Chiangrai Times – Hosting the Mekong Tourism Forum in Chiang Raiwas providing an ideal opportunity to Thailand’s largest city in the north to highlight its 750th anniversary. It was indeed in year 1262 that King Mengrai the Great founded the city of Chiang Rai, which became the first capital of Northern Thailand Lanna Kingdom. Official celebrations started in late January but many events will take place over the summer months.
The 750th anniversary is a way to look at the contribution of Chiang Rai to Northern Thailand arts and crafts’ heritage. The city wants to be repositioned as the “Golden City of Lanna Culture”. Many craft fairs and festivals will highlight its role as a trade centre fostering local cultures during the celebrations.
There is a lot to be discovered in Chiang Rai. The province is home to half a dozen ethnics including Akha, Karen, Lisu, Lahu, Mien as well as a strong Burmese minority. Today many ethnic villages can be visited some 50 to 60 km around the city such as Ban Lorcha village, which opened to foreign travelers in 2001 and has been awarded many prices for its community tourism projects done developed by Akha minorities.
People can there observe daily rural life of Akha and learn about agriculture practices. Same has been done in Chiang Khong district, where Lanjia Lodge provides a unique opportunity to learn about Hmong local hilltribe and visit their village. Another great site is the Mae Fah Luang Foundation, brainchild of the defunct Princess Mother.
Already in her eighties, the Royal Princess, mother of HM King Bumibhol, turned a deprived area at Doi Tung plagued by drugs trafficking into an agricultural and handicraft centre producing food, coffee, cotton but also flowers. Chiang Rai itself is famed for its temples, such as Wat Phra Kaeo (built in 1354, Wat Phra Sing and the impressive White Temple Wat Rong Khun. Located in Ban Rong Khun village, 13 km away from Chiang Rai, the temple is the art work of Thai artist Chaloemchai Khositphiphat.
Except that there is little if no real advertising on this anniversary. The 750th anniversary was briefly advocated at the opening ceremony of the Mekong Tourism Forum. There was also no information provided to international media present at the event.
There was also very little information provided to the trade or the media during the Thailand Travel Mart a few days before in Bangkok. At the Mekong Tourism Forum, Chiang Rai representatives adopted a very discreet presence. It seems that they only met a few Thai media, probably the ones who already were the most aware of the anniversary.
The low profile kept by Chiang Rai authorities shows that there is still a need for many industry players –even in such a tourism-conscious country like Thailand- to upgrade their communication skills. Chiang Rai and its wealth of attractions will continue to welcome its public. They just missed an opportunity to gain more international recognition. -by Luc Citrinot