Chiang Rai


The quieter neighbor of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai is a land of outstanding natural beauty, where visitors looking to avoid the hordes can visit remote hill tribes, spot exotic wildlife, and check out the golden triangle, the former center of the world’s opium trade. Chiang Rai has been inhabited since the 7th century, but it was not until 1262 that King Meng Rai established it as the first capital of the Lanna Kingdom.

The capital was later relocated to Chiang Mai and since that time Chiang Rai has lived in the shadow of its neighboring province, though for tourists this is a good thing.Today, Chiang Rai is a traveler’s paradise, endowed with abundant natural attractions and antiquities. Attractions range from ruins of ancient settlements and Buddhist shrines to magnificent mountain scenery and hill tribe villages. For those interested in the natural side of Chiang Rai, jungle trekking is a magical experience; explore the mountains of the north along various hiking trails, many of which access the villages of diverse hill tribes groups, many of whom maintain their traditional lifestyles. Chiang Rai town, which tends to be a little more ‘laid back’ than its more popular neighbor, now competes with Chiang Mai as a tourist attraction and is fast becoming a popular escape for tourists wanting to leave their troubles behind.Chiang Rai, the former capital of the great Lanna Kingdom, is a fascinating province filled with cultural and natural wonders, including the Golden Triangle where Thailand, Laos, and Burma come together; an area that was once the hub of opium production, a trade that had much influence on cultural practices and lifestyles.

Chiang Rai had stayed off the tourist radar for many years, its people enjoying very leisurely development and mostly traditional, rural lifestyles. Until this day, entire clans live together in bamboo houses and each village has its own individual character. Recently tourism has boomed in Chiang Rai, where visitors have come to explore the pristine natural beauty of the countryside and immerse themselves in the indigenous culture, including those of a variety of different hill tribe communities. Fortunately for tourists, Chiang Rai is also a center for community development projects, helping rural villagers develop their attractions without adversely affecting their natural and cultural assets.

Chiangrai Attractions

  • Doi Tung Royal Villa

On the theory that local hill tribes would be so honoured by a royal presence that they would stop cultivating opium, the late Princess Mother (the king's mother) built the Doi Tung Royal Villa, a summer palace on the slopes of Doi Tung near Pa Kluay Reservoir, which is now open to the public as a museum. The royal initiative also provided education on new agricultural methods to stop slash and burn practices. Opium has now been replaced by crops such as coffee, macadamia nuts and various fruits. The rest of the property, including the Mae Fah Luang Garden and Mae Fah Luang Arboretum,is also open to the public. There is also a top-end hotel, a restaurant, coffee kiosk and a Doi Tung craft shop up here. Near the parking lot, the Doi Tung Bazaar is a small open-air market with local agricultural products, prepared food and hill-tribe handicrafts. This entire complex is popular with bus tour groups

  • Wat Rong Khun

About 13km south of Chiang Rai is the unusual and popular Wat Rong Khun . Whereas most temples have centuries of history, this one's construction began in 1997 by noted Thai painter-turned-architect Chalermchai Kositpipat.
Seen from a distance, the temple appears to be made of glittering porcelain; a closer look reveals that the look is due to a combination of whitewash and clear-mirrored chips. Walk over a bridge and sculpture of reaching arms (symbolising desire) to enter the sanctity of the wát where instead of the traditional Buddha life scenarios, the artist has painted contemporary scenes representing samsara (the realm of rebirth and delusion). Images such as a plane smashing into the Twin Towers and, oddly enough, Keanu Reeves as Neo from The Matrix, dominate the one finished wall of this work in progress. If you like what you see, an adjacent gallery sells reproductions of Chalermchai Kositpipat's rather New Age–looking works.
To get to the temple, hop on one of the regular buses that run from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai or Phayao and ask to get off at Wat Rong Khun (20B).


  • The Black house or “Bann Si Dum” 

as it is known in Thailand is a museum that is free to all visitors and the compound consists of many unique buildings. The architecture of the buildings gives a whole new dimension to your viewing pleasure as it is unique and each building consists of things that inspire the artist.
The inspired works of art by artist Thawan Duchanee is somewhat not in line with the conservative culture of Thailand and at times created many a storm in a tea cup. In the gallery attached to the museum you will be able to see and purchase his work.
The buildings contain many curious objects that include Buffalo horns, animal skins/bones, shells, wood-carvings and benches. Dark, qwerky, eerie
The Artist Thawan Duchanee has practiced his works of art in many parts of the world and held many solo exhibitions in Asia, West Germany, England, Australia, Amsterdam, New York, Tokyo and held many exhibitions in Thailand and in many more western countries. He has received world wide acclaim for his genre of work. His paintings and other works of art showcasing aggression, eroticism, mortality, deterioration, lunacy and brings forward his rich genius, vigor and resolve and is considered a maestro of contemporary art with an Asian perspective.

  • Mae Sai

One of the few well known border towns between Thailand and Burma, Mae Sai is a bustling town which has profited on legal and illegal trade. 
Your first impression would be of the incredibly wide main street that runs essentially north-south through the town finishing at the bridge that spans the river and gives access to Burma.
The border end of this street is lined by an enormous market. The wares available are many and varied with a very heavy Burmese influence - clothes, gems, you name it they have got it.
One of the more interesting pursuits in town for travellers is to watch the action up river from the bridge that spans the Sai River. Throughout the day, boats ferry people and goods back and forth between Burma and Thailand. 
Goods including alcohol and cigarettes pass under the dull gaze of the border guards and can be had for rock bottom prices. 

  • Golden Triangle 


This was originally the opium-growing region of northern Thailand, eastern Burma and western Laos, but is now mainly a tourist attraction.

  • Clock tower of Chian Rai


A beautiful and glittering clock tower of Chiang rai recently built by well known artist Chaloemchai Kositpipat. The tower is located in central part of Chiang rai city on pahonyothin and banpaprakarn intersection. Resembling the white temple of Chiang rai, the clock tower was erected to celebrate his majesty the king in 2008. Every evening at the beginning of each hour, the clock tower attracts local visitors with its light and sound display.

  • Chiangrai walking street

if you are in Chiang Rai city on a Saturday then you might want to check out the Chiang Rai Saturday Walking Street Market which sets up along Thanalai Road. This market has a more local flavor than the Chiang Rai Night Bazaar and makes an interesting addition to Chiang Rai’s night markets. This market attracts local Chiang Rai Thais in big numbers.

  • Rai Boonrawd Farm


which has extensive plantations of barley and tea. Recently it started to promote the farm as a tourist attraction for study tours and mountain bike trips. But most of Chiang Rai’s tourism enterprises are back pedaling until the bridge and highways open.


The bridge is part of the Greater Mekong sub-region north-south economic corridor project. It will connect Donsavan village in Huayxai district in Bokeo province with Ing village in Chiang Khong district of Thailand’s Chiang Rai province.

  • Phu Chee Fah


The stunning viewpoint of Phu Chee Fah has been long popular with Thai tourists, but remains little known amongst western travellers. On a clear morning, the views out and over a vast stretch of mist swathed Laos, are absolutely breathtaking.
Set in a remote part of the Thai-Lao border in eastern Chiang Rai province, the view from the summit of 1,628m stretches over a vast stretch of Sainyabuli province in Laos. The view is best at dawn on a clear day, when the valley below fills with mist -- November to February is considered the best time of the year to visit. 

  • Doi Pha Tang 


about 160 kilometres from the provincial town, is a viewing point on top of a high cliff over the Thai-Laotian border affording a delightful scene for the river and the sea of mist throughout the year. During December-January, blooming Sakuras provide a picturesque scenery. It is home to the Chinese Haw, the Hmong and Yao minorities. The Haws are the remnants of the 93rd Chinese Division who moved in to settle on Doi Pha Tang. There are a lots of bungalows & tents serve tourists.

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