Nestled into the lush mountains of northernmost Thailand, Chiang Rai surrounds its visitors in hill tribe culture and scenery. One of the most famous and exotic attractions in Thailand, Chiang Rai is home to the remote hill tribe communities that make up about 10 percent of Thailand's population. Scattered through the mountains and valleys of the province, the tribes are descendents of nomadic peoples from Tibet and southern China. Each tribe is unique, with its own colourful culture and traditions.
An 11-hour bus ride from Bangkok can leave many visitors looking to relax; fortunately they can, either by picking through hill tribe crafts in the Chiang Rai Night Bazaar, relaxing along the shore of the Mae Kok River or taking a look-out residence in the many hilltop guesthouses.
Many travellers arrive in Chiang Rai from Chiang Mai to begin their treks to hill tribe villages, but there is plenty to see and do in Chiang Rai itself, including visiting a number of beautiful temples and interesting museums. Chiang Rai has some good shopping opportunities, including several weekend markets, while good restaurants and food stalls offer a taste of northern Thai cuisine. The city also has a lively, if not endless, nightlife, with a few good bars and pubs hosting live music.
Chiang Rai's Hilltribe Museum and Education Centre is a great place to visit before heading on a trek to visit the hill-tribes in the region around Chiang Rai. The centre has several exhibits aimed to give visitors a better understanding of the culture and history of the tribes, but also gives an honest account of how the tribes are exploited by the Thai tourism industry. Tourists can also arrange hill-tribe tours from the centre. There is an excellent restaurant downstairs whose proceeds fund social programmes.
High in the mountains of central Thailand, the Doi Tung Royal Villa was the residence of the late Princess Srinagarindra, also known as the Princess Mother. The Princess Mother built herself a summer residence in the area as part of her development project to discourage local farmers from growing opium and employing harmful 'slash and burn' practises. After her death, the residence was converted into a museum, and the rest of the property, including the Mae Fah Luang Garden and Mae Fah Luang Arboretum, is also open to the public. The complex has a hotel, restaurant, coffee shop and gift shop.
Chiang Rai is home to a number of beautiful temples, including the Wat Phra Kaew, which was where the famous Emerald Buddha was discovered; Wat Phra That Doi Chom Thong, which houses a Holy Relic of Gautama Buddha; Wat Rong Khun (The White Temple), an ornate modern temple with large murals of the Lord Buddha; Baan Dam (the Black House), made up of nearly 40 small black structures made of wood, glass, concrete and terra cotta dating back to the days of Ayutthaya; and Munniti Chiang Rai, one of the only Taoist and Mahayana Buddhist temples in Thailand.
Visitors will need to conform to temple dress codes, which include modest dress that covers both the shoulders and the knees.
Chiang Rai is a hotspot for travellers who want to get a real cultural experience during their stay in Thailand. Chiang Rai's attractions boast some of the most beautiful temples in Thailand, such the stunning white temple of Wat Rong Khun and Wat Phra That Doi Chom Thong which houses the oldest Holy Relic in Thailand. In tribute to its local people, the Hilltribe Museum and Cultural Centre gives visitors an interesting introduction to the ancient way of life of the Lisu Hill Tribes, who have inhabited Thailand's northern regions since migrating from regions in Tibet and Burma. Chiang Rai is also home to the coming together of the three modern nations of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos, as the region is where these three borders touch, in what is known as the Golden Triangle, dissected by the mighty Mekong River.
No direct flights from Heathrow to this Destination