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Introducing Chiang Rai
Chiang Rai City remains a sleepy provincial town with a pleasant atmosphere. Compared to its sister town Chiang Mai, it has a more relaxed and down-to-earth feel but is never short on historical and cultural attractions of its own. Founded in 1262 as the capital of the Mengrai Dynasty, after Chiang Saen, today the city retains a strong Lanna identity, mostly through its impressive collection of temples, art, language, cuisine and music. But unlike Chiang Mai, the city offers little diversity when it comes to nightlife, entertainment and shopping, and most of these are concentrated in the area around the Clock Tower.

The city is gradually developing its tourist sector, beginning with its own Night Bazaar, Saturday Walking Street and Jazz Festival. The riverside remains mostly undeveloped, albeit with a few luxury hotels along the waterfront. To fully appreciate the beauty of the Mae Kok, it is best to hire a long-tail boat and take in the scenery along the two riverbanks. At the end of the day, Chiang Rai City is all about chilling out and taking it in slowly, savouring each moment as it comes.

Things to do and see in Chiang Rai

If you are not scared of the dark and enjoy a walk into the unknown, then try Chiang Rai’sWatThamPla (‘Fish Cave Temple’, but also called ‘Monkey Temple’). Burrowed into a huge rock face about 13km south of Mae Sai, this cave sits on a steep hill behind the main temple building. Climb up some 200 stone steps and you will be struck by the sight of towering limestone walls festooned in leafy green closing in on both sides.
Inside, the cave is pitch black, with two large chambers housing a Burmese-style bejeweled Bhudda image. Exit the other end, and a series of steps await you as well as an all-encompassing view of verdant jungle bordering Thailand, Burma and Laos – The Golden Triangle. Closer to Chiang Rai is ThamPhra (Buddha Cave), sitting on the bank of the Kok River, accessible by long-tail boat from the C.R. pier. Inside, it houses a Buddhist shrine with over 80 ancient Buddha images.
One of the best ways to appreciate Chiang Rai’s rustic backdrop and idyllic pace of life, cycling can be both fulfilling and fun. The city area is a good start for leisure cyclists, as it is relatively flat and safe. Serious cyclists can opt for one of the adventurous cycling tours that take you to up the mountains into far-flung wilderness, riding down dirt roads, rickety wooden bridges and rugged hilly paths. Overnight cycling tours offer the most challenge and can last from two to five days, or longer if you prefer. These are often combined with sightseeing along the Golden Triangle, elephant camps and at ethic hill-tribe communities.
Hill-tribe Visits
Home to Thailand’s six largest ethnic hill-tribes, Chiang Rai is an ideal base for launching an overnight trekking expedition to visit various highland villages. One of the best ways to plan your visits is through the PDA Chiang Rai, which organises a handful of tours, from half a day up to three days. Several of these tours combine elephant trekking and long-tail boat rides with overnight stays at a tribal village, where you will have an opportunity to learn about their livelihood and culture. All profits will be used to support the PDA’s community development activities.
Mae Kok River Journey
Cutting through Chiang Rai from west to east, the 130-km long Mae Kok offers a pleasant sightseeing experience. It originates in Chiang Mai’s northernmost district of Ban Tha Ton and winds through rolling mountains, endless banana groves, ethic hill-tribe communities and natural hot springs. The entire journey from Tha Ton to Chiang Rai takes four hours on a long-tail boat, which you can complete all in one stretch or combine with overnight jungle trekking to visit various ethnic hill-tribes and hot springs. Short boat trips within Chiang Rai can also be arranged for those short on time or prefer to customise the route.

Opening Hours: 06:30 – 16:30 daily
Location: C.R. Pier, under Mae FahLuang Bridge
How to get there: Hire a songtaew or rent a motorcycle
Trekking and Elephant Trekking
Wilderness jungle, multi-tier waterfalls, endless winding paths and a sense of discovery all combine to make trekking a must-do activity among adventurous types. You can tread the forest-fringed path on foot or embark on an elephant and set off into the mountains dotting Mae FahLuang, Mae Salong and The Golden Triangle areas. Overnight tours can be arranged at almost every resort and guesthouse in the city. The itinerary usually includes one or more visits to the hill-tribe villages, bamboo rafting and, if you prefer, a dip in a natural hot spring or an ice-cool waterfall pool.

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The 'City of Angels' has funky markets, upmarket malls, a riverside full of surprises, a vibrant nightlife scene, many fabulous sights and attractions that reflect its unique heritage-


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