:: CHIANG RAI

The northernmost province of Thailand, Chiang Rai is situated on the Kok River basin 416 metres above sea level. With an area of some 11,678 square kilometres, it is about 785 kilometres from Bangkok. Mostly mountainous, it reaches the Mae Khong River to the north and borders on both Myanmar and Laos.

The province is rich in tourism resources in terms of natural attractions and antiquities, evidence of its past civilisation. It is also home to several hilltribes who follow fascinating ways of life. Chiang Rai is also a tourism gateway into Myanmar and Laos.

:: Attractions

Once the historical site of opium production, the late Royal Grandmother transformed Doi Tung into her summer residence and started rural development projects to discourage nearby hilltribe villages from producing opium. Nowadays, the scheme has been very successful and the villa flaunts a very attractive flower garden.

The northernmost region of Thailand is synonymous with the infamous Golden Triangle , the mystical meeting point of 3 national borders (Thailand, Laos and Myanmar) historically connected to the opium and heroin trade.

The historical towns of Chiang Saen and Chiang Khong dates back to the 1300's and are beautifully set on the banks of the Mekong River across from Laos. They both boast impressive ruin temples and teak trees. A large Thai Lue community, an ethnic minority from China, sells their distinctive, multi-colored textiles and souvenirs in both towns.

Wat Phra That Pha Ngao is a 10th century temple situated on the hilltop south of Chiang Saen, offering exhilarating views of the Mekong River, Laos and surrounding countryside. It is well known for its distinctive bas relief works and the shiny white marbled chedi.

The northernmost town of Mae Sai is separated from Myanmar by a bridge, offering a good view and a chance for a brief crossing into the neighboring country. The town is bustling with traders from both countries daily, though mostly selling Myanmar goods like gems and handicrafts.

Continue pass the Princess Mother's Royal Chalet and hilltribe villages and you'll find Wat Phra That Doi Tung at the summit. Situated on a vantage location on the edge of a large cliff, there's no other comparable site for the spectacular view. The temple's twin chedis are believed to have been built in 911 to house the collarbone of the Lord Buddha.

 


Doi Mae Salong (Santi Khiri)
, is famous for having one of the most scenic panoramas, with rolling hills dotted with hilltribe villages, rightfully earning its nickname Little Switzerland. Established in 1962, it was a center for exiled Chinese soldiers and a base for incursions into China. The area around there was lawless and dangerous until the 1980s. With the military's presence, the town is relatively peaceful, with Akha and Mien villagers strolling the streets that has an overall impression of being more Chinese than Thai. Try the Yunnan-style food and Oolong tea while there.

The architecture of the Overbrook Hospital is typical of the colonial style created by Westerners in the 19th and 20th centuries, when the provincial city was a base for missionaries and traders. It is still in operation today.

According to legend, lightning struck and cracked the chedi of Wat Phra Kaew in 1436 revealing the plaster encasing the famous Emerald Buddha that is now housed in Bangkok. As the city's most revered temple, it features chapels with elaborate woodcarvings and one of the largest surviving bronze statues from the early Lanna period.

The Phu Ch i Fa (Mountain Pointing Towards the Sky) offers many scenic viewing points. The mountain peak is pointy and rises high into the sky. At the summit is a one square kilometer open field. The lengthy cliff wall extends towards the Laotian side and is a great place for viewing Chiang Dong Village.