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Far Northern Thailand : Chiang Rai Province
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Chiang Rai Province

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Revision as of 16:15, 5 February 2010

Chiang Rai Province is a region in Far Northern Thailand.

Cities

Other destinations

  • 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

Understand

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.

Geography

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

Culture

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.

People

  • 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.

Talk

Get in

By plane

Chiang Rai has an airport which have flights to Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

By train

The nearest train station is in Chiang Mai.

By bus

The 12 hour journey from Bangkok can be made on air-conditioned coaches originating from Northern Bus Terminal daily call 0 2936 2852-66, 0 25 76 5599 www.transport.co.th . Private bus operated by Bor Kho Sor Co., Ltd. Call 0 2936 3670, 0 5371 1369, 0 5375 4097/ Chok Rung Tawee Tour call 0 2936 4275-6, 0 5371 4045/ Siam First Tour call 0 2954 3601-4, 0 5371 9064, 0 5371 4386 / Sombut Tour 0 2936 2495, 0 5371 4971, 0 5371 5884

There are services from Chiang Rai bus terminal to various districts in Chiang Rai. Local bus ply nearby provinces, call Chiang Rai bus terminal 0 5371 1224, 0 5371 1154 for details.

By car

Highway No. 1 (Phaholyothin Road) is the main road in Chiang Rai province. It passes through the areas of Phan Mae Lao, Muang, Mae Chan and Mae Sai districts. Along the higway, there are links to other districts in the province, such as roads 108 to Mae Suai, 1126 to Pa Daed, 1233 to Wang Whai and the 1016 to Chaing Saen districts.

From Bangkok drive on highway No.32 to Singburi, then take highway No.11 to Phare and highway No.1103 to Chiang Rai. The route is 829km.

Get around

By bus

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

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 1000 baht or more for a day trip is "cheap". Needless to say, these poor Burmese (as was explained privately by guide) Karens working there for a tourists get only a tiny fraction of these money - as they home, Burma (Myanmar), is the one of the poorest countries of the world. Be conscious, this is just a tourist trap. It's better to visit a remote, but genuine Karen village, than to help the rich people to make money from 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.

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