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Chiangrai Travel Guide

Chiang 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.

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.

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.

Chiang 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.

Khun Chae National Park 
 
Khun Chae National Park is located at Tambon Mae Chedi Mai of Wiang Pa Pao District. It can be reached by taking the Chiang Mai - Chiang Rai Route (Highway No. 118). The park headquarters is right next to the highway at kilometers 55-56. Visitors wishing to take a jungle trek and camp within the park need to procure the services of a guide and prepare their own camping equipment. The trek through the Khun Chae jungle is for adventure travel enthusiasts as the route passes through steep terrain and several hilltops and cliffs over 1,400 meters high. There are good scenic lookout points and trekkers can enjoy waterfalls, flowing streams and virgin jungle areas covered with various plants.
 

Wat Rong Khun
Wat Rong Khun is also known as the White Temple. Whereas most temples visited by tourists have a history going back many centuries, this magnificent place of worship was built only recently. It is the realization of a dream for Thailands noted artist, Mr Chalermchai Kositpipat, who designed and is supervising the construction of this beautiful white temple and its many statues of figures based on religious beliefs. The construction started in 1998 and is expected to be completed in 2008. In addition, there is a gallery nearby exhibiting his paintings. To get there from the city of Chiang Rai, drive north along Asia Highway.

Wat Phra That Doi Tung

Wat Phra That Doi Tung is situated on top of Doi Tung Mountain, the highest mountain in Chiang Rai Province with an elevation of approximately 2,000 meters, about 50 kilometers south of Mae Sai town which is near the Myanmar border. The temple can be reached via a 40-kilometer mountain road which meanders along the mountainside. The journey is worthwhile as the panoramic views into Laos and Myanmar at the peak are spectacular.

Wat Phra That Doi Tung was constructed in the 10th century and was renovated by Chiang Rai's most famous ruler King Mengrai during the 13th century and by the famous Chiang Mai monk, Khru Ba Siwichai, at the turn of the 20th century.

The temple complex is comprised of twin Lanna style chedis, one of which is said to contain the left collarbone of the Lord Buddha. Throughout the year, the holy relic draws devout Buddhists from all over Thailand, Laos and Myanmar.

The Golden Triangle

A trip to Chiang Rai province would not be complete without seeing the notorious Golden Triangle first hand! This famed border location where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet on the Mekong River was once supposed to be the center of all the poppy cultivation in Thailand.

Travel approximately 9 kilometers north of old town Chiang Saen, along the road parallel to the Mekong River to the area where the borders of Thailand, Myammar and Laos converge. This area where the Mekong River meets the Ruak River is locally referred to as "Sop Ruak". Within this area are remains of many ancient places and structures attesting to the fact that the area had been settled by people in the past. It is also the area where various legends concerning the Lanna ancestors originate.

Boats can be hired in order to view the upstream scenery of the Golden Triangle and to travel downstream to Chiang Khong. The trip to the Golden Triangle and Chiang Khong would take approximately 40 minutes and 1 hour respectively, depending on river currents and water levels.

Doi Mae Salong
 
Doi Mae Salong is the site of Santi Khiri village, a community settled by the former Chinese 93rd Division who moved from Myanmar to reside on Thai territory in 1961. The village became well known for its enchanting scenery and tranquil atmosphere. Today it is a major tourist attraction with its small-town ambience, delicious native Chinese dishes, small hotels and guesthouses catering to visitors and tea, coffee and fruit tree plantations. The scenery is especially picturesque in December and January when sakuras are in full bloom. Scattered with many hill tribe villages, Doi Mae Salong is ideal for trekking.


To reach Doi Mae Salong, take the Chiang Rai-Mae Chan route for 29 kilometers, then turn left and proceed for another 41 kilometers (passing a hot spring). The return trip can be taken on routes nos. 1234 and 1130 which wind through Yao and Akha hill tribe villages. From Doi Mae Salong a road leads to Tha Thon, the starting point for the Kok River cruise, a distance of 45 kilometers. There are hotels and guesthouses to accommodate tourists and a paved road leading to the village.
 

Phu Chi Fa
Phu Chi Fa is approximately 25 kilometers to the south of Doi Pha Tang in Thoeng District. The cool climate produces colorful flowering shrubs and the large meadow on the top provides breathtaking views of Laos. In addition, spectacular scenery can be seen from the sheer cliff of Phu Chi Fa, especially the sea of mist at sunrise. Visitors can stay overnight at Ban Rom Fa Thong and Ban Rom Fa Thai.

Rai Mae Fah Luang
 
Rai Mae Fah Luang is a cultural centre and centre of Lanna Studies dedicated to the conservation and promotion of Lanna heritage.There are 5 exhibit areas namely
  a. The Botanical Gardens and Nature Park 
  b. The Haw Khumm(Golden Pavilion) 
  c. The Haw Khum Noi (Small Golden Pavilion)
  d. Sala Kaew-A ceremonial space for riturals
  e. Haw Kaew-Gallery of Lanna Cultureal Arts.

Rai Mae Fah Luang opens daily from 10.00-18.00 hrs. except Monday.

Entrance fee: Baht 200

How to get there

Bangkok - Chiang Rai 

  
 

By Air

Thai Airways has daily flights connecting Bangkok with Chiang Rai. For more information, contact their Bangkok office at tel. 0 2280 0060, 0 2628 2000, the Chiang Rai Office tel. 0 5371 1179, 0 5371 5207, or view their website at www.thaiairways.com

One-Two-Go offers daily flights from Bangkok to Chiang Rai. Call 1126 or book online at http://www.fly12go.com

SGA offers flights to Chiang Rai. Call 0 2664 6099 or visit: www.sga.co.th
 
   
By Bus

The coach ride from Bangkok to Chiang Rai is probably best made overnight since passengers can avail themselves of sleep prior to an early morning arrival. There are both air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned bus services from Bangkok's Northern Bus Terminal (Mochit 2 Bus Terminal) on Kamphaengphet 2 Road. The journey may take approximately 9-11 hours.
   

By Car

Take Highway No. 1 (Phahonyothin Road), turn to route No. 32 passing Ayutthaya, Angthong and Singburi Provinces and change to route No. 11 passing Phitsanulok, Uttaradit and Phrae Provinces then turn left to Highway No. 103, drive through to Ngao District and turn right onto Highway No. 1 which takes you to Phayao and Chiang Rai Provinces. The total distance is 785 km.
  
 
By Rail

There is no direct train to Chiang Rai. You have to take a train to Lampang
(9 hrs. from Bangkok) or Chiang Mai (11 hrs.) and then take a bus to Chiang Rai. (2 hrs. from Lampang and 1.30 hrs. from Chiang Mai) For more details, call the State Railway of Thailand, 1690 (hotline), or 0 2223 7010 or 0 2223 7020.
 
 
By Boat

The capital may also be reached from Tha Thon in Chiang Mai province by a scenic 4-6 hour (depending on climatic conditions, such as rain, and other factors such as high waters and fast currents) long-tail boat ride along the Mae Kok River. 


Chiang Mai - Chiang Rai 
  
 
By Bus

Chiang Rai is 182 kilometers north of Chiang Mai. Air conditioned buses leave 12 times daily from Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Terminal to Chiang Rai. Some buses continue to Mae Sai and Chiang Saen. 
   
 
By Air

Airlines have numerous daily flights servicing the Bangkok-Chiang Mai route and the Chiang Mai-Chiang Rai route.

 
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