Thailand is known for many things — ancient temples, fantastic street food, photogenic landscapes — and visitors can explore them all in Chiang Rai. This vibrant city boasts lots to do, and provides easy access to the myriad mountains and outdoor adventures nearby; waterfalls, caves, gardens and parks.
While a small city by Thai standards, Chiang Rai is well-positioned as a gateway to the Golden Triangle. This famous landmark observes Thailand, Myanmar and Laos as they converge at the Mekong and Ruak rivers. Thanks to Chiang Rai’s northern location at the very tip of Thailand, it’s a great base for exploring Thailand and the surrounding region.
The city was founded in 1262 by King Mengrai and it was the first capital of Lanna Thai Kingdom — visitors can feel the history oozing from the street corners. Though not too far from popular destinations like Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai has its own distinct personality that never fails to captivate and delight guests. Expect spicy and dried food, colourful handicrafts, a plethora of local agricultural products, and a slow-paced type of lifestyle.
Chiang Rai is a glorified village town, and small enough to explore on foot. Set aside a few days to explore the city, but budget plenty of time to get out into the country too. The surrounding region is practically untouched, boasting incredible mountain ranges, rivers and the famous Golden Triangle.
Designed by artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, the iconic White Temple is actually not as old as it looks. Built in 1997, the while-stucco building features a silver ordination hall and incredible murals of Buddha. Look closely at the gable edging — the design incorporates various dragons and mythical creatures that are fun to spot along the way.
The brainchild of Thai artist Thawan Duchanee, the Baan Dam Museum (aka the Black House) promises an incredible experience. The grounds are peppered with about 40 small black homes — all handmade with bricks, terracotta, wood or glass, and filled with Thawan’s collections. Visitors will find much more than paintings in these photogenic houses. Look for sculptures, animal bones, silver, gold, and relics from around the world.
Every tourist can’t visit Thailand without going to a night bazaar. The city’s central market is brimming with great food with about 50 food stalls to choose from.
Thanks to Mae Fah Luang University, this formerly deforested mountain in Chiang Rai is now blooming with more than 10,000 Sakura trees — hence the name!
Just about 25 kilometres from Chiang Rai lies one of the most scenic national parks, home to a gorgeous waterfall — Khun Kon — that reaches 70 metres high
Located in a village outside of Chiang Rai, the Chouifong Tea Plantation is one of the best places to sample quality tea in Thailand. Dating back over 40 years, the plantation offers incredible views from its perch in the mountains.
Chiang Rai is an excellent stomping ground for climbers, bikers, and hikers and the like with picture-perfect limestone cliffs and mountains in every direction.
It’s easy to find every type of accommodation in Chiang Rai, from easy-breezy hostels and camp grounds to charming rustic abodes and luxury resorts. For special occasions, consider a stay at resorts which offer incredible views, sprawling pools and excellent service.
Located in northern Thailand, Chiang Rai sees cool weather from November to February — it’s a real winter, with blue skies and cool evenings with the temperature dropping as low as 2°C at night. From May to September, expect hot and humid weather with a bit of rain. For those concerned about storms, rain is most prevalent in September and October, so avoid these months if possible.
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