Thing to do in Chiang Rai
Doi Luang National Park
The expansive Doi Luang National Park covers an area of approximately 1,172 square kilometres. One of the main attractions is the beautiful cascading Nam Tok Pu Kaeng Waterfall-the largest in Chiang Rai province. There are also various interesting caves throughout the park.
Most of the park is still preserved as mixed forest and is home to over eighty-nine species of birds, as well as twelve types of mammals, including wild pig, slow loris and barking deer.
Doi Mae Salong
The village of Mae Salong, also known as Santi Khiri (Village of Peace), is a must-see. It's 1800 metre elevation commands some breathtaking panoramas, and, as the mountain mist comes and goes, the views change dramatically, especially at sunrise or sunset. The air is crisp, cool and refreshing all year round.
Sometimes referred to as Little Switzerland for its enchanting mountain scenery, Doi Mae Salong is truly a unique location in Thailand and is also a favourite place for trekking.
The village originated when Chinese nationalist troops fled to Thailand after the Chinese Revolution. Even today, most of the villagers are ethnic Chinese, who still speak Yunnanese, and are the direct descendents of these original troops.
Tea, including the famous Oolong variety, coffee, corn and fruit trees are cultivated there, and the mountainside plantations add to the beautiful scenery. Another local speciality is Chinese herbs, which are particularly popular with the Thai and Chinese tourists.
This area is especially picturesque in December and January when the Thai cherry trees blossom.
Golden TriangleThe somewhat infamous area known as the Golden Triangle actually has no distinct boundaries. However, it is commonly accepted that the centre of this once notorious area is Sop Ruak, about 9 km north of the historical town of Chiang Saen. While there, be sure to visit the Hall of Opium to gain insight into the history of opium cultivation and use. There are fine panoramic views across the Mekong River, into Laos and Myanmar, from the hilltop temple of Wat Phra That Phukhao. Although the name Golden Triangle conjures up images of excitement, illicit adventure and romantic danger, the reality is that, nowadays, this region offers very little, if any, of the above.
Mekong River TripsBoats can be hired from Chiang Saen to travel upstream to the Golden Triangle, and downstream to Chiang Khong.
Kok RiverRunning through the heart of the city of Chiang Rai, it is regarded as among the most scenic and unspoiled rivers in the country. Along the banks there are thick jungles, mountain cliffs and many hill tribe villages. Elephant riding and trekking are also offered at some villages River trips to and from Chiang Rai by long-tail boats are also organized regularly
Haad Chiang RaiLocated 4 kilometres from the city, this scenic riverside area and promenade is a popular recreation area and an ideal place for a pleasant, easy stroll.
Laan Tong Mekong Basin Cultural ParkA beautiful forest area with a waterfall and an abundance of colourful flowers. It is also the site of the largest gong in the world.
Khun Nam-Nang Non (Lagoon of the Sleeping Lady)See the striking natural rock formation that resembles a reclining female and thus inspired the name of this lovely tree-shaded area.
Tham Pum-Tham Pla (Reed & Fish Caverns)Located just 1 kilometre north of the Sleeping Lady Lagoon, these caves are known for their spectacular interiors.
Temples and Historic Sites
Wat Phra That Doi ThongThis ancient hilltop pagoda overlooks the Mae Kok River and predates the founding of Chiang Rai as the capital of Lanna Thai. It is a very important place of pilgrimage, and at the beginning of March tens of thousands converge to pray at the temple. The summit offers a superb panorama over the countryside, and it is well worth driving there just to see the view. This northernmost Thai mountain is also home to several other scenic spots, including the Princess Mother's Royal Palace-Doi Tung Royal Villa<, the Mae Fah Luang Botanical Gardens, and several hill tribe villages.
Wat Rong KhunAlso known as The White Temple, it is situated at the entrance to Khun Kon waterfall. The temple was designed and constructed by the famous Thai artist, Chaloemchai Khositphiphat. The construction of this contemporary temple is the artist's lifework, and its striking architecture has attracted thousands who come to enjoy the great Buddhist arts. The ubosot of this temple is in pure white and adorned with exquisite traditional Thai style stuccowork, representing heaven.
Wat Phra KaeoThis temple is where the original Emerald Buddha, which is now housed in the Grand Palace, in Bangkok, was discovered in 1354. Now it houses a beautiful jade replica of the original Buddha image, which was made to commemorate the 90th birthday of the late Princess Mother.
Wat Phra Kaeo Don TaoThis temple is of interest for its carvings and painted wooden façade. The temple dates back to the 15th century, as does the nearby Wat Phra Singh.
Wat Phra SingThis temple is a fine example of Lanna Thai architecture. The famous Phra Phuttha (Buddha) Sing image housed here is believed to have been built in 157 A.D., in Sri Lanka or Ceylon, and brought to Thailand during the Sukhothai period (1238-1438)
Wat Phra That Chom KittiThis hilltop temple has a pagoda containing an ancient Buddha relic.
Wat Phra That Chedi LuangThis ancient, 88-meter high brick pagoda is the tallest religious monument in Chiang Rai.
Wat Klang WiangAn ancient temple built in 1432, it features contemporary Lanna art and has a fascinating history going back over 500 years. In the past, the temple was also known as Wat Chan Lok because a magnificent Chan tree (Red Sandalwood) was located there. Interestingly, after a geological survey, it was discovered that the temple is situated precisely at the centre point of the city. Therefore, a city pillar was erected in the interior. In 1903, a heavy storm brought down the tree, but a stupa was built at the tree's location.
Shopping and other places of interest
Mae SaiThis Thai border town is separated from Myanmar by the narrow Mae Sai River. It's a great shopping adventure for Thai, Burmese and Chinese goods, especially jade ornaments.
Pamee Akha VillageThis picturesque village is one of the most accessible Akha settlements in Chiang Rai province, and is located on the way to the summit of Doi Tung.
Chiang Saen National MuseumThis petite museum exhibits local artwork, including Chiang Saen-style Buddha images and Lanna Thai artifacts. The Hill Tribe Museum and Shop is a good place to learn out about the local hill tribes before going on a trek.
Waterford Valley, Chiang RaiThis beautiful course is situated in one of the loveliest areas of Thailand. The course from the back tees is just short of 7,000 yards. Altogether, there are five sets of tees at this eighteen-hole layout and players can be forgiven if they are distracted by the stunning background of mountainous scenery. There are eight OB holes, numerous water hazards and lovely flowers adorning the surroundings.
Santiburi Country ClubDesigned by Robert Trent Jones Jr., this course features a wide range of sloping lies and natural hazards. Surrounded by distant hills, the golf course is set on low hilly land. At holes 2, 3 and 4 the course runs alongside an impressive lake. Most greens are well protected by bunkers and there are several very good dog-leg holes, particularly the par-5 eighteenth, where players have to negotiate water on the right side of the fairway, on their approach shot to the green.
Popular Activities and Attractions in Chiang Rai
- Jungle trekking
- Wildlife tours
- Elephant rides
- Whitewater rafting
- Mountain biking
- Museums & temples
- Hilltribe villages
- Handicrafts and souvenir markets
- Arts and culture festivals
- The Golden Triangle gateway