Chiang Rai Province

Chiang Rai Province is a region in Northern Thailand.


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Populations have dwelled in Chiang Rai since the 7th century and it became the centre of the Lanna Thai Kingdom during the 13th century. The region, rich in natural resources and textiles, was occupied by the Burmese until 1786.

Chiang Rai Province’s Golden Triangle bordering Laos and Burma was once the hub of opium production which had much influence on cultural practices and lifestyles. To this day, entire clans live together in bamboo houses and each village has its own individual character.

The province is rich in natural attractions and antiquities, evidence of its past civilisations. It is also home to various hill tribes who follow fascinating ways of life. Chiang Rai is also a tourism gateway to Burma and Laos.


Chiang Rai is Thailand’s northernmost province and a beauty it is. It occupies the Kok River basin well above sea level with an area of some 11,678 square kilometres. It is about 785 km from Bangkok. Mostly mountainous, it reaches the Mekong River to the north and borders both Myanmar and Laos.


Popualtions have dwelled in Chiang Rai since the 7th century and it became the centre of the Lanna Thai Kingdom during the 13th century. The region, rich in natural resources and textiles, was occupied by the Burmese until 1786.

Chiang Saen, Mae Chan, and Doi Mae Salong are three substantially different places. Chiang Saen’s rich culture has been influenced by its collection of Buddhist scriptures and temples. It was once the provincial capital. Mae Chan’s reputation stems from its silver and tribal handicrafts. Once officially unrecognized by the Thai government, Doi Mae Salong is a Chinese KMT (Kuomintang) area renowned for its natural beauty and unique Yunnanese culture. Besides the Chinese 93rd Infantry Division of the Kuomintang Army, several other ethnic minorities have settled down in the region including the Tai Yai, Tai Lue, Tai Khoen and Tai Yuan.


Get in

By plane

Chiang Rai (CEI) has flights to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Kunming.

By train

The nearest train station is in Chiang Mai.

By bus

The 12 hour journey from Bangkok can be made on air conditioned coaches originating from the Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit) daily. Call +66 2 9362852-66, +66 2 5765599, or The Transport Company, Ltd.. Chok Rung Tawee Tour, call +66 2 9364275-6, +66 53 714045. Siam First Tour, call +66 2 9543601-4, +66 53 719064, +66 53 714386. Sombat Tour, +66 2 9362495, +66 53 714971, +66 53 715884

There are services from Chiang Rai's bus terminal to various districts in Chiang Rai. For local buses to nearby provinces, call Chiang Rai bus terminal +66 53 711224, +66 53 711154 for details.

By car

Hwy 1 (Phaholyothin Rd) is the main road in Chiang Rai Province. It passes through the areas of Phan Mae Lao, Muang, Mae Chan and Mae Sai districts. Along the highway, there are links to other districts in the province, such as Rte 108 to Mae Suai, Rte 1126 to Pa Daed, Rte 1233 to Wang Whai and Rte 1016 to Chaing Saen.

From Bangkok drive on Hwy 32 to Singburi, then take Hwy 11 to Phare, and Hwy 1103 to Chiang Rai. The route is 829 km.

Get around

By bus

There is a decent enough bus service in the province, but in more remote areas, songthaews (public passenger pick-up vehicles) are the norm.


Visitors to Chiang Rai can expect to see some splendid mountain and valley views, while being blessed with excellent weather which is much cooler than in the central plains.

Many visitors choose to spend some of their time in Chiang Rai visiting fascinating hill tribes such as the Akha, Lisaw, Hmong, Lahu, Karen, Mien, and Yao. Many visitors go with a certified guide, but other simply go on their own. It is possible to stay overnight with the villagers. Solo travellers not going with a guide are advised to stay with the village headmen; a small donation is welcome.

Sadly, some opportunists exploit hill tribe people to extract money from tourists. A village just near the road between Mae Sai and Chiang Rai (it is frequented by tourist minibuses returning from the Golden Triangle) is actually privately-owned, and, while entrance to the village is free, visiting long-necked Karen people there costs 200 baht. Most tourists (and backpackers) have already paid this price in their tour package, thinking that 1,000 baht or more for a day trip is "cheap". Needless to say, the poor Burmese Karens working there for tourists, get only a tiny fraction of the money. Their home, Burma (Myanmar), is one of the poorest countries of the world. Be aware that this is just a tourist trap. It's better to visit a remote, but genuine, Karen village, than to help rich people make money from the poor.

When trekking off the beaten track and away from hill tribes, it is possible to sleep at any temple, but again a little donation is appreciated.





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