Thailand’s most northerly province, Chiang Rai is located 785 kilometres from Bangkok and borders Myanmar in the north and Laos in the east.
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.
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.
Despite being small, Chiang Rai City has many of the amenities you’d usually find only in larger cities. It’s a growing tourist destination, which means more restaurants and shops geared toward Westerners – even small restaurants have English menus. However, the tourists are just passing through and have little impact on the city’s day-to-day life, which remains geared to servicing the surrounding farming and mountain communities.
Chiang Rai has Thailand’s best climate. The winter months, October through March, are perfect. It rarely rains, and the evenings are cool enough for a light jacket; the days warm enough for shorts, but not unbearably hot. Another advantage to this time of year is that there are few bugs or mosquitoes – a pleasant contrast to the rest of the year. April to September is humid and wet, but still less so than the southern plains.
There are two golf courses, one just minute’s outside the city, and others are planned. There are several Royal parks and formal gardens in the region, and riverside trails are being expanded. You can also hiking trails to remote villages and take river trips, pony treks, and bicycle rides.
Today, thanks to the four-lane superhighway, you can make it to the capital in 12 hours. The international airport just outside town offers half-dozen flights to and from Bangkok
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