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Chiang Rai

Thailand’s most Northern province

The white temple in Chiang Rai
The white temple in Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai is Thailand’s most northern province and borders neighboring countries Laos and Myanmar. It’s capital city which is also called Chiang Rai was founded in 1262 by King Mengrai and was the first capital of the Lanna Kingdom which it stayed for 34 years, when the capital was moved south to Chiang Mai.

Chiang Rai province is well known for its many hill tribes in the forested mountains, its hot springs, the infamous Golden Triangle and its many outdoor activities, like rafting, rock climbing and trekking.

The city of Chiang Rai is a small town with a relaxed atmosphere almost 200 kilometers north of Chiang Mai. Through town runs the Mae Kok river. Boat trips can be made to several interesting places like the Ruammit Karen village and several other hill tribe villages, Huai Mak Lium hot spring and eventually as far south as Tha Thorn pier in Chiang Mai.

A few much revered temples like the ancient Wat Phra Kaew and the Wat Phra Singh are found in Chiang Rai town.

Things to do & see in Chiang Rai

Of the many things to see and do in Chiang Rai, a few are listed here.

Wat Rong Khun or the White Temple

The Wat Rong Khun, also called “the White Temple” is a temple just of Chiang Rai. It is a very unique temple because of it’s style which is very different from any other temple in Thailand. This temple was designed by the famous Thai painter Chalermchai Kositpipat. When construction began in 1997, he had managed to raise the money needed to build the main temple complex through the sale of his paintings.

This very impressive temple is entirely in white, referring to the purity of the Buddha. The building is decorated with countless numbers of small mirrored glass that enhance the temples look, especially in the light of the sun or moon. There is also a gallery where the artist’s work can be viewed.

Hill tribes in Chiang Rai
Hill tribes Chiang Rai

Hill tribes

Northern Thailand is the home of many hill tribes, each with its own culture, dress, language and beliefs. Under the influence of tourism, things are changing as hill tribes people come in closer contact with tourists and Thai society.

The hill tribes originate from China, Burma and Tibet and migrated to Thailand. A number of the tribes are semi nomadic people who were mostly involved in farming using slash and burn techniques. Whenever a piece of land was exhausted, they moved to another area, slash and burn the forest and farm the land. Some of them also produce exquisite, beautifully crafted silver jewelry.

The main tribes in the area are the Hmong, Karen, Akha, Lisu, Lahu and the Yao. Perhaps the best known are the Padong, the long necked Karen hill tribes people. The women of the Padong wear a large number of brass neck rings, the first rings are applied as early as five years old. Today, many Padong make a living selling souvenirs to tourists.

The Golden Triangle and Mekong river
Golden Triangle and Mekong river

The Golden Triangle

The infamous Golden Triangle used to be the center of poppy growing and opium trade in South East Asia. Now the area is tranquil and peaceful and poppies have been replaced by crops as coffee, rice, flowers, vegetables and fruits.

The Golden Triangle is where Thailand, Burma and Laos meet separated by the Mekong river. Visitors can rent a longtail boat and cruise down the river along the shores of three countries.