Chiang Rai Travel Guide

Photo of Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai Overview

Chiang Rai is the largest city in northern Thailand after Chiang Mai, and 200 kilometers (120 miles) to the west. Virtually equidistant to the Laotian and Burmese borders (both crossings are 60 kilometers/40 miles away) Chiang Ria is the Golden Triangle’s capital.

Founded in 1262, the population now stands at 62,000 inhabitants. Over 10% of the residents of Chiang Rai belong to hill tribe minorities who have left behind their rural existence. A large Chinese community lives in the city, having migrated south from Yunnan province. The Kok river that divides the town eventually merges with the Mekong River.
It was in Chiang Rai where the famed Emerald Buddha was discovered hidden inside a plaster Buddha statue that cracked during an earthquake; it is now housed in the Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok’s Grand Palace complex.
As a base for exploring the Golden Triangle, Chiang Rai is increasingly popular as an alternative to rapidly developing Chiang Mai. With friendly inhabitants, spicy food and abundant tropical fruits year round, the town is popular as a retirement spot for Europeans eager to escape the harsh winter.

Things to do in Chiang Rai

The area around Chiang Rai is home to the Lanna culture, and the architecture of the wooden houses here incorporate the distinctive crossed wooden beams typical of Lanna structures.

A visit to the Mae Fah Luang Art and Cultural Park will reveal exhibits and carvings gathered to preserve them for future generations.
Trekking to hill tribe villages is popular from Chiang Rai, as is mountain biking the trails around the city. With the average elevation of the area at 500 meters (1,500 feet) temperatures rarely pass 30 degrees Celsius (85 degrees Fahrenheit) leaving most evenings cool and breezy.

December’s Flower Festival sees the center of Chiang Mai transformed with gardens, flower markets, a parade and beauty pageant.

Hotels in Chiang Rai

Budget Hotels Chiang Rai

Greater Mekong Lodge- hotel has views of the valley and is convenient to the Mai Fah Luang gardens
Mai Muang Homestay  -hotel features bamboo huts and tree houses
Mid Range Hotels Chiang Rai
Laluna Hotel and Resort -hotel has 79 rooms and boasts scenic views over the mountains near Chiang Rai
Suan Thip Vana- mountain resort with views of Chiang Rai
Luxury Hotels Chiang Rai
Hotel Dusit Island Chiang Rai  - full service resort from the Thai hotel chain, Dust Thani
Le Meridien Chiang Rai- Hotel has expansive gardens and a full service on site spa
The Legend Chiang Rai- a few minutes from Chiang Rai, this riverside resort is designed in traditional Thai style

Chiang Rai Weather

Chiang Rai Travel Resources



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This page was last modified on 24 Sep 2011 by Matt