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Chiang Rai
Kingdom of Thailand

One of the most fascinating areas of Thailand - and one most frequently missed by our visitors - is Chiang Rai, our northernmost province. For many, its main claim to fame is that it is the southern tip of the area known as "The Golden Triangle."

However, Chiang Rai province offers so much more! Sharing common borders with Burma and Laos, the architecture, festivals, food and culture of Chiang Rai reflect so much of the Burmese and Loatian influence. This would, alone, make this a worth-while place to visit.

Outstanding scenery, good roads and a great variety of hilltribe villages are further resons to include Chiang Rai as more than just a stop-over in your itinerary.

Don't expect to see vast fields of the opium poppies which used to be the source of income for most of the hilltribes. Today, most of the villagers are involved in farming other crops, mainly through the efforts of His Majesty, King Rama IX. His personally sponsored crop substituion program has had a profound effect on the hilltribes, together with additional government assistance and a program of integrated schooling. As a ressult, more and more of the people of the various tribes are becoming respected, contributing members of the Thai community.

Good, comfortable accommodation, excellent restaurants featuring international and local food, good, paved roads and many types of transportation unique to the area make a visit most rewarding. When you go to Mai Sai on the border with Burma and the most northern town in Thailand - be sure see some of the caves, hot springs and waterfalls for which the area is famous.

ATTRACTIONS

The King Mengrai the Great Memorial is located in the Muang district 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 Sacn) before Chiang Rai was established as the administrative centre in 1262. He consolidated his power by merging the different city-states in the North and founded the Lanna Thai Kingdom in 1296 with Chiang Mai as the capital.

The King Mengrai Stupa in front of Wat Ngam Muang atop Doi Ngam Muang in Muany district was built by King Chaisongkram to contain the remains of his father (King Mengrai).

The Wat Phra Sing, on Singhaklai Road near the town hall used to house a major Buddha statue the Phra Buddha Sihing which is now enshrine in Chiang Mai. A special feature is the Lanna-style Ubosot and the wooden door panels carved by Chiang Rai contemporary craftsmen.

Situated on Trairat Road in town centre, Wat Phra Kaeo was where one of Thailand's most important Buddha statues was discovered in 1444. The statue had been moved by various state rulers to be placed in their respective capitals as a symbol of dominance, including Lampang, Chiang Rai and Vientiane before finally begin enshrined in Bangkok's Wat Phra Kaeo during the reign of King Rama I of the Rattanakosin Period. The temple also houses a 700 years old bronze statue, Phra Chao Lan Thong, which is housed in the Chiang Saen-style Ubosot.

Wat Phra That Doi Chom Thong, located on Doi Chom Thong on the bank of the Kok River within Muang district. contains what is believed to he the oldest Holy Relic even before King Mengrai built Chiang Rai. A major religious site in Chiang Rai, it was from here that King Mengrai spotted the strategic location on which to establish the town. The Chedi containing the Holy Relic was probably renovated at the same time the town was being built.

Located at the former town hall. Ho Watthanatham Nithat is a museum exhibiting ancient artefacts and written records on history literature and indigenous intelligence as well as exhibits on royal activities by the late Princess Mother at Doi Tung. It is open to the public Wednesday-Sunday from 8.00 a.m. until 3.00 p.m.

The Kok River flows through the town of Chiang Rai and is 130 kilometres long. Long-tailed boats can be rented from town to travel along the river on both sides of which are lovely sceneries. Stops can be made at hilltribal villages of the Akha or Iko, Lisu, Karen, etc. Elephant rides are also available to see the surrounding area. Another river routed starts from Tha Ton in Chiang Mai going northward to Chiang Rai town. The trip takes about four hours. Trips by bamboo raft takes 3 days and 2 nights.

The Nam Tok Khun Kon Forest Park can be reached by taking Highway #121 1 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, the Khun Kon is some 70 metes high. Along the route to the site are cool, shady natural surroundings eminently suitable for relaxation and nature walk.

Doi Mae Salong is the site of Santi Khiri village, a community settled by remnants of the former Chinese 93rd Division who moved from Myanmar to Thai territory since 1961. Today it is a major tourist attraction with its small-town ambience on high hills, delicious native Chinese dishes and small hotels and guesthouses catering to visitors. During December – February, the hills are alive with pinkish Sakuras. To reach it, take the Chiang Rai-Mae Chan route for 29 kilometres, then turn left and proceed on for another 41 kilometres (passing a hot spring). The return trip can be undertaken on routes no. 1234 and no. 1130 which wind through Yao and Akha villages. From Doi Mae Salong a road leads to Ban Tha Ton, the starting point for the Kok River cruise, a distance of 45 kilometres.

Doi Hua Mae Kham is the domicile of the hilltribe near the Thai -Burmese border, about three hours by road along the Mae Chan-Ban Thoet ThaiBan Huai In route which winds along the steep mountain edge. The inhabitants are predominantly of the Lisu tribe, with a smattering of the Akha, Hmong and Muser. Doi Hua Mae Kham is most scenic in November when the yellow Wild Sunflowers are in full bloom.

Doi Tung is located in Mae Fa Luang district, reachable by taking Highway No.110 for about 48 kilometres. Then turn left onto Highway No. 1149, an asphalt road leading to Doi Tung. The route winds through beautiful scenery and with many interesting sites. These include the Doi Tung Palace and the Mae Fa Luang Garden, Akha and Muser tribal villages. There are also viewing points and the Phra That Doi Tung Holy Relic, an old religious site atop the Doi (mountain), about 2,000 metres above sea level.

About 62 kilometres from the provincial seat on Highway No. 110 is Thailand's northern-most district. Mae Sai borders on Myanmar's Tha Khi Lek marked by the Mae Sai River with a bridge spanning both sides. Foreign visitors are allowed to cross over to cross over to the Tha Khi Lek market by presenting their passports and paying a fee at the Mae Sai immigration checkpoint. In addition, there are tour services up to Chiang Tung in Myanmar which is some 160 kilometres north by road.

Chiang Saen was an ancient town located on the bank of Mae Khong River. The district can be reached by taking Highway No. 110 from Chiang Rai for some 30 kilometres. Then take a right urn into Highway 1016 and proceed on for another thirty kilometres. Originally called Wiang Hiran Nakhon Ngoen Yang, it served as the main town before King Mengrai established Chiang Rai as the capital in 1262. Traces of old double city walls and many other antiquities still remain both within outside the district town.

The Chiang Saen National Museum is where knowledge can be sought concerning archaeology, settlements and history of the town. There are replicas of the community and scores of ancient relics including Lanna-style sculptures, Buddha statues and inscription stones from Phayao and Chiang Saen itself. In addition, there are exhibitions of indigenous art objects of the Thai Yai, Thai Lu and other hilltribes. These items include musical instruments, ornaments, opium-smoking accessories, etc. Open Wednesday-Sunday from nine in the morning until four in the afternoon.

Wat Phra That Chedi Luang located in Chiang Saen old town was built by King Sae~ Phu the 3rd ruler of the Lanna kingdom in early 13th Century Ancient sites include the bell-shaped. Lanna-style principal Chedi which measures 88 metres high with a base 24 metres wide the largest such structure in Chiang Saen There are also remains of ancient Vihan and Chedi.

Wat Phra Chao Lan Thong is located within the city wall built by Prince Thong Ngua, a son of King Tilokkarat, the 12th ruler of Lanna, in 1489. A 1,200-kilogram Buddha statue was cast. Named the Phra Chao Lan Thong, it has a lap width of 2 metres and is over three metres high. Another statue called Phra Chao Thong Thip was also cast which is made of brass and in the Sukhothai style.

Wat Pa Sak, about one kilometre to the west of Chiang Saen in Tambon Wiang, was built by King Saen Phu in 1295 and three hundred teak trees were planted, hence the name Pa Sak (Teak Woods). It was then the residence of the patriarch. The temple's chedi is of the beautiful- Chiang Saen architectural style and the exteriors are elaborately decorated with designs. The chedi itself measures 12.5 meters tall with a base of 8 meters wide.

There are also several ancient sites outside-the city wall including Wat Phra That Chom Kitti, about 1.7 kilometres from town, and Wat Sangkha Kaeo Don Han where sketches on brick slabs tell stories about the various lives of the Lord Buddha.

The Chiang Saen Lake is a large natural reservoir with scenic surroundings. Large flocks of waterfowl’s immigrate to the site during winter. About five kilometres from the district town on the Chiang Saen-Mae Chan route is a left turn. Proceed on for another 2 kilometres to reach the site.

The Golden Triangle is about 9 kilometres from the Chiang Saen old town to the north along the road parallel to the Mae Khong River. The area is locally referred to as, Sop Ruake, where the Mae Khong meets the Ruak River. This is where the borders of three countries, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand, come together. There are remains of many ancient places and structures attesting to the area having been settled by people in the past. It is also where various legends on the Lanna ancestors originate.

Around Sop Ruak are boat rental service to view the scenery around the Golden Triangle. In addition, boats can be hired to cruise from Sop Ruak along the Mae Khong River to Chiang Saen and Chiang Khong which takes around 40 minutes and 1 1/2 hours respectively.

Phra That Doi Pu Khao is located on the hill just before the Golden Triangle and believed to have been built by a king of Wiang Hirannakhon Ngoen Yang in mid-8th century. Remains of antiquities still visible today are only the Vihan and crumbled Chedis.

About 4 kilometres from Chiang Saen on the road to Chiang Khong is Phra That Pha Ngao. There is a bell shaped Chedi standing on large boulders. Nearby is a Vihan where several old Chiang Saen-style Buddha statues are enshrined. There is also a viewing point to enjoy scenery of the Mae Khong and of Chiang Saen itself.

Chiang Khong is a small, peaceful district on the bank of the Mae Khong opposite Muang Huai Sai of Laos. It is about 115 kilometres from the provincial seat, or some 55 kilometres from Chiang Saen on Highway No. 1129 to the east. Chiang Khong is noted as the place where Pla Buk, the giant catfish, are caught. The fishing season is from mid January to May. The Chiang Khong Fishery Station is able to inseminate and breed this largest fresh-water fish in the world. Fingerlings bred here have been released in several rivers. Sight-seeing trips by boat are available to view the scenery and life along the Mae Khong. A stop can be made at Ban Hat Bai, a Thai Lu community noted for making beautiful local material. To cross over the Muang Huai Sai in Laos, contact the immigration office at Chiang Khong.

Doi Pha Tang, located in Wiang Kaen district some 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.

Another viewing point is Phu Chi Fa which is some 25 kilometres south of Doi Pha Tang in Toeng district. Visitors can overnight at Ban Rom Fa Thong and Ban Rom Fa Thai. From here a trail leads up to the viewing point on top of the hill, a distance of 1.8 kilometres. From the sheer cliff of Phu Chi Fa can be seen spectacular scenes, especially the sea of mist at sunrise. The cool climate produces colourful flowering shrubs of various species.

Pu Kasng Waterfall is the site of Doi Luang National Park's headquarters located in Phan district. To reach it, go on the Chiang Rai-Phayao route for 58 kilometres to arrive at Bang Pu Kaeng. At Km. 77, take amid virgin jungle with water cascading down limestone brooks. There are camping area and jungle trekking services.

Wiang Ka Long is a community about 16 kilometres from the district office of Wiang Pa Pao. Here have been found remains of ancient furnaces used to make terra cotta utensils. The furnaces are shaped like turtle shell of various sizes with a width of 2 to 5 metres.

Bo Nam Ron, or hot spring, located at Tambon Mae Chedi Mai on the Chiang Rai - Chiang Mai road at Kms. 64-64, is found next of a stream. Villagers sell eggs to tourists to boil in the hot spring.

The Khun Chae National Park at Tambon Mae Chedi Mai of Wiang Pa Pao district can be reached by taking the Chiang Mai - Chiang Rai route (Highway No. 118). The park headquarters is right next to the highway at Kms. 55-56. Visitors wishing to undertake a jungle trek and camp within the park need to have 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 metres hight. There are good viewing points and trekkers can enjoy waterfalls, flowing streams and virgin jungle areas lush with plant life.

LOCAL PRODUCTS

Chiang Rai is rich in handcrafted items such as hand-woven cotton materials, dresses and hilltribe silver ornaments, as well as wood-carving products. Certain food items are quite popular such as Naem and Mu Yo (preserved and fermented pork sausages). Agricultural products include lychee (April-May), pineapples and tea, as well as other cool climate produce from various royal projects.

 

 
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