Chiang Rai, like Chiangmai has a very ancient history. It was once a fortified city complete with walls and moats. When the city fathers decided to modernize, however, part of the walls were buried under asphalt. A section of Paholyothin Highway passing in front of the Golden Triangle Inn and King Meng Rai’s monument, is on top of part of the Ancient City’s wall. A section of the moat can still be observed near the Chiangmai Gate.
When coming to Chiang Rai, people often ask the question, “What can I do and see here in the city of Chiang Rai?” Actually, there are a number of things that you could do. One only needs to hire a motorcycle which goes for about 150 to 200 baht a day. The more intrepid traveler might opt for a bicycle, which could be hired anywhere from 80 to 150 baht per day (Helmets not included).
So where do you start? Allow me then to take you around the city of Chiang Rai. Let’s start with the Hill tribe Museum and Education Center.
Hilltribe Museum and Education Center
Many tourists come to Chiang Rai to visit a hill tribe village at one point in time during their short stay. We therefore recommend tourists to visit this museum in order to learn more about the hilltribe people and understand their culture before heading off to the mountains.
The Hill tribe Museum and Education Center is located on the third floor of the Population and Community Development Association’s Building. It is adjacent to the Cabbages and Condoms restaurant, which is a public-benefit restaurant with an objective to promote condom usage for birth control and protection against HIV/AIDS.
A 25-minute slide show, which can be heard in 5 languages (Thai, English, French, German and Nihongo) will give you a brief introduction to hill tribe culture. The museum is a great alternative to visit in case you come to Chiang Rai during the rainy season. There are loads of information printed in English Language. The museum staff can also give you a guided tour of the museum.
Oub Come Museum:
Northern Thailand is also known as the Lanna Kingdom. Over the millennia, the Lanna people have changed into the people that now populate Chiang Rai and its surrounding provinces. Their rich culture however, is thankfully preserved by the private collectors like Atchan Julasuk, the owner of the Oub Come Museum.
The Oub Come Museum is located near the Den Ha intersection. Entrance to the museum will cost about 200 baht. This is money well spent considering the impressive collection of Lanna-period treasures.
The museum also has a small handicraft shop where you can purchase fine hand-woven silk products.
Chiang Rai Beach
Down the road from the Oub Come Museum is a place called Chiang Rai beach. Can this be possible? It used to be called Pattaya Noi or Little Pattaya by local residents, but has been renamed Chiang Rai beach. It actually is the bank of the Kok River and is very popular among locals because of the beautiful scenery that includes a very picturesque limestone outcrop.
Several restaurants have been established and also a number of huts located at the very edge of the bank of the Kok River providing an unobstructed view of the beautiful scenery. It is easy to get drunk on the beautiful surrounding salone. If you do get drunk, nobody will mind if you flop down on a mat and get some z’s. Just six-kilometer from downtown, this short bike ride to Chiang Rai beach is an easy trip.
Longer Bicycling Trips :
Now, are you ready for more cycling adventure? There are a number of places that can be reached by a bicycle. One such place is the Huay Mark Liam hot spring. This route will take you along one side of the Kok River and then cross over to the other side of the river by a hanging bridge. The total distance of this route is about 65 kilometers. Therefore, this route is not recommended for all persons. About 20 kilometers of this route is on dirt trails on hilly terrain. During the rainy season, this route can become a bit technical. You will have a chance to visit the elephant village on this route. I will tell you more about this route next time.
So now that you have a better idea of where to go, what about Bicycles? There are several places where you can rent bicycles. My favorite shop is called Fat Free located along Thanalai Road near Pratu – Chiangmai (Chiangmai Gate). There are other shops that have limited numbers of bicycles as shown in the map. Rent a bike that suits your needs. Biking around Chiang Rai is a novel way of getting around.
Last time, I took you through some interesting sites within the city of Chiang Rai. Today, I will take you to some interesting sites nearby, that are still accessible by bicycle that is, if you are the more adventurous type. Our ride today will be a moderate 65-kilometer bike ride along the Kok River.
First, let me tell you about the waters of Chiang Rai namely, the Kok and Mekong Rivers. The Kok River is one of the tributaries of the mighty Mekong River and originates from Burma. It flows down through Thaton in Chiangmai, cuts along the city of Chiang Rai to finally meet with the Mekong River at Chiang Saen. Tourists can take a longtail boat from Thaton, all the way to Chaing Rai. Stops to interesting hilltribe villages are made along the way.
The Mekong River, which has its headwaters from southern China, snakes through several countries including Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and finally Vietnam. It is one of the most important rivers of Southeast Asia and is home to countless species of tropical freshwater fish, some of which still have to be discovered.
The next leg of our trip will be about 15 kilometers of asphalt road on rolling terrain. You will see some interesting landscapes and the Kok River on the right hand-side of the road. Along the way, you will pass P.K. Hotspring, a privately owned resort. They have rooms available for visitors and you can soak in a tub of hot spring water. This could be a good way of easing tired muscles.
My favorite haunt, however, is located about one kilometer beyond the end of the asphalt road. This is the Royal Forestry Departments Huay Mark Liam hot spring located on the bank of the Kok River. The area is nicely landscaped and since it is managed by the forestry department, there are lots of trees that will shade you from the searing sun.
There is a soaking pool located adjacent to a main thermal spring. Hot spring water is mixed with cooler water to make the temperature more bearable for bathers. The area around the wading pool is a picnic ground. People interested in camping can do so if they bring their own tent. There are shops nearby selling cold beers and soft drinks.
After lunch, start your trip going further westwards about 5 kilometers on dirt road in hilly terrain to Ban Kwewadam. Needless to say, the road can get quite muddy during the rainy season. About 1 kilometer from the hot spring is an Elephant riding station. Go further westwards to the hanging bridge across the Kok River. Be advised to take precautions when going down this road.
Upon crossing the hanging bridge at Kwedadam, you will find yourself on the north-side of the Kok River. The next 5 kilometers will yet again be dirt road on hilly terrain. Heading eastwards now, make your way to Ban Karieng Ruammit, where many tourists visit to ride elephants. The last kilometer or so as you near Ban KSarieng Ruammit will be paved.
Ban Karieng Ruammit has about 50 elephants that were used for logging before logging in the Kingdom was banned. In order to find employment for the elephants, they started taking tourists for rides. It has gotten to be very popular among tourists and this town has become quite developed.
Ban Ruammit, as it is also known, is also a jump-off point for several trekking trails in this area. There are several souvenir shops in this area. If you have problems carrying your souvenirs on your bicycle, you do not need to worry because you will find similar merchandize being sold at Chiang Rais night bazaar.
The last leg of your bike ride is a leisurely 20-km ride on asphalt road. Head to Ban Sai Moon, and turn right back towards town. There is an intersection at Ban Nam Lad. The most direct way going back downtown would be to go straight towards the Mae Fah Luang bridge.
Chiangrai Bicycle Tour (Licence No. 24/00101) is a Thai tour company that operates half day – five days cycling tours around Chiang Rai, the northernmost province of Thailand . The company was founded by Phubordin Thitipongkul (Bee) a man who loves cycling and has been a cycling guide for many years before opening his own cycling company in Chiang Rai in 2008