Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand is a quieter neighbour of Chiang Mai, where you can avoid the crowds while exploring nature of the region, visiting remote hill tribes and checking out the Golden Triangle, famous for being the former centre of the world’s opium trade.
Chiang Rai was established by King Meng Rai in 1262 as the first capital of the Lanna Kingdom. The capital was later relocated to Chiang Mai and since then Chiang Rai has been overshadowed by its sister city.
Nowadays, Chiang Rai is an excellent base for exploring the surrounding area. In the region you can find ancient temples, wonderful nature in the jungle, magnificent mountain scenery and hill tribe villages.
Attractions in Chiang Rai
Wat Rong Khun (White Temple)
Wat Rong Khun (White Temple) is located outside the city of Chiang Rai. It’s a unique modern temple designed and built by a famous local artist. A beautiful white temple is decorated with silver glittering pieces of mirrors. There are large mural paintings of Buddha and unusual icons from modern culture, such as spaceships and superman inside the temple. Work on the temple is not completed as new elements and structures are constantly added up.
The Golden Triangle (locally known as Sop Ruak) is a place where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar (Burma) come together on the banks of Mekong River. This area once was the hub of opium production and trading.
The Golden Triangle is known for its beautiful scenery as from the viewpoint you can see the three neighboring countries and the mighty Mekong River. There’s also a large golden Buddha image on a boat, an ancient temple on a hill and the House of Opium Museum in the area. It’s possible to take a boat trip on the Mekong River or a short boat ride to an island in Laos, Don Sao, where local market can be visited without acquiring visa of Laos.
Hill tribe villages
Jungle trekking is a very popular experience in Chiang Rai province as you can explore the mountains along various hiking trails. Most of these trails lead to the villages of diverse hill tribes, many of whom maintain their traditional lifestyles.
How to get to Chiang Rai?
You can reach Chiang Rai by air or by bus.
Flights to Chiang Rai
Mae Fah Luang-Chiang Rai International Airport (CEI) is about 10 kilometres from the city. The airport receives international flights from China and Hong Kong as well as domestic flights from Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Hat Yai. Domestic low-cost and full service carriers serve Chiang Rai airport offering good variety of flights, especially from Bangkok.
Buses to Chiang Rai
Weather in Chiang Rai
Between November and May the weather is mostly dry with little rain expected for much of this time. The dry season in Chiang Rai is broken up into the periods of cool season (November to February) and hot season (March to May). The wet season in Chiang Rai is from May to October.
For more detailed information about Chiang Rai's weather patterns during the year check Weather in Chiang Rai.
Planning to travel down south after visiting mountainous region of Chiang Rai? Check when is the best time to visit Thailand's other destinations.