Chiang Rai, Thailand’s most northern province, is located approximately 800 km from Bangkok. The northern border of the province separates Thailand from both Laos and Myanmar. The Maekok River, flowing from Chiang Mai province into the Mekong river for over 130 km, is the major river that cuts through the rugged mountainous topography of the region. The mountains in turn being home to many different hill-tribes which have migrated from South China, Tibet and Burma.
The mountains and jungles, with their abundance of flora and fauna, are perfect places for nature lovers and adventurers alike. Indeed many flowing rivers offer an exciting way to pass through the natural beauty of the landscape.
The city of Chiang Rai was founded in 1262 by King Mengrai, who later moved the capital of his Lanna Kingdom from Chiang Saen to Chiang Rai. It was the capital for a brief time before threats of invasion led to the laying of the foundations of Chiang Mai, which would eventually replace Chiang Rai as the capital of the Lanna Kingdom. Later, in 1786, when King Ramatobodi (Rama I) was consolidating the country after the destruction of Ayutthaya, it became part of Thai territory and was later proclaimed a province in 1910 by King Rama VI.
Nowaday, Chiangrai province is also the new gateway to Laos and Myanmar.
Chiang Rai city has been called the off-the-beaten-path alternative to Chiang Mai. Founded in 1262 by King Mengrai and the original “residence” of the Emerald Buddha, Chiang Rai offers unspoiled hill-tribes and the allure of danger in the surrounding rugged mountains of the Golden Triangle, where Shan drug warlord Khun Sa’s soldiers once were convoying 80% of the world’s opium supply through the jungle by horseback. It wasn’t all that hard a few years ago to stroll through an opium field, stumble upon an ethnic Akha or KMT village and find yourself looking down the wrong end of an AK-47.
These days, the Chiang Rai region is a lot tamer – and definitely on the adventure tourism map! Chiang Rai has become a major trekking center for journeys by foot, boat, mountain-bike or elephant to remote Akha, Karen, Lahu, Lasu, Yao and Shan hill-tribes. For some, Chiang Rai makes a better base for getting off the beaten track than Chiang Mai, and the town itself is not nearly as sprawling as its sister to the southwest. And a stroll through Chiang Rai’s Night Bazaar will convince you that you can’t get much closer to some of the most colorful cultures in Asia and still be able to sleep at night in a 4-star luxury caravansary.
Fore more information about hotels and accommodation in Chiang-Rai and Thailand, find out about our selection on Asia-Hotel-Direct website.
ActiveThailand offers a few tours departing from Chiang Rai which you can find below:
The Golden Triangle loop Day trip
Guided sightseeing: full day trip; departing Chiangrai town. Drive to Myanmar (Burma) border town of Mae Sai, which is also Thailand northern most point. We continue then to the Golden Triangle area, and the old city of Chiang Saen. End the loop back to Chiangrai. Popular tour