Chiang Rai (65,000 citizens) is one of the most northern cities of Thailand. This city is located about 500mi north of Bangkok and about 125mi from Chiang Mai. Chiang Rai is often used as base to visit the Golden Triangle. At the Golden Triangle the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar come together. In this region live several hill tribes, which you can visit. In and around the city of Chiang Rai there are a lot of cultural sites. In addition there is no lack of nature. Located within a reasonable distance from the city is the Namtok Khun Kon Forest Park.
Sights and Tourist Attractions
Wat Phra Kaeo
Location: 500yd from city center - 5 minutes walk | Category: Culture and History
The Wat Phra Kaeo temple is mainly known for the Emerald Buddha, which nowadays is standing in Bangkok. It is said that the statue was discovered after a lightning strike in 1434. In the temple you can see a small replica of the original Emerald Buddha statue. Nobody knows exactly how old this temple is. In the past this temple was named Wat Pa Yia (“Yellow Bamboo Forest”) because of the many bamboo in this region.
Wat Rong Khun
Location: 9mi from city center - 20 minutes drive | Category: Culture and History
The beautiful Wat Rong Khun temple lies just southwest of Chiang Rai. This temple is worth seeing. In 1997 construction began and probably will go on for years. The nickname of this temple is the White Temple. The white stands for the purity of Buddha. Inside the buildings there are modern paintings by contemporary artists showing recent events.
Wat Phra Singh
Location: 500yd from city center - 5 minutes walk | Category: Culture and History
Wat Phra Singh temple is located in the center of Chiang Rai (Singhakhlai Road). At this temple the Phra Buddha Sihing statue used to be standing. Nowadays this statue is found in Chiang Mai. At the Wat Phra Singh temple a replica is shown. The most striking parts of this temple are the Lanastyle handcarved doors at the chapel.
Location: 12mi from city center - 25 minutes to drive | Category: Culture and History
Baan Dam is also known as the Black Temple. The complex consists of about 40 buildings. The buildings are made of different products such as wood, glass and concrete. In these buildings all kinds of art are displayed. These works include products made of skins, silver and bones. In some of the houses you can find art from Bali and Myanmar.
Oub Kham Museum
Location: 1.2mi from center - 5 minutes to drive | Price: 300 THB | Category: Culture and History
The Oub Kham Museum is dedicated to the Lana culture in the Chiang Rai region. In this museum you will find ancient relics. The exhibition includes works of art, antiques and clothing that was once worn by for instance judges. The jewel of the collection is a golden bowl which was previously used by the royal family.
Namtok Khun Kon Forest Park
Location: 18mi from city center - 45 minutes | Price: 200 THB | Category: Nature
The Namtok Khun Kon Forest Park has the highest waterfall of the province, named Khun Kon. This waterfall is 230ft high. To get there it takes about 30 minutes from the entrance. The hike to the waterfall is through a densely wooded area. Once arrived it is possible to take a refreshing swim in the lake. The Namtok Khun Kon Forest Park is also ideal if you love a walk through nature.
Doi Luang National park
Location: 60mi from center - 3 hours | Price. 200 THB | Category: Nature
Doi Luang National Park covers three counties and is about 425mi² large. In this park there are several large waterfalls. The most famous is the Pu Kaeng Waterfall, which consists of nine levels. Furthermore, this park is ideal for walking in the free nature. These walks can be hard and difficult. It is also possible to camp in the park. Visitors need to bring their own gear and stay at the designated camp sites.
Golden Triangle & Karen hilltribe
Location: 45mi from city center - 1.5 hours drive | Category: Culture, Nature and history
From Chiang Rai, you can book trips to the Golden Triangle. At this point Laos, Myanmar and Thailand meet and you can cross the river Mekong. For a small fee you can also enter Laos (your passport is not stamped). Here you’ll visit a small market, where you can buy souvenirs and taste local beverages and specialties. This excursion is often combined with a visit to the Karen hill tribe. These excursions are also available out of Chiang Mai.
What to do
Chiang Rai has two golf courses; Santiburi Country Club and Waterford Valley. Due to the relatively high location of Chiang Rai, the weather is slightly cooler. Combined with the beautiful surroundings it makes Chiang Rai an ideal place to play golf. The courses are well maintained and the staff is very competent. If necessary you can rent equipment at the golf courses.
Near Chiang Rai several locations are suitable for climbing. Most locations are found in Boomerang Park where there are trails for every age and level. When booking the climbing excursions often you can rent the material too.
Chiang Rai and the surroundings are very suitable for organized bike rides. These tours can be booked for a half-day tours up to 5 days. Cycling is a fun and active way to explore the city and its surroundings. The organizations which provide these excursions have well planned routes and speak English. During the tour of half a day you'll see sights like Wat Rong Khun and the Khun Kon waterfall.
Entertainment and Nightlife
Like many places in Thailand Chiang Rai has very good dining options. There are restaurants where you can have traditional Thai food in different price ranges. Thanks to increasing tourism there are more and more restaurants which have a western kitchen. The well-known fast food chains are mostly located at the Central Plaza.
As Chiang Rai becomes more famous with tourists, the nightlife can’t stay behind. Especially in the center you can find different bars and clubs. The music in the bars range from traditional Thai music to Jazz. The prices are normal for Thai standards. The nightlife here is much quieter in comparison to Bangkok, Phuket or Pattaya.
The Night Market is in the vicinity of Walking Street. At this market different types of goods are for sale. There are food stands, souvenir stands and booths where you can buy art. Both local Thai and tourists do their shopping at this market. Next to the stands various forms of entertainment such as dance and music can be enjoyed at the Night Market in Chiang Rai.
How to get there
There are two ways to get to Chiang Rai; by car / bus or by plane. There is no train to Chiang Rai. The nearest train station is found in Chiang Mai.
The airport Mae Fah Luang-Chiang Rai International Airport is 7mi from the city center. Several weekly flights from Bangkok arrive at this airport. The airlines which use Chiang Rai airport are; Air Asia, Thai Airways and Orient Thai. The price of a return ticket Bangkok – Chiang Rai is approximately 3,000 THB .
Bus / Car
Chiang Rai is easily reached from Chiang Mai by car and bus. The ride is about 125mi and takes about 4 hours. If you go by bus, there are three different ways of travel: VIP, 1st class and 2nd class. A first class ticket costs about 200 THB and the price of a VIP ticket is about 400 THB. Although the journey takes 4 hours you will not be bored due to the natural beauty that you’ll see during the trip.
For the low budget traveler starting prices of an overnight stay in a guesthouse that cover the basics is about 80 THB per night. If you are looking for more luxurious stays than you can, for example, rent a room with air conditioning and a private bathroom. The prices of these rooms are around 400 THB per night.
The cost of a middle class hotel start at about 500THB per night and can go up to 1,500THB per night. With this kind of stay you have a comfortable room with air conditioning, and a private bathroom. Often these accommodations provide a breakfast and have the possibility for lunch and dinner.
Also true luxury can be found in Chiang Rai. These accommodations are fully set up to ensure that the guests have everything they could possibly wish for. These hotels / resorts often have several restaurants, spas, shops and swimming pools. The prices for these kind of stays start at 1,200 THB per night and can go up to 20,000 THB per night.