Chiang Rai Travel Information
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General Information

" The Province of Chiang Rai, covering some 11,600 square kilometres at an average elevation of 580 metres above sea level, lies in the heart of the fabled Golden Triangle "

chiang raiChiang Rai, the northernmost province of Thailand is about 785 kilometers north of Bangkok. Situated on the Kok River basin, Chiang Rai covers an area of approximately 11,678 square meters with an average elevation of 580 meters above sea level. The province, which is located within the renowned Golden Triangle area where Myanmar, Laos and Thailand converge, is also known as the gateway to Myanmar, Laos and Southern China.

Today, Chiang Rai is a travelers paradise endowed with abundant natural tourist attractions and antiquities; the province itself is evidence of past civilization. Attractions range from magnificent mountain scenery, ruins of ancient settlements, historic sites, Buddhist shrines and ethnic villages as the province is also home to several hill tribes who maintain fascinating lifestyles. For those interested in the natural side of Chiang Rai, jungle trekking is recommended along various trails.

sunChiang Rai which tends to be a little more 'laid back' now competes with Chiang Mai as a tourist attraction and is fast becoming a popular escape for tourists wanting to get away from the troubles they left behind.

The riverine provincial capital, founded in 1262, is some 785 kilometres north of Bangkok. The most convenient way of reaching the capital is by daily Thai International from Bangkok, or from the neighbouring provincial capital of Chiang Mai.

The ten-hour coach ride from Bangkok to Chiang Rai is probably best made overnight since passengers can avail themselves of sleep before early morning arrival.
The capital may also be reached from Tha Thon in Chiang Mai province by a scenic 4-6 hour (depanding on climatic conditions, such as rain, and other factors such as high waters and fast currents) longtail boat ride along the Mae Kok River.

mainpicThe provincial capital contains several deluxe hotels and resorts complexes, guest-houses and inns, indeed accommodation to suit every pocket. Besides being a major dining, shopping and entertainment centre, the provincial capital is probably the most convenient spot from where to make excursions into the surrounding countryside, since most attractions can be reached within a convenient one day return.

City attractions include monuments dedicated to King Mengrai The Great, the thirteenth-century founder of Chiang Rai (and Chiang Mai in 1296); and Buddhist temples such as Wat Phra Singh and Wat Phra Kaeo, the latter believed to have been the original home of Thailand's most revered Buddha image, the Emerald Buddha, now enshrined in Bangkok's Wat Phra Kaeo.

Chiang Rai, which was founded in 1262 by King Meng Rai,
was the first capital of the Lanna Thai Kingdom (Kingdom of a million rice fields), which was later conquered by Burma. It was not until 1786 that Chiang Rai became a Thai territory and was proclaimed a province during the reign of King Rama VI in 1910.

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Thing to See & Do
Colourful Hilltribes
Chiang Rai is the home of the several different hilltribes, the most numerous of which are the colourful Akha, have their own customs, their own language, their own culture and decorative art forms .

Silver is their preferred symbol of wealth. Indeed, Akha women wear, besides equally distinctive mini-skirts and leggings, unusual headdresses made from plumes and vintage silver coins largely of French Indochinese or British Indian origin.

Many such women are accomplished weavers of cloth which they decorate with their own distinctive, predominantly geometric embroidery. Such items number among the more popular souvenirs, and come in the form of purses. bags, jerkins, waistcoats and similar apparel .

Akha silver ware is also a popular purchase, and comprises mainly bracelets, necklaces, belts and pendants.

Northward Bound
Most provincial attractions lie north of the provincial capital. Travellers can visit major destinations within the space of one day. At Mae Chan some 29 kilometres north of the provincial capital, Highway 110 continues northwards to Mae Sai, the northernmost point of Thailand ( 63 kilometres north of the provincial capital ); Route 1010 veers eastwards towards Chiang Saen (60 kilometres from the provincial capital) which occupies the Mekong riverbank facing Laos, and here resort hotels and complexes, quest houses and inns offer comfortable accommoation.

Chiang Saen was an ancient capital of Lan Na Thai (Kingdom of One Million Ricefields) which dominated northern Thailand from the late 1200s. Chiang Saen was founded by King Mengrai before Chiang Rai and is historically important, because a distinctive style of Buddhist sculpture evolved there during the late thirteenth century.

Several noteworthy religious monuments include the hilltop Wat Phra That Chom Kitti, the ancient Chedi Wat Pa Sak, and Chedi Luang, a 58-metre high structure with a 25-metre- circumference base which was constructed in 1290 as Lan Na Thai's largest religious monument .

Adjacent to, and almost dwarfed by the chedi, a branch of the National Museum contains bronze Buddha images and artifacts excavated locally.

12 kilometres north of Chiang Saen, a riverside area has been officially designated The Golden Triangle.The spot, known locally as Sop Ruak, precisely marks the convergence of the Mae Sai and Mekong rivers which form the borders of Laos, Myanmar and Thailand.

A commanding panoramic view of the area may be enjoyed from the riverine Wat Phra That Phukhao's hilltop pavilion.

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Into The Mountains
Two major routes from Highway 1010 permit convenient exploration of the Golden Triangle's major mountain mass Route 1130, 3 kilometres north of Mae Chan, negogiate steep mountains and ascends in spectacular hairpin bends to Doi Salong, passing several Akha (and other) hilltribe or shopping and photographic opportunities.

The road penetrates the mountains for some 35 kilometres to end at Santi Kiri. A resort complex permits an overnight stay. The Santi Kiri, contains several apothecaries, spice shops, teahouses and restaurants and constitutes a 'high-altitude Chinatown'.

14 kilometres north of Mae Chan, Route 1 149 leads to the mountaintop Wat Phra That Doi Thung, a temple over 2,000 metres above sea level and which offers one of the Golden Triangle's most spectacular views.

The 17 kilometre winding route can be negotiated in a incomfortable one-hour drive, and passes several hilltribe hamlets, some roadside, some more secluded some down side tracks, a permanent Akha bazaar (Maephaluang Garden), scenic reservoirs and botanical gardens, and the palace of Her Royal Highness the Princess Mother.

The Furthest North
Highway 110 passes Khun-nam Nang-non (Lagoon of the Sleeping Lady), some 12 kilometres before reaching Mae Sai, and three popular caves (Thampun-Thampla,Tham Pha Chom and Tham Phyanak), the thriving Mae Sai trading post which face Myanmar across the Mae Sai River. Mae Sai is a popular shopping area for local goods, including clothing, leatherware, hilltribe products, principally clothing, trinkets and jewellery, of Burmese origin.

The hilltop Wat Phra That Doi Waow offers an exhilarating view of the hills and rivering valley separating Thailand and Burma. Riverside accommodation is available on the Thai side, largely in chalets built beside the rushine waterway.

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Of Riverine Adventures & Elephant Treks
The Mekong and Mae Kok rivers offer numerous opportunities of rafting, boating and elephant trek adventures. The Mekong, one of Asia's mightiest rivers, rises in Tibet and flows into the South China Sea, some 4, 500 kilometres to the southeast. The Mekong can be explored from Chiang Saen by in exhilarating 3-hour boat trip downstream to Chiang Khong, or, far more sedately, from Sop Ruak around the immediate environs.

Rafting trips along the Mae Kok River, eastwards from Chiang Mai's Tha Thon towards the provincial capital, are popular, and are often combined with ''inland" excursions, frequently on elephantback ride to hilltribe hamlets occupying nearby hillsides and mountains.

Popular trekking areas include hilltribe villages and elephant camps. Such treks customarily involve majestic mountain terrain, pristine jungle and rivers, photogenic waterfalls and unusual caves. Visitors can journey to such places by foot or on elephant back. Similar travel by longtail boats, motorcycles and jeeps is becoming increasingly popular.

With its excellent choice of accommodation, ease of road and riverine communication its manifold historic and contemparary attractions, Chiang Rai offers the discerning traveller many opportunities for exploration, relaxation and pampered leisure. Moreover, Chiang Rai is the ideal spot from where to explore neighbouring provinces,and to fully savour the mystique of northern Thailand in general and the fabled Golden Triangle in particular.

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By road, 785 km. from Bangkok, 182 km. from Chiang Mai; by air, 1.25 hr. from Bangkok.
Thai International flies daily to Chiang Rai from Bangkok. You may also take an overnight or day coaches from the northern Buses Terminal at Mor Chit in Bangkok. The journey takes about 12 hours. Chiang Rai can also be reached from Chiang Mai by road, the journey takes about 3 hours.
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King Mengrai Festival

King Mengrai Festival This festival is held from January 26 - February 1 every year. The festival features parades, cultural performances and competitions celebrating the founder of Chiang Rai and the Lanna Thai Kingkom. king mengrai

Lychee Fair

Lychee Fair This is held annually in May. Celebrating the provinces tastiest fruit, this fair features agricultural displays and exhibitions, local handicrafts, folk entertainment and beauty contests. lychee fair

Songkran Festival

Songkran Festival Traditional Thai New year celebrations are best seen at Chiang Saen where 4 nations (Thailand, Laos, China and Myanmar) compete in boat races on the Mekong River. Beauty contests and cultural shows are added attractions. The festival is annually held from April 16-18. songkran festival
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