China Travel Info/Cities and Attractions / Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai is situated in the very north of Thailand (180kms north of Chiang Mai). It takes approx. 3hrs. to drive from Chiang Mai or less than an hour by plane. There are also direct flights from Bangkok . Chiang Rai is used as a base for those wishing to explore the Golden Triangle area, it is a short drive to Mae Sai, Chiang Saen or Mae Salong. The province borders with Burma and Laos , so it provides a good opportunity for those who wish to glimpse Thailand 's neighboring countries. This area can easily be accessed from Chiang Mai, but for those short of time or who have already visited Chiang Mai it can be used as a base to visit the Golden Triangle.
Chiang Rai itself is a small town and easy to get around,

there are some noteworthy temples worth visiting, a small night market and a folk museum.
The History of Chiang Rai dates back to 1262, when King Mengrai chose a new capital to consolidate his conquests in the Lanna kingdom. He chose the present day site of Chiang Rai. However he wasn't to remain here for long and as his sights turned southwards, he moved his capital to Chiang Mai. The Burmese occupied Chiang Rai during the 16th to the 18th century and like Chiang Mai it wasn't until the 20th century that it became part of Thailand .

The Temples - Wat Phra Kaew is famous because it once housed the Emerald Buddha that is now found at Bangkok 's Wat Phra Kaew. Legend has it, that the chedi was struck by lightning in 1436 to reveal the famous 'Emerald' Buddha. You can now see a jade replica on display.
Wat Phra Singh was built in the 15th century and houses a replica of the Phra Singh Buddha, (the original now being in Chiang Mai).
Wat Doi Tong is on a hilltop to the northwest of town. It provides a panoramic view of the valley and houses the city pillar.

The Museum and handicraft centre is operated by the Population & Community Development Association. There are crafts for sale, anthropological exhibits and a slide show on the hilltribes.

Chiang Saen is approx. 60kms from Chiang Rai. It is a small town situated on the banks of the Mekhong River . A short distance upstream is the town of Sop Ruak , where the three countries of Thailand , Burma and Laos converge. This point is what most people call the Golden Triangle, although in fact the Golden Triangle covers a large area of the three countries that became notorious for opium cultivation and drug smuggling in the past.
Chiang Saen has an interesting museum and some ancient temples. The museum has exhibits from the Lanna and Sukothai periods as well as hilltribe artifacts and is well worth spending some time there. Wat Pa Sak is in a well preserved compound and dates back to 1295. There is a large stupa with six smaller chedis and temples. Wat Chedi Luang has a large brick chedi of Chiang Saen style and dates back to the 14th century.

Mae Sai is approx. 60kms north of Chiang Rai and is a border town on the Thai side of the Thai-Burmese border. The corresponding town on the Burmese side is called Tachilek. The main reason for visiting Mae Sai is for shopping and to glimpse Burmese life by crossing over to Tachilek. The crossing costs US$5/person. On both sides of the border you will find mostly gems, jade, textiles, Burmese tapestries, laquerware as well as other handicrafts and some Chinese products.

Mae Salong is situated to the north west of Chiang Rai and is a very unique place in Thailand . The original population were remnants of the Chinese Kuomintang, who originally fled to Burma but were pushed out of Burma in the 1960's. The Thai's allowed them to settle in Mae Salong which has evolved into a distinctive Chinese settlement in Thailand . You can see traditional Chinese style houses and taste Chinese cuisine. They also have some of the best Chinese tea and a range of Chinese herbs are available. There is a bustling morning market where the hilltribe and Chinese cultures entwine. Mae Salong is a convenient location to tour some of the surrounding hilltribe villages and makes an interesting daytrip or overnight stop from Chiang Rai.

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