Chiang Rai, the northernmost province of Thailand is about 785 kilometers north of Bangkok. Situated on the Kok River basin, Chiang Rai covers an area of approximately 11,678 square meters with an average elevation of 580 meters above sea level. The province, which is located within the renowned Golden Triangle area where Myanmar, Laos and Thailand converge, is also known as the gateway to Myanmar, Laos and Southern China.
Chiang Rai, which was founded in 1262 by King Meng Rai, was the first capital of the Lanna Thai Kingdom (Kingdom of a million rice fields), which was later conquered by Burma. It was not until 1786 that Chiang Rai became a Thai territory and was proclaimed a province during the reign of King Rama VI in 1910.
Today, Chiang Rai is a travelers paradise endowed with abundant natural tourist attractions and antiquities; the province itself is evidence of past civilization. Attractions range from magnificent mountain scenery, ruins of ancient settlements, historic sites, Buddhist shrines and ethnic villages as the province is also home to several hill tribes who maintain fascinating lifestyles. For those interested in the natural side of Chiang Rai, jungle trekking is recommended along various trails.
Chiang Rai which tends to be a little more 'laid back' now competes with Chiang Mai as a tourist attraction and is fast becoming a popular escape for tourists wanting to get away from the troubles they left behind.
How to get there
There are a number of domestic airlines operating daily flights from Bangkok to Chiang Rai.
The coach ride from Bangkok to Chiang Rai is probably best made overnight since passengers can avail themselves of sleep prior to an early morning arrival. There are both air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned bus services from Bangkok's Northern Bus Terminal (Mochit 2 Bus Terminal) on Kamphaengphet 2 Road. The journey may take approximately 9-11 hours.
Take Highway No. 1 (Phahonyothin Road), turn to route No. 32 passing Ayutthaya, Angthong and Singburi Provinces and change to route No. 11 passing Phitsanulok, Uttaradit and Phrae Provinces then turn left to Highway No. 103, drive through to Ngao District and turn right onto Highway No. 1 which takes you to Phayao and Chiang Rai Provinces. The total distance is 785 km.
There is no direct train to Chiang Rai. You have to take a train to Lampang
(9 hrs. from Bangkok) or Chiang Mai (11 hrs.) and then take a bus to Chiang Rai. (2 hrs. from Lampang and 1.30 hrs. from Chiang Mai) For more details, call the State Railway of Thailand, 1690 (hotline), or 0 2223 7010 or 0 2223 7020.
The capital may also be reached from Tha Thon in Chiang Mai province by a scenic 4-6 hour (depending on climatic conditions, such as rain, and other factors such as high waters and fast currents) long-tail boat ride along the Mae Kok River.
Chiang Mai Chiang Rai
Chiang Rai is 182 kilometers north of Chiang Mai. Air conditioned buses leave 12 times daily from Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Terminal to Chiang Rai. Some buses continue to Mae Sai and Chiang Saen.
Airlines have numerous daily flights servicing the Bangkok-Chiang Mai route and the Chiang Mai-Chiang Rai route.
FestivalsKing Mengrai Festival
King Mengrai Festival This festival is held from January 26 - February 1 every year. The festival features parades, cultural performances and competitions celebrating the founder of Chiang Rai and the Lanna Thai Kingkom.
Lychee Fair This is held annually in May. Celebrating the provinces tastiest fruit, this fair features agricultural displays and exhibitions, local handicrafts, folk entertainment and beauty contests.
Songkran Festival Traditional Thai New year celebrations are best seen at Chiang Saen where 4 nations (Thailand, Laos, China and Myanmar) compete in boat races on the Mekong River. Beauty contests and cultural shows are added attractions. The festival is annually held from April 16-18.