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destination - Chiang Rai

Map & Directory Fact Sheet
Chiang Rai Overview
Chiang Rai is a delightful city nestled in the picturesque Mae Kok River valley in Thailand's most northerly province. Historically the city was once the capital of the Thai Kingdom of Lanna which in its heyday held sway over large areas of what is now northern Thailand and Laos. Chiang Rai is situated on the Mae Kok River in a flat valley dotted with small hills. Outside of the valley the area is characterized by jungle-covered mountains; some of which are scarred by spectacular sheer limestone cliffs. Throughout the mountains are a number of breathtaking waterfalls and cave systems that result in the region being one of outstanding natural beauty.  
ART AND CULTURE
Chiang Rai and its surrounding countryside boasts an abundance of cultural sights and scenes. The city once held the seat of the Lanna Kingdom and as a result, there are many temples in and around the city which date back to this legacy and are over 1000 years old. The area was once notorious for its opium trade but this has, in recent years, been turned around and the local communities are now growing cash crops thanks to a number of local and international initiatives. With the help of tourism, these communities are able to promote and secure their heritage.   More >

Chiang Rai and its surrounding countryside boasts an abundance of cultural sights and scenes. The city once held the seat of the Lanna Kingdom and as a result, there are many temples in and around the city which date back to this legacy and are over 1000 years old. The area was once notorious for its opium trade but this has, in recent years, been turned around and the local communities are now growing cash crops thanks to a number of local and international initiatives. With the help of tourism, these communities are able to promote and secure their heritage. Doi Mae Salong is a beautiful mountainous area north of the city. It is home to hill tribe farmers and Chinese pioneers who were once part of the Chinese KMT nationalist army. These pioneers fled China during the 'Great Leap Forward' in 1958 and have lived here ever since. The town is a blend of traditional Chinese, Thai and hill tribe cultures. Until the 1980's Mae Salong hardly saw any tourists and was more or less in isolation. Today however, the once sealed road is now open and the rich culture and heritage is available to all. A trip to Mae Salong Ancestors Museum is a must. The Hill Tribe Museum and Education Centre is a non-profit organisation which focuses on improving relations between Thailand's ethnic minority groups and the local Thai community. There are a number of fascinating exhibits as well as a large collection of traditional handicrafts on display. For more information, call +66 53 719167. Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Phra Sing are two temples within the city of Chiang Rai. The former is located on Trairat Road and lays claim to being the origin of the Emerald Buddha. Legend has it that the temple was struck by lightening in the 15th century which split open the chedi to reveal a sacred jade Buddha image. This emerald Buddha can now be found in Bangkok's Wat Phra Kaew. The latter temple can be found on Singkhlai Road and dates back to the 14th century. Inside the temple, visitors will find replicas of a sacred purple jade Buddha image and an ebony and gold 'twin Buddha' image. Wat Phrathat Doi Tung is a mountain-top temple which dates back to the 10th century. A golden chedi rises above the temple, which is am mix of Burmese and Lanna styles. Legend has it that an ancient Lanna prince followed a wandering elephant to Doi Tung and decided to build a temple and build the city that would eventually become Chiang Rai. Wat Rong Khun is Chiang Rai's famous new white temple. This modern temple is a tribute to heaven and to Buddha. The interior is ornately decorated with lavish paintings while the roof is guarded by four animal sculptures which represent an earthly element: the elephant (earth); the swan (wind); the lion (fire) and the mythical serpent (water).
ACTIVITIES
Chiang Rai is a quiet town which is surrounded by some of the most beautiful countryside in Thailand. This mountainous terrain is home to nature trails, elephant camps, and indigenous hill tribes. You will not be short of options to keep you occupied if you like the outdoors.   More >

Chiang Rai is a quiet town which is surrounded by some of the most beautiful countryside in Thailand. This mountainous terrain is home to nature trails, elephant camps, and indigenous hill tribes. You will not be short of options to keep you occupied if you like the outdoors. Doi Tung Zoo, also known as Doi Tung Wildlife Station, is far more than a zoo, covering 80 acres of forest running alongside Highway 1149. There are a number of endangered species which are successfully bred here including: hogdeer, sun bears, muntjak (barking deer) and the Siamese fireback pheasant. It is a great place for families to visit as there are a number of walking trails which will take you through pristine nature as well as giving you the chance to spot the animals in their natural habitats. If you have a day or two to spare, you should not leave Chiang Rai without enjoying an elephant ride. These wonderful, gentle creatures can be found in camps outside the city and it is possible to take a ride on the back of one while they make their way slowly along designated route. There are a number of elephant camps in and around Chiang Rai, however some are do not take proper care of the animals, focusing instead on money. Therefore, be careful which one you choose. If you would rather explore the mountains on foot, you will not be short of options. There are a number of treks available from Chiang Rai, all of which are easily booked in the city. You will need to take your level of fitness into consideration and book one accordingly. Trekking offers the chance to get up close and personal with nature, rafting along the river and the chance to stay overnight in remote hill tribe villages. Golfing enthusiasts may be surprised by the options available in Chiang Rai. There is a good nine-hole course at Chiang Rai's old airport as well as two courses just out of town. One of these is the course at Santiburi, which is one of the top five in Thailand. If you want to get out and about, there are a number of day trips to enjoy which will leave lasting memories. Chiang Saen is one of the most northern towns in the province of Chiang Rai. Its history is long and detailed and has included endless power struggles between the Burmese and Thais. The architecture is deep-rooted in Lanna history and the fascinating timeline of events is showcased at the Chiang Saen National Museum. A trip to the Golden Triangle is a must. This is where Thailand, Laos and Burma all meet on the banks of the Ruak River (a tributary of the Mekong). The riverbed was once awash with enormous crops of opium, however they have now all gone and been replaced with coffee and tea plantations. It is a beautiful area which is immersed in history.

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