Chiang Rai (เชียงราย) is the most northern province of Thailand. The Chiangrai Province is bordering Myanmar (Burma) on the north, Laos on the east, Phayao and Lampang on the south and Chiangmai on the southwest. Chiangrai is about 785 km from Bangkok and 182 km from Chiangmai and can be reached by plane (Chiang Rai International Airport) or by bus.
Chiangrai was built in 1262 by King Mengrai. King Mengrai himself was the founder of the Kingdom of Lanna. Chiangrai was occupied by Burma between 1648 and 1786. After that Chiangrai became a part of Thailand again. The town has a population of around 62,000 and is the main commercial center serving the Golden Triangle border region of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos. It is an excellent base for exploring the region.
Mae Fah Luang-Chiang Rai International Airport (CEI) is located on Phaholyotin Road 8 kilometres from downtown Chiang Rai. Car rental is available on arrival from Avis
At a desk in the airport you can hire a taxi for a fixed price of B300, and it will take you downtown to your hotel, or the driver will find you one if you give him the price range you want to pay.
The airport is served by AirAsia ,Orient Thai and Thai Airways to Bangkok and SGA Airlines to Chiang Mai. Despite the name, the airport has no international connections at all.
There are two bus stations in Chiang Rai. The old bus station and new bus station. There is a songthaew’ (officially a “minibus”) connecting the two bus terminals. It costs 10 baht per person and takes 15 minutes. Some drivers ask you to pay more if there are fewer than 10 passengers, despite what the official price list posted inside the songthaew says. You can just wait for the next one and pay 10 baht.
Old Bus Station (Bus Terminal 1) is located in the centre of town. Buses coming from Chiang Rai province stop here. From here you take the bus south to Phayao, and north to Mae Sai (as at May 2010). There is enough English written on the signs and buses at the terminal to tell where the bus is going. You board the bus and pay the Ticket Collector.(confirm with him/her first that the bus is actually going where you want to go – they stand outside the entrance door of the bus as well as help load large luggage to the top of the bus).
- Chiang Khong, on the Laos border. Buses leave every hour or so and have the destination clearly marked. The journey takes two and a half hours and costs 70 baht on local bus.
New Bus Station (Bus Terminal 2), (7km south of the city, just off the super highway). Buses from elsewhere in Thailand stop here.
- Chiang Mai – There are three types of bus: First Class A/C, Second Class A/C and VIP. A/C (First and Second) – stops one time for 15 Minutes. Takes just over 3 hours. Costs 169 baht (2nd class a little less). VIP – takes 3 hours, costs 360. Operated by Greenbus depart Chiang Mai on a regular basis.
The nearest train station is at Chiang Mai.
Chiang Rai is about 820km north of Bangkok and is easily accessible from Bangkok via highways # 1 / # 32 and from Chiang Mai on highway # 118.
Public transport consists mainly of tuk-tuks and songthaews, plus a smaller number of taxis. The city itself can be explored on foot, but for trips into the province consider renting a car or a motorbike. Budget and Avis both have offices in Chiang Rai and there are several local agencies. If you don’t feel up to driving in what may be a very different environment, then consider hiring a car with driver – it doesn’t cost much more.
Chiang Rai has a few cyclo-rickshaws, which can be a pleasant way to see the main sights if you want a fairly quick tour.
A motorbike is a good way to see these parts; there are several trails and a 250cc dirt bike is a great way to see the country side.
Temples and churches
Wat Phra Kaeo – this beautiful Buddhist temple on Trairat Road right in town is famous for having housed, in the 14th century, the Emerald Buddha, one of the most famous Buddha images in Thailand. According to legend, the statue was (re)discovered when a bolt of lightning hit a chedi (stupa) on the grounds, cracking it open and revealing the Buddha inside. The temple grounds are lush with greenery and house a compact but excellent two-story airconditioned museum, with a near-exact replica (1mm shorter!) of the Emerald Buddha. The original is now housed in Bangkok in the temple of the same name, on the grounds of the Royal Palace.
Wat Phra Sing (วัดพระสิงห์) is located near the townhall used to house a major Buddha statue, the Phra Buddha Sihing, which is now enshrined in Chiang Mai. Like Wat Phra Kaeo, the temple now houses a replica instead. A special feature is the Lanna-style Ubosot and the wooden door panels carved by Chiang Rai contemporary craftsmen. Tel: 0 5374 5038
Wat Klong Wiang , dating back to 1432, this is an excellent but little-visited temple showcasing exuberant Lanna style at its best. Check out the colorful guardian statues, the elephants in the back and the “No Killing Area” admonition at the entrance.
Wat Ming Meuang, intersection of Th Banphaprakan and Th Trairat. Small temple housing the spirit of the city (ming meuang) in an exquisitely carved and decorated Lanna-style, almost Laotian wiharn.
Wat Phra That Doi Chom Thong (วัดพระธาตุดอยจอมทอง), located on Doi Chom Thong on the banks of the Kok River within town area, contains what is believed to be the oldest Holy Relic even before King Mengrai built Chiang Rai. The Chedi containing the Holy Relic was probably renovated at the same time the town was being built. A major religious site in Chiang Rai was from here that King Mengrai spotted the strategic location on which to establish the town. Tel: 0 5371 6055
White Temple (วัดร่องขุ่น Wat Rong Khun), located at Ban Rong Khun, Tambon Pa O Don Chai, along Phahonyothin roadside at Km. 816, approximately 13 km from the city. This unique modern temple was designed and built by artist Chaloemchai Khositphiphat starting in 1998. A beautiful white ordination hall – Phra Ubosot – is decorated with silver glittering pieces of mirrors. There are large mural paintings of the Lord Buddha in different gestures. A gable is decorated with a gable apex, a leaf-shaped gable-edging – in the shapes of Phya Naga, dragon and mythical creatures, which are entirely made of white stucco. There are viharn, small hall for recitation surrounding the ordination hall, museum and reception pavilion. The gallery exhibits paintings of Chaloemchai Khositphiphat. Posters, drawing albums and T-shirts can be purchased. Work on the temple continues to this day, and it is not expected to be completed for the next few decades. The earnings will contribute to the fund for building the temple. It opens daily at 8.00 a.m. – 6.00 p.m. Call Tel: 0 5367 3579 Fax: 0 5367 3539. It’s easy to get to the Temple by public transportation: There is a public bus from the Chiang Rai bus station (20 baht)
Black House/Black Temple (Baan Dam), Created by Thailand national artist Thawan Duchanee, the grounds include nearly 40 small black houses made of wood, glass, concrete, bricks or terracotta in various unique styles and design scattered around the temple’s area. The cluster of houses accommodates Thawan’s collections of paintings, sculptures, animal bones, skins, horns and silver and gold items from around the world. Several of the houses exhibit Balinese and Burmese architecture and art dating back to the Ayutthaya period. The artist uses bones as a source of inspiration to paint. It is definately not a place for animal lovers. There are also various kinds of baskets and drums from many regions and countries on display at Ban Dam. Unfortunately, not all exhibits are open to public. It is open daily from 9am to 5pm to everyone except tour groups, and admission is free. For more information or to arrange group visits, call 08-9767-4444 or 05-370-5834. It is located about 10 km north of the city at Moo 13, Tambon Nang Lae, Muang, Chiang Rai. After driving 1.9 kms past the Chaing Rai University on Hwy 1, turn left into Soi 13, go 470 metres & turn left into a small soi, proceed 360 metres & it is on the left on a right hand corner.
Munniti Chiang Rai, Across from Sammakkhi Wittayakhom School on Banpaprakan is this Taoist and Mahayana Buddhist temple, a rare sight in Theraveda Buddhist Thailand. There is a Shan house nearby. And on the road to Pattaya Noi is a temple dedicated to to the Chinese Goddess of Mercy featuring a large statue. In the Ban Kheck area is another Goddess of Mercy temple.
Chiang Rai First Church, its largest, was built in 1914 at PratuSiri corner. It’s Presbyterian.
Hilltribe Museum and Education Center, 620/1 Tanalai Rd, tel. 053-740-088, Situated in the center of town is aimed at promoting a better understanding of hill tribes and their cultures etc. The dusty low-key displays include that of housing styles, tools, utensils and traditional hunting, fishing and agricultural equipment, but it’s worth a visit for an unsanitized view of how the hill tribes are systematically exploited by Thais and the tourist industry. The Center also runs their own hilltribe tours, where the money actually goes to employ and help the tribesmen. Open 8:30 AM to 6 PM. There is a branch of Bangkok’s Cabbages and Condoms restaurant downstairs, whose profits go to support family planning and sex education projects in Thailand.
Oub Kham Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์อูปคำ), 81/1 Na Khai Road, Tambon Rob Wiang near Den Ha market, one kilometre from the centre of town. The collection embraces objects used in the royal courts such as Lanna, Khum Chao Phare and Khum Chao Chiang Mai some parts are from northeast Myanmar, southwest China and Vietnam which are about 500-1,000 years old. Visitors can admire 120 year-old ancient fabrics, Sin Mai Kham-golden silk skirt-from the Mandalay, the golden throne, king’s golden costumes and silver ornaments. A golden bowl used by royals, is a masterpiece. All of those show the glory of the kingdom in the past. It opens daily from 09.00-17.00 hrs. Admission for adults is 200 Baht and for children 100 Baht. Tel: 0 5371 3349.
Cultural Hall Museum near the TAT building on Singhaklai Road is a large white building that has a huge statue of King Mongkut at the main entrance. Visitors can find prehistoric tools, two medieval cannons, costume examples, ancient pottery and examples of ancient Lanna literature in the Dhamma script. There are also videos available, a model of the city and a display of five major areas of Tai culture. The fee for adults is only B10, for children B5.
Princess Mother ’90 Museum is a sizable fascinating pavilion dedicated to the life of the beloved Princess Mother (mother of the present king, King Rama IX). On display are fine collections of lacquer boxes, wood pulleys, pottery, weaving equipment and some old handwritten folded texts with drawings. Admission is free.
Haw Shan Art Gallery – out NongBua Road, across from Family Bakery, in a large, dark-wood, Shan-style pavilion. It can be opened for special showings.
Lanna Museum, at Rong Rian Ban Sang Khong Yai, just southwest of Chiang Rai Hospital at an elementary school. It can only be opened by request.
The Chiang Rai Cultural Center is just north of the new airport, to the other side of the highway, next door to Rajapat Teacher’s College.
Mae Fah Luang Art & Cultural Park, 5km west of town, has lovely two lakes, a barge and several large Shan-style small ponds. There is interesting Haw Kam Golden Temple with two Shan halls containing accouterments collected by Princess Maha Chakri and examples of Lanna craftsmanship: seven-armed candelabra, Buddha Images, wooden alters, embroided cloths for wrapping Buddhist scriptures, carved wood screens, swords and monk’s fans.
The Sirindhorn Chinese Language and Culture Center (ศูนย์ภาษาวัฒนธรรมจีนสิรินธร) in Mae Fah Luang University was established through the cooperation of Mae Fa Luang University and the People’s Republic of China. The center was built as a memorial to honor the Princess mother as a symbol of friendship between the two nations. The center’s design was drawn to adhere as depicted in China. The construction took 7 months to complete at a cost of approximately 60 million Baht. The architecture replicates the Suzhou Chinese structure, building decorations and the garden ornaments by complying with the design layouts and using authentic materials shipped from China. The roofing tiles, the doors and the marble tiles laid at the entrance are all examples of a few of the materials brought from China. Tel: 0 5391 7093, 0 5391 7097 http://www.mfu.ac.th
The Kok River (แม่น้ำกก) flows through the town of Chiang Rai and is 130 kilometres long. Chiang Rai Beach lies on the banks of this river and is a popular picnic spot in summer. Long-tailed boats and cruise can be made from town to travel along both sides of lovely sceneries. Stops can be made at hill tribe villages of the Akha, Lisu, Lahu and Karen, etc. Elephant rides are also available to see the surrounding area.
Gate of Siam – on the border with Laos – you stand high up on a mountain and Laos is in front of you and the mighty Mekong River
Phucheefah – great sunset view
Namtok Khun Kon Forest Park (วนอุทยานน้ำตกขุนกรณ์) can be reached by taking Highway No.1211 from town. After 18 kilometres, turn right and proceed on for another 12 kilometres. Or go along Highway No. 1 (Chiang Rai-Phayao) for about 15 kilometres where there is a right turn to proceed further another 17 kilometres, then a 30-minute walk to the waterfall. The highest and most scenic waterfall in Chiang Rai, Khun Kon, is some 70 metres in height. Along the route to the site are cool, shady natural surroundings suitable for relaxation and nature walk. It is somewhat of a walk from the parking area, and it is quite hilly, so if you are not reasonably fit for a half hour walk over undulating terrain, then do not try it.
The King Mengrai the Great Memorial (อนุสาวรีย์พ่อขุนเม็งรายมหาราช) is located in the town on the intersection leading to Mae Chan. Originally, King Mengrai was the ruler of Nakhon Hiran Ngoen Yang (an ancient town on the bank of the Mae Khong around Chiang Saen) before Chiang Rai was established as the administrative centre in 1262. He consolidated his power by merging the different city in the north and founded the Lanna Thai Kingdom in 1296 with Chiang Mai as the capital.
The King Mengrai Stupa (กู่พระเจ้าเม็งราย) in front of Wat Ngam Mueang atop Doi Ngam Mueang in Muang district was built by King Chaisongkram to contain the remains of his father (King Mengrai).
- Visit Mae Sai and the Golden Triangle
- Views of City Buffalo Horn Hill has a splendid overview over Chiang Rai. Take the old road to Chiang Mai, called Thanon Ratchayotha. A few Km, a hill can be seen at left. Take a left at road; Nongpoung soi 3 and wind toward the hill with the temple on top. Other sweeping views can be gained from top of Doi Kong Kao (Rice Box Hill) 4 Km west of town. There’s a steep walkway up its western side – well worth it, plus a 3 meter standing golden-colored Buddha statue is at its summit. The summit of the 90 meter straight-up limestone cliff at Boomerang Park affords a view of the city and miles of the river valley, though it’s a bouldering scramble up its west flank to get there.
- Waterfalls and Hot Springs Kun Korn is a 70 meter waterfall – about 15Km south of town, take a right at the wooden sign of the same name. Take the scenic windy road to its end. A smaller set of waterfalls is NW of town at Mae Sai hill tribe village (not the border town of the same name). There’s also a hill tribe museum at that village. Yet another pair of rather large waterfalls is west of town at an Akha village. Go west from town, along the south side of the river, for about 12 miles, and look for signs which lead you left in to steep hills. Pong Phra Bat hot springs; Take highway 1 north out of Chiang Rai, to the first village (Bandu) / turn left just after the big market on the Hwy. Go for about 3 miles. If you continue on that road to its end, you get to Pong Prabat waterfall, which is a year ’round creek winding through a very nice forest. Another hot springs is Pha Soet, near the river. It’s located on a winding road going directly west out of town, which parallels the river – about 18 miles. Huai Hin Fon hot springs and nearby waterfall are 7.5 Km west of Mae Chan, on the south side of the road.
- Rock Climbing NW of town. Some free crags for the adventuresome, though they’re mostly vine covered. Alternatively, there are some cliffs rock climbing northern Thailand</ref> at Boomerang Park with at least two dozen routes, all skill levels, which have been cleared of vines and debris and fixed with sturdy top rope anchors. Free outdoor activities for all ages.
- Golf, There are two high class golf courses east of Chiang Rai. Santiburi is 10 km east of town and Waterford Valley is 35 km northeast of town. In town there are two 9-hole courses. The Army Course that you find close to Mae Fa Luang Bridge and The Old Airport course – which also has a driving Ranch. You can also find a golf teacher there.
- Frisbee Golf Course 9 hole (or nine basket) disk golf course – no cost. Frisbees provided. Located 2 Km west of Ban Nam Lat, which is a suburb off of Chiang Rai’s NW corner. At same site are twin 160 meter zip lines.
- Volunteer. The International Humanity Foundation has an orphanage and education center. Voluntourists are encouraged to teach English, math and computer classes, and play with and become friends with the children.
- Crouching Lion Hill Located 1 Km west of town, directly across the Mae Kok river from Pattaya Noi. On its west end there’s a Buddha Cave and a pleasant picnic/park area. Close to its east end, there’s a 3-chambered cave, and each chamber has a natural skylight at its apex. The largest chamber is as big as a basketball court and as high as an old grandfather tree. Trekkers can hike right through the hill – from the river side (south) to the road side (north). Volunteers from nearby Boomerang Park have kept the south entrance path clear of weeds, and have cut a new path leading from the north opening to the road below. The hill also hosts the area’s largest fig tree, halfway along the hill on the river side, with bright red figs adorning it’s stout branches in the summertime. Surely a favorite gathering place for monkeys, before they were eradicated.
- Wai Sa Phaya Mengrai or Phokhun Mengrai Maharat Festival (งานไหว้สาพญาเม็งราย หรือ งานพ่อขุนเม็งรายมหาราช) is held during 23 January – 1 February. See the Buang Suang worshipping ceremony which commemorates Phokhun Mengrai Maharat. The Fair is organised by the Chiang Rai provincial office Tel: 0 5371 1612
- Lichi Fair (งานเทศกาลลิ้นจี่และของดีเมืองเชียงราย) is held around the middle of May every year. There is a float competition, Lichi beauty contest and booths of many local products at the provincial stadium of Chiang Rai.
- Solar Fair hosted by Boomerang Park. Annual Solar Fair</ref> showcases products and services related to alternative power, organic growing, and alternative building ideas. Earth Day weekend, for 2011, that would be April 22,23,24.
Night Bazaar food court opening up at dusk There is lots of good food to be found in Chiang Rai, but most tourists seem to end up eating at the Night Bazaar. Let them and head for good food. If you really must, there are actually two separate places to eat here: “Centrepoint”, run by a single restaurant with a Western-Thai menu and comparatively high prices (dishes 100-200 baht), and then the “actual” night bazaar food court (dishes 30-100 baht). Both have free music and dance performances almost nightly. The one run by the Night Market Restaurant has comfortable wooden furniture while the food court uses rather ugly yellow metal tables and chairs. While there are over 50 food stalls to choose from, the fare on offer is mostly quite touristy, with food toned down for the farang palate. About half the stalls seem to be devoted to selling deep-fried stuff (fritters, French fries, attempts at tempura, etc) to accompany beer. There are also a few non-Thai stalls, offering Italian, Indian, German etc, plus the obligatory insect stall for creepy-crawly cravings.
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