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Chiang Rai Province

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Chiang Rai Province is a region in Northern Thailand.


Other destinations[edit]

  • Doi Tung — royal villas and a mountaintop temple with stunning views and (so they say) the Buddha's collarbone
  • Golden Triangle — a bit of a tourist trap, but the opium museums are worth a visit
  • Mae Sai — Thailand's northernmost town, daytrips to Myanmar
  • Mae Salong — founded by Chinese Nationalists fleeing after their defeat in the war
  • Phu Chi Fa — one of the highest peaks of Northern Thailand, which offers outstanding views


Populations have dwelled in Chiang Rai since the 7th century and it became the center of the Lanna Thai Kingdom during the 13th century. The region, rich in natural resources and textiles, was occupied by the Burmese until 1786. Chiang Rai province’s Golden Triangle bordering Laos and Burma was once the hub of opium production which had much influence on cultural practices and lifestyles. Until this day, entire clans live together in bamboo houses and each village has its own individual character.

The province is rich in tourism resources in terms of natural attractions and antiquities, evidence of its past civilisation. It is also home to various hilltribes who follow fascinating ways of life. Chiang Rai is also a tourism gateway into Burma and Laos.


Chiang Rai is Thailand’s northernmost province and a real beauty. It is situated on the Kok River basin well above sea level with an area of some 11,678 square kilometres. It is about 785 km from Bangkok. Mostly mountainous, it reaches the Mae Khong River to the north and borders on both Myanmar and Laos.

View of Mae Kok river valley


Popualtions have dwelled in Chiang Rai since the 7th century and it became the center of the Lanna Thai Kingdom during the 13th century. The region, rich in natural resources and textiles, was occupied by the Burmese until 1786. Chiang Rai province’s Golden Triangle bordering Laos and Burma was once the hub of opium production which had much influence on cultural practices and lifestyles. Until this day, entire clans live together in bamboo houses and each village has its own individual character.

Chiang Saen, Mae Chan, and Doi Mae Salong are three substantially different places. Chiang Saen’s rich culture has been influenced by its collection of Buddhist scriptures and temples. It was once the provincial capital. Mae Chan’s name lies in its silver and tribal handicrafts. Once officially unrecognized by the Thai government, Doi Mae Salong is a Chinese KMT (Kuomintang) area renowned for its natural beauty and unique Yunnanese culture. Besides the Chinese 93rd Infantry of the Kuomintang, several other ethnic minorities have settled down in the region including the Tai Yai, Tai Lue, Tai Khoen and Tai Yuan.


  • Khon Muang are the city folk who originally came from Chiang Mai, Lamphun, Lampang and Phrae. Culturally, they design their houses having only one floor with wooden gable-decorations called Ka-Lae. They are known for their craftsmanship in wood carving, weaving, lacquerware and musical instruments.
  • Tai Yai, Burmese in origin, harvest rice, farm, raise cattle and trade. Their craftsmanship lies in weaving, pottery, wood carving and bronzeware.
  • Akha have the largest population of any hill tribe in the region. Originating from Tibet and Southern China, they dwell on high grounds around 1,200 meters above sea-level. Within their villages they build a Spirit Gateway to protect them from evil spirits.
  • Lahu are also from the Yunnese area and live in high areas. They are known as hunters and planters.
  • Karen live in various areas of the region which have valleys and riverbanks.
  • Chin Hor, these are the former Kuomintang who took refuge in the area, mainly Doi Mae Salong
  • Hmong from southern China are located on high land. They raise livestock and grow rice, corn, tobacco and cabbage. They are also known for their embroidery and silver.
  • Tai Lue live in dwellings of usually only a single room wooden house built on high poles. They are skilled in weaving.
  • Lisaw from southern China and Tibet are renowned for their colorful dress and also build their dwellings on high poles. They harvest rice and corn and their men are skilled in hunting.
  • Yao reside along mountain sides and grow corn and other crops. They are skilled blacksmiths, silversmiths and embroiders.


Chiang Rai News [4]: Chiang Rai news, articles, classified ads, business listings, and travel information for Chiang Rai Province

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

Mae Fah Luang-Chiang Rai International Airport (IATA: CEI, ICAO: VTCT) [5] is located ten kilometres north of the city centre of Chiang Rai. Access to the airport is available from an access road linking the airport with Phahonyothin Rd, which leads to the city and towns further north.

Although its name is Chiang Rai International Airport, and even though it has facilities for international flights, it is yet to service any international carriers, but it does handle immigration from Thai flights connecting from international cities (e.g., Melbourne-Bangkok-Chiang Rai).

Chiang Rai is served by AirAsia, Thai AirAsia (Bangkok-Don Muang), Bangkok Airways (Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi), Nok Air (Bangkok-Don Muang), Kan Air (Chiang Mai and Nan), Thai Airways International (Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi), and China Eastern Airlines (Kunming, China).

By train[edit]

The nearest train station is in Chiang Mai.

By bus[edit]

The 12 hour journey from Bangkok can be made on air-conditioned coaches originating from Northern Bus Terminal daily. Call +66 2936 2852-66 or +66 2576 5599,.

  • Government bus operated by The Transport Company [6]. (The Thai initials for this government service are pronounced Baw-Kaw-Saw). Call +66 2936 3670, +66 5371 1369, +66 5375 4097.
  • Private buses operated by Chok Rung Tawee Tour, call +66 2936 4275-6 or +66 5371 4045.
  • Siam First Tour call 0 2954 3601-4, 0 5371 9064, 0 5371 4386.
  • Sombut Tour +66 2936 2495, +66 5371 4971, +66 5371 5884

There are services from Chiang Rai bus terminal to various districts in Chiang Rai. Local buses serve nearby provinces. Call Chiang Rai bus terminal +66 5371 1224, +66 5371 1154 for details.

By car[edit]

Highway 1 (Phaholyothin Rd) is the main road in Chiang Rai Province. It passes through the Phan Mae Lao, Muang, Mae Chan, and Mae Sai districts. Branching off of it are roads to other districts in the province, such as Hwy 108 to Mae Suai, Hwy 1126 to Pa Daed, Hwy 1233 to Wang Whai and Hwy 1016 to Chaing Saen districts.

From Bangkok, drive on Hwy 32 to Singburi, then take Hwy 11 to Phare, and Hwy 1103 to Chiang Rai. The route is 829 km in length.

Get around[edit]

By bus[edit]

There is a decent enough bus service in the province but in more remote areas, songthaews (public passenger pick-up vehicles) are the norm.

There is also the chance to travel by boat along the Kok River.

See[edit][add listing]

Visitors to the province of Chiang Rai can expect to see some splendid mountain and valley views, while being blessed with excellent weather which is much cooler than in the central plains.

Many folk choose to spend some of their time in Chiang Rai visiting fascinating hill tribes such as the Akha, Lisaw, Hmong, Lahu, Karen, Mien, and Yao, etc. Most visitors go with a certified guide but other simply go on their own (have to plan ahead though). It is all right to stay overnight with the villagers. Solo travelers not going with a guide are advised to stay with the village headmen; a small donation is welcome.

Sadly, some Thai "businessmen" impudently exploit hill tribe people to extract money from the tourists. A village just near the road between Mae Sai and Chiang Rai (it is frequented by tourist minibuses returning from Golden Triangle) is actually privately-owned, and, while entrance to the village is free, visiting long-neck Karen people there costs 200 baht. Most tourists (and backpackers) have already paid this price in a tour package, thinking that 1,000 baht or more for a day trip is "cheap". Needless to say, these poor Burmese Karen working there for tourists get only a tiny fraction of this money. Their home, Burma (Myanmar), is the one of the poorest countries of the world. Be conscious that this is just a tourist trap. It's better to visit a remote, but genuine, Karen village than to help already rich people make money off the poorest ones.

When trekking off the beaten track and away from hill tribes, it is possible to sleep at any temple, but again a little donation is appreciated.

  • Doi Wawi, (north of Mae Suai). Chinese community in north Thailand. Wawi is one of the biggest tea-producing areas in Thailand. You can visit the village, taste the tea and buy some. It is also possible to visit the tea plantation.  edit
  • Doi Chaang Coffee, (north of Mae Suai), 1.604.689.3312, [1]. Great coffee grown and roasted in the mountains. It is organic and the farmers own 50 percent of the company. They also make the Wild Thai Civet Coffee. Next to the coffee company there is a nice cafe where you can order a cup of coffee and also buy a bag of coffee beans. Also try their honey.  edit


  • Chiang_Mai to Chiang Rai in 3 days a 3 day tour starting from Chiang Mai and going through Doi Angkhang, Fang, Thaton, Doi Mae Salong, Mae Sai, Golden Triangle and finishing in Chiang Mai
Sunset over Doi Mae Salong

Do[edit][add listing]

  • Volunteer teaching the Akha hilltribe (probably the poorest hilltribe in Thailand) children English. See [7] for more details.

Eat[edit][add listing]

  • Chaingrai Times Newspaper, [2]. Chiang Rai restaurant reviews and info.  edit

Drink[edit][add listing]

Sleep[edit][add listing]

  • Suanthip Vana Resort, 49 Chiang Mai-Chiang Rai Rd, Tambon Takok, Amphur Mae Suay, Chiang Rai (south of Mae Suay on Hwy 118 to Chiang Mai), +66 53 724 226-9, (), [3]. Very isolated retreat. Beautiful buildings in Lanna style, especially the Pkakeryor villas. 1,900-10,000 baht, depending on season and accommodations. 1,200 baht surcharge per night for period 25 Dec-5 Jan.  edit

Stay safe[edit]

Get out[edit]

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