CHIANG RAI – The lack of advertising for condominiums in Chiang Rai in northern Thailand is a pleasant surprise for someone who is used to seeing large billboards in Bangkok promoting this project or that, all following largely the same formula of decreasing unit sizes and ‘western style’ architecture and fittings.
The north is home to the traditional Lanna architecture, something which is visible in the real estate on offer there. A quick look at Chiang Rai based property agents’ websites will yield very little in terms of the aforementioned condominium units, but rather plenty when it comes to landed homes built according to Lanna principles.
Lanna architecture is a product of the Lanna kingdom which spread across most of northern Thailand some 700 years ago. Roughly explained, it incorporates the surrounding climate and building materials to create a housing environment that follows the seasons, allowing for shade and ventilation during summer and protection from the rain during the rainy season. Intricate wood carvings reflect facets of Lanna culture and make for captivating decoration.
Of course, there is something to be said about land prices in Bangkok versus those in Chiang Rai, and the population pressures in this gateway to the Golden Triangle are light to say the least – there are only around 1.1 million people in the entire province – but the absence of high rise buildings should nonetheless be lauded, given the fact that much smaller townships, such as Pattaya or Hua Hin, have crumbled to the condo craze.
Long a secondary or even tertiary destination on most tourists’ travel itineraries and a backyard for economic development, Chiang Rai has thus far been sparred the hordes of tourists and urban development of the vertical kind. Yet that may be about to change. The government is eager to promote the region for its many artists and natural beauty and as a strategically located investment destination in anticipation of the AEC 2015. How and if these efforts will significantly change the nature real estate in Chiang Rai remains to be seen. – Sofie Lisby Property Report magazine