dates every year.  If you are living in Chiang Mai, here are 5 Tips on how to manage:

Five Tips on How to Deal with the Smoke:

1. Use a mask when driving on your scooter but do not rely on dust masks for protection.  Common masks are designed to trap large particles, such as sawdust. These masks will not protect your lungs from smoke. An “N95” or "P2" mask, properly worn, will offer some protection and is better than nothing.

2. Avoid strenuous exercise during burning season.  Heavy exercise such as running, crossfit or any outdoors exercise that increases your breathing during the burning season should be avoided.

3. Stay indoors as much as possible, preferably with a hepa-filter.  Offices and coworking spaces such as PunSpace have installed air filters just for the burning season.

4. Stay away from traffic, cars and motorbikes if possible.  The normal CO2 emissions and black smoke from cars is always bad for you, but during burning season it gets trapped under the blanket of smoke, making the air poisonous.

Instead of the government spending money on "refreshing" Chiang Mai by spraying water, they should simply enforce exhaust emissions on cars and motorbikes especially the Songthaews and Tuk Tuks.

Left: Before Burning Season, Right: Current Air Quality.  Photo by Allie Fite

5. Leave Chiang Mai.  For $90 you can fly from CNX to Krabi direct and be on the beach within a few hours.

Even though it's bearable to stay in Chiang Mai during burning season, and if you are young and otherwise healthy you can make it through without any immediate health issues, if you can leave, just go somewhere else for a few weeks while it clears up.

What to do if you have a job in Chiang Mai:

A  lot of expats work in Chiang Mai and have a contract, making it difficult to travel.  Luckily many schools have holiday break during this time.  Plan accordingly and leave Chiang Mai during this break. If you have a job you are required to work at during this heavy burning season, consider what your health is worth and take time off even if you are fined for it.

What is your health worth?

One year ago, I stayed through the burning season.  It wasn't "that bad"last year and by the time it got really bad, I figured I could just wait it out for a few more weeks and it would be over.  I didn't die, or develop any long term respiratory issues, but why take the chance and damage your health.  If you have to stay in Chiang Mai this year, vow to make other plans for next year and never be stuck in this situation again.

Start a Location Independent Business:

One year ago, I was tied down to working for a boss just like everyone else.  This year, I am my own boss, and best of all, my business is completely location independent which means, I can run it from anywhere in the world with wifi.

Even if you don't know anything about internet businesses, you have an entire year to start.  Here are some possibilities.

1. Skype Lessons:  There is a lot of one on one tutoring jobs for teachers.  If you are a native English speaker, there are tons of ESL tutoring jobs via skype.  Or better yet, start your own online tutoring business and keep all of the profits for yourself.  This works in tons of fields, not just teaching a language.

2. Writer:  Get paid to write articles, reviews or blog posts.  Here are 20 sites to get paid for writing.

3. Random Gigs:  It may seem like small potatoes, but is a great way to get started.  Look around for random gigs that you can do, and do better, use it to find out what sells, what people want to buy and to have some examples under your belt.

4. Freelance: If you have some technical skill, speak another language and want to translate, or if you want to transcribe check out and

5. eCommerce: If you want to follow the same path I did, you can start here and take the same dropshipping course that taught me how to set up successful online stores.


I truly hope this post finds everyone well.  Just one year ago, I thought I had no choices and every time there was something bad, I complained but didn't make any actual changes.  There was always an excuse.  But now I don't ever have to be stuck, have a boss, or have to be anywhere, especially if it is bad for my health.

Read More: Here's the 2015 Burning Season update.

Post Updated for 2016: Finally there's a solution to the burning, please help support educating farmers on how to use Biochar. I've pledged to donate $300 a year because I believe in solutions.

Best wishes to everyone in their journeys,


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  1. Wassup Johnny! This is Jon the other Asian American residing in Thailand. I know where I am (Northern part of Nakhon Phanom), the fire problem is not as bad as Chiang Mai but it does get pretty bad here. Its a problem through most of Thailand especially this time of year. Luckily, April when its prime time for the fires is the same time schools in Thailand have their annual end of the year break. Also, this is the time my visa expires too so Im fortunate to get on the plane and spend April with my family in Hawaii every year. Still working on coming up with 50 niche ideas. Anton suggested to come up with at least 50 and it should be at least $200 or more so even though Im up to 35, Im pushing to come up with 50 niche ideas $200 or more. Anyway, keep up the great work on your blogs and thanks again for all your help.

    1. Hey Jon, I'm glad your school has good timing, enjoy your time back in Hawaii to see friends. I'm actually going back to San Francisco for a few weeks during April as well to visit family and attend a couple weddings.

      As for the niche ideas, it's good to have 50, but it's more important to have niches that are very "niche" as in not something everyone else thinks of, but also think of things that you personally know a bit about. Really think about all of the jobs you've ever had, even ones from 10+ years ago, and go through your old email boxes to see what you've bought online. Also check out the thread on the private member forums on "wrong niches" as it'll give you some great insight on niches that didn't work for people.

      Keep it up and I've able to help.

    2. Thanks Johnny. Ill get started on your suggestions right away. Thanks so much for your help.

  2. Actually last years burning season was one of the worst in decades.

    1. It seems to get worse year by year!


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