SCENIC HOME OF HILLTRIBES
" The Province of Chiang
Rai, covering some 11,600 square kilometres at an average elevation
of 580 metres above sea level, lies in the heart of the fabled Golden
province of Chiang Rai, lies in the heart of the fabled Golden
Triangle, the area where the borders of Thailand, Burma (Myanmar)
and Laos converge.
Chiang Rai is a traveler's paradise, offering a broad range
of activities among stunning mountain scenery where exotic hilltribes,
historic Buddhist shrines, riverine adventures and elephant treks
number among the major attractions.
The riverine provincial capital, founded in 1262, is some 785 kilometres
north of Bangkok. The most convenient way of reaching the capital
is by daily Thai International from Bangkok, or from the neighboring
provincial capital of Chiang Mai.
The ten-hour coach ride from Bangkok to Chiang Rai is probably best
made overnight since passengers can avail themselves of sleep before
early morning arrival.
The capital may also be reached from Tha Thon in Chiang Mai province
by a scenic 4-6 hour (depending on climatic conditions, such as rain,
and other factors such as high waters and fast currents) longtail
boat ride along the Mae Kok River.
The provincial capital
contains several deluxe hotels and resort complexes, guest-houses
and inns, indeed accommodation to suit every pocket. Besides being
a major dining, shopping and entertainment centre, the provincial
capital is probably the most convenient spot from where to make excursions
into the surrounding countryside, since most attractions can be reached
within a convenient one day return.
City attractions include
monuments dedicated to King Mengrai The Great, the thirteenth-century
founder of Chiang Rai (and Chiang Mai in 1296); and Buddhist temples
such as Wat Phra Singh and Wat Phra Kaeo, the latter believed to have
been the original home of Thailand's most revered Buddha image, the
Emerald Buddha, now enshrined in Bangkok's Wat Phra Kaeo.
Rai is the home of the several different hilltribes, the most numerous
of which are the colourful Akha, have their own customs, their own language,
their own culture and decorative art forms .
Silver is their preferred
symbol of wealth. Indeed, Akha women wear, besides equally distinctive
miniskirts and leggings, unusual headdresses made from plumes and
vintage silver coins largely of French Indochinese or British Indian
Many such women are
accomplished weavers of cloth which they decorate with their own distinctive,
predominantly geometric embroidery. Such items number among the more
popular souvenirs, and come in the form of purses. bags, jerkins,
waistcoats and similar apparel .
Akha silver ware is
also a popular purchase, and comprises mainly bracelets, necklaces,
belts and pendants.
Most provincial attractions lie north of the provincial capital. Road
travelers can visit major destinations within the space of one day.
At Mae Chan some 29 kilometres north of the provincial capital, Highway
110 continues northwards to Mae Sai, the northernmost point
of Thailand ( 63 kilometres north of the provincial capital ); Route
1010 veers eastwards towards Chiang Saen (60 kilometres from
the provincial capital) which occupies the Mekong riverbank facing
Laos, and here resort hotels and complexes, quest houses and inns
offer comfortable accommodation.
Chiang Saen was an
ancient capital of Lan Na Thai (Kingdom of One Million Rice fields)
which dominated northern Thailand from the late 1200s. Chiang Saen
was founded by King Mengrai before Chiang Rai and is historically
important, because a distinctive style of Buddhist sculpture evolved
there during the late thirteenth century.
Several noteworthy religious
monuments include the hilltop Wat Phra That Chom Kitti, the ancient
Chedi Wat Pa Sak, and Chedi Luang, a 58-metres high structure with a
25-metres circumference base which was constructed in 1290 as LAN NA
Thai's largest religious monument .
Adjacent to, and almost
dwarfed by the chedi, a branch of the National Museum contains bronze
Buddha images and artifacts excavated locally.
12 kilometres north
of Chiang Saen, a riverside area has been officially designated
The Golden Triangle.
The spot, known locally as Sop Ruak, precisely marks the convergence
of the Mae Sai and Mekong rivers which form the borders of Laos, Myanmar
A commanding panoramic
view of the area may be enjoyed from the riverine Wat Phra That Phukhao's
Into The Mountains
major routes from Highway 110 permit convenient exploration of the
Golden Triangle's major mountain mass Route 1130, 3 kilometres north
of Mae Chan, negotiate steep mountains and ascends in spectacular
hairpin bends to Doi Salong, passing several Akha (and other) hilltribe
or shopping and photographic opportunities.
The road penetrates
the mountains for some 35 kilometres to end at Santi Kiri, a mountain
top settlement where descendants of the defeated Nationalist Chinese
soldiers tend tea and coffee plantations, orchards and flower and
vegetable gardens. A resort complex permits an overnight stay. The
Santi Kiri, contains several apothecaries, spice shops, teahouses
and restaurants and constitutes a 'high-altitude Chinatown'.
14 kilometres north
of Mae Chan, Route 1 149 leads to the mountain top Wat Phra That Doi
Thung, a temple over 2,000 metres above sea level and which offers
one of the Golden Triangle's most spectacular views.
The 17 kilometer winding
route can be negotiated in a uncomfortable one-hour drive, and passes
several hilltribe hamlets, some roadside, some more secluded some
down side tracks, a permanent Akha bazaar (Maephaluang Garden), scenic
reservoirs and botanical gardens, and the palace of Her Royal Highness
the Princess Mother.
The Furthest North
Highway 110 passes Khun-nam Nang-non (Lagoon of the Sleeping Lady),
some 12 kilometres before reaching Mae Sai, and three popular caves
(Thampun-Thampla,Tham Pha Chom and Tham Phyanak), the thriving Mae
Sai trading post which face Myanmar across the Mae Sai River. Mae
Sai is a popular shopping area for local goods, including clothing,
leatherware, hilltribe products, principally clothing, trinkets and
jewellery, of Burmese origin.
The hilltop Wat Phra
That Doi Waow offers an exhilarating view of the hills and revering
valley separating Thailand and Burma. Riverside accommodation is available
on the Thai side.
Of Riverine Adventures & Elephant Treks
Mekong and Mae Kok rivers offer numerous opportunities of rafting,
boating and elephant trek adventures. The Mekong, one of Asia's mightiest
rivers, rises in Tibet and flows into the South China Sea, some 4,
500 kilometres to the southeast. The Mekong can be explored from Chiang
Saen by an exhilarating 3-hour boat trip downstream to Chiang Khong,
or, far more sedately, from Sop Ruak around the immediate environs.
Rafting trips along
the Mae Kok River, eastwards from Chiang Mai's Tha Thon towards the
provincial capital, are popular, and are often combined with ''inland"
excursions, frequently on elephant ride to hilltribe hamlets occupying
nearby hillsides and mountains.
trekking areas include hilltribe villages and elephant camps. Such
treks customarily involve majestic mountain terrain, pristine jungle
and rivers, photogenic waterfalls and unusual caves. Visitors can
journey to such places by foot or on elephant back. Similar travel
by longtail boats, motorcycles and jeeps are becoming increasingly
SAVORING THE MYSTIQUE
With its excellent choice of accommodation, ease of road and riverine
communication, its manifold historic and contemporary attractions,
Chiang Rai offers the discerning traveler many opportunities for exploration,
relaxation and pampered leisure. Moreover, Chiang Rai is the ideal
spot from where to explore neighboring provinces, and to fully savor
the mystique of northern Thailand in general and the fabled Golden
Triangle in particular.
Doi Tung Blossom Festival
Until Feb 15, enjoy a wealth of colour and variety of species in bloom
on the hills surrounding Doi Tung Royal Villa, Mae Fah Luang District,
Call: 66-53-767 001, 767 015-7, Fax: 66-53-767 077, email:firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mekong Frendship Festival
Jan 15-17 Riverside area Chiang Rai.
Feb 5-7 tea exhibition and demonstration at Doi Mae Salong.
Contact TAT Chiang Rai: ( 66-53-217 513 ).
Chiang Rai Lychee
May 14-16, central stadium, Local lychee competition with a demonstration
and sale of other local goods. A procession through the city will
be accompanied by various competitions.
All day, contact TAT: ( 66-53-717 433 ).
By road, 785 km. from Bangkok, 182 km. from Chiang Mai; by air, 1.25
hr. from Bangkok.
Thai International flies daily to Chiang Rai from Bangkok. You may
also take an overnight or day coach from the northern Buses Terminal
at Mor Chit in Bangkok. The journey takes about 12 hours. Chiang Rai
can also be reached from Chiang Mai by road, the journey takes about
King Mangrai Statue
A bronze statue of the founder of Lanna Kingdom is situated at the
starting point of Highway 110, which leads to Mae Chan Chiang Saen
and Mae Sai. Many tourists visit this monument to pay their respects
to the ancient king and to have photos taken as souvenirs.
There are several Buddhist temples in town, notably Wat Phra Sing,
where Phra Phutta Sihing, an important Theravada image, was originally
housed, and Wat PhraKaeo, where the Emerald Buddha, now enshrined
in the Royal Temple of the Grand Palace in Bangkok, was first found.
That Doi Tung:
A temple containing the left collar bone of the Buddha on top of the
1364-m. Doi Tung (highest in Chiang Rai), is the most important place
of worship for Buddhist in the North. There, on a clear day, one can
have a breathtaking panorama of the border areas.
About 7 km from the temple is a beautiful royal residence built for
the Princess Mother in celebration of her 90th birthday in 1990. Because
of its scenic beauty, the palace, named Phra Tamnak Doi Tung, draws
tourists like Bhubing Palace in Chiang Mai. The road leading up to
the hillside palace is wide and smooth.
Chiang Saen Museum:
The museum in the bordertown of Chiang Saen, 59 km from the provincial
town, is famous for its invaluable Buddha images and antiques of the
Chiang Saen Kingdom, which flourished in the 11 th and 12 th centuries.
It is open to the public every day except Mondays and Tuesdays. The
town is also known for its charming old temples such as Wat Pa Sak
and Wat Phra That Chom Kitti.
Located 9 km to the north of Chiang Saen is the world-famous place
where the borders of Thailand, Burma and Laos meet. You can stand
at the very point where the Rauk River from Burma flows into the Mekong,
to take a fine view of the rice fields and the distant mountains.
To get a wider view , you can climb up Doi Chiang Miang on teh riverside.
But don't expect to see any such things as poppy fields, heroin factories
or drug addicts or traffickers here. Just enjoy the natural beauty
and be proud that you have been to a widely-known locality. Both hotel
rooms and huts are available, and so are trekking boatside arrangements.
Several hilltribes live in the mountainous areas around Chiang Rai,
Mae Chan, Mae Sai and along the Kok River. Each group has its own
language, costume, customs, and religious beliefs. The largest center
is located on the way to Mae Salong.
Doi Mae Salong:
the Communists took over the mainland of China in 1949, a division
of the Nationalist Chinese army fled to the Thai-Burmese border areas.
Some of them were allowed to settle down on a border mountain called
Mae Salong in 1961. The village they founded there soon become well
known for its enchanting scenery and tranquil atmosphere. There are
guest houses to accommodate tourists and a paved road leading to the
village, which is about 60 km from Chiang Rai.
Pu Kaeng and Other
Among the numerous waterfalls in Chiang Rai, Pu Kaeng is the largest
with a powerful current cascading down the cliff all the year round.
It is in Doi Luang National Park about 58 km from Chiang Rai and has
a total of 17 leaps. Another beautiful waterfall is called Mae Kon,
teh lowest level of which 70 m. high. The road leading to the waterfall
is densely wooded. It is only 30 km from the provincial town. The
one nearest the main highway No. 1 (only 240m away) is Sai Khao Waterfall.
There are hot springs nearby.
Mae Sai on Burmese
Mae Sai is the northernmost town of Thailand separated from the Burmese
border town of Thachilek by a small river also called Mae Sai. It
is frequented by both Thai and foreign tourists, who come to see the
sights and to buy jade and other precious stones produced in Burma.
Mae Sai is now an important jewellery center, especially jade ornaments.
Rafting Down the
The 130-km-long Mae Kok is reputed as among scenic and unspoiled rivers
still existing in the world today. The stream flows gently most of the
way except a series of rapids near the lower reaches of the river, making
the trip more exciting. It takes 3 days and 2 nights to cover the 80-km
distance by raft from Tha Ton of
chiang Mai to Chiang Rai town.