Chiang Rai – About Chiang Rai in Thailand

In Chiang Rai you can enjoy the beauties of unspoiled nature and the traditional rhythms of life in Thailand, as they were in the times before the country became such a popular tourist destination. A city located in the far north of Thailand, Chiang Rai is easily reachable – it’s just an hour by plane from Bangkok. As you approach for a landing, you will see that the city is surrounded by mountains, fields and jungle. You may also spot a river, the Mekong, which is the starting point for some exciting day trips. When you learn about Chiang Rai and its culture, you will see that it owes a great deal to the influx of Chinese immigration in the last couple of centuries. It’s a vibrant culture, full of unique stories and legends.

Thailand, Chiang Rai
 

Getting there

Chiang Rai is a fascinating city in its own right, but many travelers visit merely as a stop before changing buses on their way to Laos. And it’s true that a visit to Chiang Rai can be fitted in with travel to many other interesting places nearby. You can also easily travel here from Bangkok for a day or two. An airline flight is your best option for getting from Bangkok to Chiang Rai, but you can also come by bus. Although the trip is about 11 hours, it won’t be time wasted because you’ll have a great opportunity to see the Thai people and landscape and to learn more about this intriguing country. This is not recommended if you have small children, though.

Accommodation

You’ll find a variety of accommodation in Chiang Rai, so choose according to your budget and how long you are planning to stay. You’ll have plenty of choice, from 5 star hotels to much simpler digs. If you are in transit and just stopping off for a night, all you really need is a clean bed and bathroom facilities. However for a longer stay you will probably want a something bit more luxurious and close to the major attractions. Chiang Rai is a fairly small city, so you’ll be able to get to most places on foot. Or, if you prefer, rent a motorbike or bicycle. From Chiang Rai you can join a hiking tour into the mountains and camp out of doors for a few nights.

The Mekong River

An important influence on life in Chiang Rai is the Mekong River, which forms the border between Thailand and Laos. The river, approximately 4900 kilometers in length, passes through China, Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Its waters are cold all year round, despite the warm temperature of the air, because they originate high in the Himalaya mountains. You can take a short boat ride from the Thai side to go shopping in Laos, for an amazing assortment of goods, from designer handbags to whiskey “enriched” with preserved snake. Before leaving from Thailand, make sure you get a stamped paper to allow you to shop tax free.

Chiang Rai in Thailand Thailand, Chiang Rai Chiang Rai - Thailand
 

Activities

If you’d like to go hiking in the mountains around Chiang Rai, go to one of the city’s travel offices to book a spot with a guided tour. These offices are all close together, making it easy to check around and bargain till one of them gives you the best deal. The tours will include jeeps for supplies and everything you need will be provided. One of the highlights of this type of tour is seeing how the indigenous tribespeople live in their small mountain villages. It is said that the native people living closest to the city have given up their traditional way of life, but as you climb higher up the mountain, you will find more people following the old customs. There has definitely been some influence on the native culture by the burgeoning tourist industry, but you can still observe a lifestyle very different from what is common in the western world.

To learn more about the different tribes and their cultures, and to see examples of their traditional crafts, have a look at the Hilltribe Museum. Visiting this museum before you head out to the mountains is a good idea, so that you will better understand the people you meet. As you hike, move quietly and you may spot some of the native wildlife. You might want to combine a hike in the mountains with a long tail boat trip along the Mekong River.

The pleasantest time of year for walking and hiking around Chiang Rai is from November to January. During the early autumn rainy season, hikes can be dangerous because of fog and the possibility of flooding. Spring and summer are too hot for extended hikes. It’s helpful to read about Chiang Rai and its seasons when you plan your trip to Thailand.

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