Chiang Rai is Thailand’s northern-most province and the region is home to some beautiful mountain scenery. Easier access and improved infrastructure has seen the area become an increasingly popular destination for budget travellers and upmarket tourists alike. The city of Chiang Rai makes a great base for the adventurous who wish to go rafting or trekking and many local tour companies offer the chance to stay overnight at a hill-tribe village.
Where to stay
Chiang Rai’s increasing popularity has seen a rise in the standard and variety of accommodation with something available for every budget although the choice is more limited than Chiang Mai. Budget and mid-range hotels and guest-houses can be found in the central area of the city with some notable upmarket options near the river like the Legend Chiang Rai.
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What to see and do
Doi Tong is located in the north-west of the city close to the banks of the Kok River and a walk up to the top of Doi Tong offers fine views of the city and the river. Another viewpoint can be found south-west of the city at Doi Khao Kwai (Buffalo Horn Hill). The temple of Wat Khao Kwai has a terrace where the view can be enjoyed. Wat Phra Kaew is Chiang Rai’s most revered temple and once housed the Emerald Buddha which now resides in the temple’s namesake in Bangkok. Even if you consider yourself ‘templed-out’, it’s well worth making the short journey out of Chiang Rai city to the visually stunning Wat Rong Khun also known as the White Temple. And while you’re in that area, you could make the trip out to the lovely Singha Park (Boon Rawd Farm). In the middle of the city, Chiang Rai’s golden clocktower is also the work of the same artist behind Wat Rong Khun. In a similar vein, Baan Dam (the Black House) is another unique artistic creation worth seeking out. For lovers of nature, a trip to the beautiful gardens at Mae Fah Luang is highly recommended.
The Golden Triangle is within easy reach (the point where Laos, Burma and Thailand meet), but the reality is less romantic than many people envisage. More impressive are the mountains, rice fields and ancient ruins to be found nearby. Every hotel and tour operator in Chiang Rai will be able to arrange trips to the Golden Triangle although ‘trips’ probably isn’t the best word to use for an area that has earned its former notoriety as a centre for opium production! It’s also possible to arrange outings to local hill-tribe villages and go trekking in the surrounding countryside. In the centre of the city, the Night Bazaar is a popular place to visit for entertainment, food and drink.
Many people travel to Chiang Rai from Chiang Mai which can be done in just over 3 hours by bus. A more scenic option is a combined boat and road journey which takes considerably longer. Direct flights are also available from Chiang Mai and Bangkok. The majority of tour operators in Chiang Mai offer various transport and accommodation combination packages for Chiang Rai. Buses depart from Chiang Mai Arcade bus station every hour from 06.00 through to 17.30.
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