You might miss Chiang Rai on your first visit to Thailand. However, for the dedicated traveller, it’s well worth making the journey to this small city. Chiang Rai was founded by Phaya Mengrai in 1262. He was looking for his favourite elephant, but instead found the perfect spot to set up a new town. This place sits in the shadow of the area’s capital, Chiang Mai, however there’s lots to discover here.
Go to Rai Mae Fah to see a unique collection of Lanna art. The collections are updated and changed regularly, so it can be worth a second trip if you’ve already been. Few people go to Mae Sa, but the trip up to the Burmese border is really nice. You’ll also escape some of the more touristy parts of northern Thailand.
Seasoned and adventurous travellers could head up to Mae Salong. This Chinese enclave sits on top of the mountains and is close to the Chiang Saen ruins – they’re just a little bit creepy!
Chiang Rai is part of the Golden Triangle (where the Ruak meets the Mekong River, and Thailand meets Laos & Myanmar). This area stretches for miles into lush, dense greenery and offers several opportunities for exploration. Chiang Rai is known as the gateway city for explorers to the Golden Triangle and thus is a popular site for hikers looking to trek the countryside, go to Laos or climb over the jagged mountains to Myanmar. Before you venture to the land of the hill tribes, go to the Hilltribe Museum and Education Centre. That way you’ll know a little about them before you meet them and be ready to experience their traditional culture.
The Emerald Buddha was once housed in Chiang Rai, and what a sight that would have been! However, it’s now been moved to Bangkok – you probably saw it when you arrived in Thailand. However, you can still see the temple where it used to stand – Wat Phra Kaew. It’s impressive in its own right.
Chiang Rai is slowly becoming a little more commercial; there is now a range of range of restaurants and riverside hotels. At night the neon lights flash and sparkle. However, there’s still a lot of rustic charm to enjoy.
Chiang Rai is the perfect spot for explorers looking to branch out into the rest of the region.
Plan your trip to Chiang Rai today.