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DESTINATION THAILAND
WHERE TO GO IN CHIANG RAI, THAILAND
The quieter neighbor of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai is a land of outstanding natural beauty, where visitors looking to avoid the hordes can visit remote hill tribes, spot exotic wildlife, and check out the golden triangle, the former center of the world’s opium trade. 

PHOTO: Taken at Anantara Elephant Camp in Chiang Rai
 

Chiang Rai has been inhabited since the 7th century, but it was not until 1262 that King Meng Rai established it as the first capital of the Lanna Kingdom. The capital was later relocated to Chiang Mai and since that time Chiang Rai has lived in the shadow of its neighboring province, though for tourists this is a good thing.Today, Chiang Rai is a traveler’s paradise, endowed with abundant natural attractions and antiquities. Attractions range from ruins of ancient settlements and Buddhist shrines to magnificent mountain scenery and hill tribe villages. For those interested in the natural side of Chiang Rai, jungle trekking is a magical experience; explore the mountains of the north along various hiking trails, many of which access the villages of diverse hill tribes groups, many of whom maintain their traditional lifestyles. Chiang Rai town, which tends to be a little more ‘laid back’ than its more popular neighbor, now competes with Chiang Mai as a tourist attraction and is fast becoming a popular escape for tourists wanting to leave their troubles behind.

 


Chiang Rai, the former capital of the great Lanna Kingdom, is a fascinating province filled with cultural and natural wonders, including the Golden Triangle where Thailand, Laos, and Burma come together; an area that was once the hub of opium production, a trade that had much influence on cultural practices and lifestyles. Chiang Rai had stayed off the tourist radar for many years, its people enjoying very leisurely development and mostly traditional, rural lifestyles. Until this day, entire clans live together in bamboo houses and each village has its own individual character. Recently tourism has boomed in Chiang Rai, where visitors have come to explore the pristine natural beauty of the countryside and immerse themselves in the indigenous culture, including those of a variety of different hill tribe communities. Fortunately for tourists, Chiang Rai is also a center for community development projects, helping rural villagers develop their attractions without adversely affecting their natural and cultural assets. 

WAT PHRA SING 


Not far from the Chiang Rai town hall is Wat Phra Sing, a historic temple once home to the sacred Lanna-style Buddhist statue Phra Buddha Sihing, which is now in Chiang Mai. Nevertheless, Wat Phra Sing remains a temple worth visiting for its Lanna-style ordination hall featuring finest creations of lanna craftmen.


Opening hours: Daily 8:00 a.m. - 17:00 p.m. Contact: 0 5374 5038

WAT RONG KHUN 


most beautiful temples built in this century. A masterpiece of artist Chalarmchai Kositpipat, famed for his extravagant and unique Buddhism-related paintings, Wat Rong Khun reflects the artist’s grand visions of heaven, hell and Nirvana. The main assembly hall and adjacent area are carved in white with glass mosaics. The construction started in 1997 and even the assembly hall is not yet completed: only two walls have been painted with a depiction of heaven and hell. Look closely and you’ll see pictures of international heroes like Spiderman, Sailor Moon and even Ben 10 hidden in the murals. When it’s completed (it could take 50 years), the temple will have nine buildings. Donations are welcome but should not exceed B10,000 as Chalermchai doesn’t want to be under the influence of big donors, even though he’s spent more than B40 million of his own cash.

 


Opening hours: Daily 6.30 a.m. - 18:00 p.m. Contact: Tel. 0 5367 3579 

OUB KHAM MUSEUM 


Though less popular with tourists than other museums and cultural destinations, Oub Kham offers a comprehensive thousand-year history of the Tai people and Lanna culture. It does so through private collections of ancient artifacts, textiles, Buddha images and everyday items belonging to Julasak Suriyachai, who is descended from an old Lanna royal family. The highlight is the 400-year-old golden throne of Tai Yai royals from the Shan State in Myanmar, which is regarded as the only one of its kind left in the world. For more information call 0 5371 3349.


 


Opening Hours: Daily 8:00 a.m. - 17:00 p.m. Admission: 300 Baht Contact: 0 5371 3349 

DOI MAE SALONG 


Set in the picturesque and serene hill, Doi Mae Salong was once the community of Santi Khiri, the Chinese 93rd Divisions who escaped from the political tension inBurma in 1961. Today, Doi Mae Salong has become one of the main tourist attractions in Chiang Rai, offering the succulent native Chinese cuisine, lovely houses with flowers and many plantations from fruits to coffee and tea while there are still many tribes living there. If you wish to come at the peak of the full bloom of the scenic sakuras that you enjoy while trekking, visit during December to January and there are many accommodations in small hotels and guesthouses.



How to get there: Use theChiang Rai-Mae Chan Routeand drive for about 29 kilometers then make a left turn for about 41 kilometers and you must pass a hot spring. On your way back, you can take the Routes No. 1234 and 1130 which will pass the villages ofYaoand Akha tribes. Otherwise, take the Route No. 1089 to Tha Thon which is about 45 kilometers and you will find many resorts located at the starting point of Kok River.

 


Opening hours: Daily 8:00 a.m. - 17:00 p.m. 
DOI MAE KHAM 

Approximate three hours drive along the Mae Chan-Ban Thoet Thai and Ban Huai In Routes, Doi Hua Mae Kham is home to many tribes who live on the mountain along the borders ofThailandandMyanmarwith the main population being the Lisu tribe and small numbers of Akha, Hmong and Muser tribes. The best time to visit is November when the stunning sunflowers are in full bloom. 

CHING SEAN NATION MUSEUM 


ChiangSaenNationalMuseumshowcases the stone inscriptions collected from Phayao and Chiang Saen, sculptures and antiques of Chiang Saeng natives as well as the impressive collection of bronze Buddha images carved in Chiang Saen style. More to that is the Thai Ya, Thai Lu and many hill tribes’ artifacts that range from opium smoking equipment to ornament and musical instrument.

 


Contact: 0 5377 7102 Opening hours: Wednesday-Sunday 9:00 a.m. – 16:00 p.m.  
PHU CHI FA

One of the most famous destinations uphill in Chiang Rai, especially during winter time, when visitors try to reach its cliff that offers spectacular views of the valley and sea of mist at sunrise. Phu Chi Fa is blessed with breathtaking views, abundant flowers of all colors, and cool weather most of the year. Plus, it is not far, located approximately 25 kilometers south of Doi Pha Tang in Thoeng District. Visitors are also welcomed to stay overnight at Ban Rom Fa Thong and Ban Rom Fa Thai.
 
DOI TUNG

At Doi Tung, you get to experience both the beautiful scenery of the hill and to learn about the life and social-development works of the late Princess Mother and her Doi Tung Development Project (since 1987). Located on Mae Fa Luang District, you can travel to Doi Tung through the Highway No. 110 for 48 kilometers and take a left on Highway No. 1149. While on the road you’ll be enjoy driving through beautiful surroundings as well as interesting attractions like the Mae Fa Luang Garden, Akha, Muser tribal villages, Phra That Doi Tung where Buddha’s relics are enshrined, and, most importantly, Doi Tung Villa (Pra Tamnak Doi Tung), the former residence of the Princess Mother who passed away in 1995 after spending years working in many projects to help the underprivileged hilltribes. The villa has later become symbol an effort to stop the opium cultivation in the area. The nearby Suan Mae Pah Luang is also an interesting attraction featuring beautifully landscaped garden filled with numerous kinds of plants and flowers.  
 
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