Chiang Rai City remains a sleepy provincial town with a pleasant atmosphere. Compared to its sister town Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai has a more relaxed and down-to-earth feel but is never short on historical and cultural attractions of its own. Founded in 1262 as the capital of the Mengrai Dynasty, after Chiang Saen, today the city retains a strong Lanna identity, mostly through its impressive collection of temples, art, language, cuisine and music. There is so much to see and things to do in Chiang Rai than you can think of.
Wat Rong Khun – White Temple
Wat Rong Suea Ten (Blue Temple)
Singha Park Chiang Rai
Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha)
Chiang Rai Night Bazaar
Wat Huay Pla Kang
Baan Dam Museum
Wat Phrathat Doi Chom Thong
Phu Chi Fa
Cuifeng Tea Garden
Chiang Rai Clock Tower
Botanical Garden Mae Fah Luang University
Pong Phra Bat Hot spring
SAI NGAM HOT SPRING
Chiang Rai City remains a sleepy provincial town with a pleasant atmosphere. Compared to its sister town Chiang Mai, it has a more relaxed and down-to-earth feel but is never short on historical and cultural attractions of its own. Founded in 1262 as the capital of the Mengrai Dynasty, after Chiang Saen, today the city retains a strong Lanna identity, mostly through its impressive collection of temples, art, language, cuisine and music. But unlike Chiang Mai, the city offers little diversity when it comes to nightlife, entertainment and shopping, and most of these are concentrated in the area around the Clock Tower.
The city is gradually developing its tourist sector, beginning with its own Night Bazaar, Saturday Walking Street and Jazz Festival. The riverside remains mostly undeveloped, albeit with a few luxury hotels along the waterfront. To fully appreciate the beauty of the Mae Kok River (the bloodline for the people of Chiang Rai which starts from the hills of the border town in Myanmar and enters Thailand through the Tha Ton), it is best to hire a long-tail boat and take in the scenery along the two riverbanks. At the end of the day, Chiang Rai City is all about chilling out and taking it in slowly, savouring each moment as it comes.
If you are interested in nightlife, city hustle-and-bustle and party lifestyle, you will say Chiang Rai province is not worth visiting. But—if you want to see, feel, experience other cultures, explore the real untouched beauty of nature and authentic Thai and Lanna history before the trappings of modernity crept in, then Chiang Rai is definitely worth visiting!
There is a lot more to Chiang Rai than the Golden Triangle or the White Temple. A lot more than Buddha statues and temples, elephant rides and countryside panoramas. Chiang Rai province had been part of Thailand’s dark past, but it is not simply explained as such.
You travel to a foreign country, then go, see, touch, smell, feel and totally experience things and places and activities previously unknown or unheard of to you! Come to Chiang Rai!
Chiang Rai is the northernmost of Thailand’s big cities although it is quite smaller and not yet as popular or as developed as a tourist destination as Chiang Mai. The most famous landmark associated with Chiang Rai would be the Wat Rong Khun, dubbed The White Temple by foreigners, an impressive edifice of local architecture and Buddhist art, located about 14 km south of Chiang Rai city.
A minimum of three days is good enough time to discover and experience northern Thailand’s culture and cuisine and ancient historical landmarks and natural vistas.
Chiang Rai is certainly cheaper than Chiang Mai. Both cities have great food and places to eat, with a night market. But there is often free entertainment like traditional Thai dance performances in Chiang Rai’s night market, which would be a plus come-on to foreign travellers.
There is a felt difference in the costs for accommodation, cuisine and even entertainment in Chiang Rai province. Both night markets have considerable varieties of Pad Thai, hot pot, curry and other native Thai food, plus bugs and exotic dishes as well!
Chiang Rai despite its smaller size compared to other cities has reasonably comprehensive medical facilities to handle cases beyond first-aid emergency needs. There are three main hospitals in Chiang Rai province although high-end or more specialized equipment needs will be responded to in Bangkok and other bigger cities.
Chiang Rai is said to be one of the possibly nicest places to live in Thailand. It has the amenities Westerners look for but not too big a place to be not comfortable. With pleasant climate the whole year, the lifestyle is slow, the people are very friendly, and the cost of living is very cheap.
There are various ways of getting around Chiang Rai province besides going on foot. There are cars for rent, taxis, buses, motorcycles for hire, as well as the traditional colourful transportation like the tuk-tuks and the samlors.
The samlor (“sam” meaning three, “lor” meaning wheel) is a rickshaw pedalled by the driver and the passenger sits in the back. The tuk-tuk is the motorized version.
The old city of Chiang Rai is very walkable. Temple hopping and museum visits make for pleasurable walking day trips. Walking around Chiang Rai province gives you a different and interesting perspective of the different buildings around town, especially the Clock Tower that would easily make you consider it to be among the most beautiful clock towers in the world.
Chiang Rai province is small and safe, especially relative to the more tourist-popular places in Thailand.
“Chiang” is a word from the former Lanna kingdom and means “city”, and should be pronounced “Chee-ang”, holding the “ee” sound for just longer than a moment, but not with too much stress.
You can fly to Chiang Rai from two places – Bangkok and Pattaya. There are a number of airlines flying routes to Chiang Rai province.
Chiang Mai is the economic and cultural hub of the north, well established for tourism. It was established by King Mengrai as the capital of the Lanna Kingdom, i.e., northern Thailand. It has developed into a sprawling metropolitan destination, surrounded by mountains and sub-tropical countryside.
Chiang Rai is the northernmost province of Thailand, with Myanmar on one border and Laos on another border. Chiang Rai city is driven by industry, not tourism like Chiang Mai. Chiang Rai has the most diverse ethnic minorities (hill tribes). The hill tribe groups of the Karen, Palong Akha, Yao/Mien, Lahu, Lisu, Hmong are in Chiang Rai province.
Because of the tourism trend in Chiang Mai, there are fewer parts that are not affected by tourism needs like infrastructure. Chiang Rai, on the other hand, has maintained a lot of the authentic northern Thai lifestyle in form and structure.
No trains run between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai province. Getting to Chiang Rai province from Chiang Mai takes three hours on a bus. It is a delightful trip because the way is through scenic mountain locations, plus the buses are spacious with comfortable seats and a clean toilet is available at the back of the bus.
Wat Rong Khun, the local name for what foreign visitors and travellers refer to as the White Temple, is home to a private art exhibit of Chalermchai Kositpipat, a local artist. He himself designed and constructed the building in a Buddhist temple design that opened to visitors in 1997.
The exhibit is a unique combination of traditional beliefs with modern art. It showcases mythical creatures alongside images of superheroes or symbols of pop culture.
The White Temple is an impressive edifice and definitely worth your visit to one of the best attractions in Chiang Rai province.
Chiang Rai is a great destination for a family Thailand holiday! Nature, history and art abound, as well as fun experiences and activities for the whole family to enjoy. There is a myriad of wonderful things to do in Chiang Rai province and wonderful memories to make.
Travel guides list so many great activities for children to do and cherish as experiences of a memorable Chiang Rai Thailand holiday. These things can be explored on day trips. Here are the most popular.
Wat Rong Khun (The White Temple)
Wat Phra Kaeo, one of the oldest temples of Thailand, and is believed to be where the image of the Emerald Buddha was found
Phu Chi Fa Forest Park, near the border of Thailand and Laos, to see spectacular mountain views and that of the Mekong River and into Laos.
Golden Triangle, the border location of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar, a historical piece of information for children – the hub of the opium trade then.
Singha Park, a wildlife and agriculture park
Kok River, running from Trathon in Northern Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai City, the borders of this river are developed for visitors to walk along to better appreciate the great sceneries around. There are long tail boat rides and cruises where stops are in the villages of the Akha or Iko, Lisu, Karen hill tribes.
Hill Tribe Museum and Education Centre. The Hill Tribe Museum and Education Centre is run by a nonprofit agency and aims to showcase the culture of the hill tribes of Thailand. Travellers can see and buy local crafts and other souvenir things and learn about the culture in slideshow presentations done in various languages. A visit in Chiang Rai province would be incomplete without this activity
Oub Kham Museum. This is where one can find thousands of rare items and things of the Lanna culture. The Lanna were an independent people in the northern part of now Thailand, which had become a vassal of the Siamese Thonburi Kingdom. They later submitted and in the last decade of the 1800s, were merged into the Siam Kingdom by the Siamese King Chulalongkorn as a move in the creation of a modern nation-state, which became now Thailand. Oub Kham is a northern term for a golden serving bowl used by the Lanna royal family and used to name the museum which had been conceptualized by a retired teacher.
House of Opium, Chiang Rai. This is a museum dedicated to the Opium Trade and located in the area of the Golden Triangle. Historians got together with multimedia experts and came up with interactive shows of unique photos, and video exhibits with light and sound displays. There are also exhibits of old opium pipes and drug paraphernalia, weights and scales. There is a collection of religious items, miniature carved jade animals, ornate boxes, jewellery and more things. A visit to this museum gives one some understanding of that dark past in Thailand history.
The Ancient City of Chiang Saen. Declared one of the World Heritage sites in Thailand, Chiang Saen is a small district located along the Mekong River and one of the oldest settlements in the Kingdom of Thailand. This would be an interesting visit as you can see the contemporary houses and buildings interspersed with the ancient structures.
Chiang Saen National Museum. An attraction in Chiang Rai province that was established in 1957 and gives a preview of Chiang Saen town history. There are excavated artefacts and inscribed sculptures plus locally made Buddha images in Chiang Saen style and artefacts of the Lanna Kingdom era.
Chiang Rai Night Bazaar. Thailand’s night markets are exciting attractions and fun experiences. The Chiang Rai Night Bazaar is no exception. Located near the city centre and the bus station, there are shops and a place where merchants display their things to sell on the ground. An exhilarating souvenir shopping for adults and exploration for the children.
Visit the Wat Ming Mueang Temple. The temple structure is an exotic combination of the art of the Tai Yai and the Lanna cultures. The Wat Ming Mueang Temple was a personal temple of Phra Nang Uao Ming JomMuang, the mother of King MengRai, whose wife Chao nang Talamae Sri (daughter of Hong Sao Wadee a Burmese king from PhaKo City) is believed to have established this temple.
Mae Fah Luang Art and Cultural Park. This park was among the youth projects initiated by the late Princess Mother, to allow accommodation to ethnic minority youth who came to study and learn about living in urban areas. Currently, the Mae Fah Luang Art and Cultural Park has the largest collection of art items from the Lanna kingdom or Tai culture.
Khun Korn Waterfall. Of course, in northern Thailand, there will always be day trips and nature activities in Chiang Rai. Considered the best waterfall in Chiang Rai, Kun Korn Waterfall is located in the Nam Tok KhunKon Forest Park. Towering to 70 metres, it is also the highest and most beautiful waterfall in Chiang Rai province. The hike to the site is cool, with shady surroundings for a relaxed nature walk. The falls drops into an ideal swimming place too.
There is a nationwide state of emergency until September 30. The latest update on the situation is the extension by the Thailand government of enhances restrictions in Bangkok and other provinces until at least August 17. The country has been classified into red, orange and yellow zones, according to the level of Covid-19 infections.
Chiang Rai province is classified as a Dark Red zone, meaning only food establishments can stay open until 23:00. Social gatherings are maxed at twenty people and checkpoints have been set up to monitor inter-provincial travel.
Flights to and from the classified Dark Red zones are suspended except for emergency landings or medical flights or those under the “tourism reopening program.”
Citizens of several countries and Thai nationals from those destinations are allowed to enter Thailand without a visa, except for those coming from Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan. These are still banned from entering the country because of concerns over the new covid variants.
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