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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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 waterfowls 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
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
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
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
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.
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.