Chiang Saen

Riverside promenade by the Mekong

Chiang Saen (เชียงแสน) is a city in Chiang Rai Province, just south of the Golden Triangle.


Once one of the major cities of the Lanna kingdom, it was originally called Wiang Hiran Nakhon Ngoen Yang and served as the capital before King Mengrai established Chiang Rai in 1262. The town was captured by the Burmese in the 16th century and sacked by King Rama I in 1803. Left a ghost town for a hundred years, it was repopulated around 1900, but still hasn't really staggered to its feet. Traces of old double city walls and many other antiquities still remain in and outside the town.

Get in

By bus

Chiang Saen is connected by local bus to Chiang Rai (2-2.5 hrs, nominally. 3-4 per hour but tend to depart when reasonably full, 37 baht). There are a few, 3-4 per day, long-distance buses which can do the trip in 1.5 hrs, but times are more convenient for long-distance journeys such as going to or from Chiang Mai or Bangkok than for commuting to Chang Rai. Blue songthaews also travel from Mae Sai via the Golden Triangle to Chiang Saen in about 1 hour. The timetable for this service is chalked up at the depot which is next to the bus stop. These seem to depart every half hour or so. The service from the Golden Triangle to Chiang Saen seems to be much more irregular. The service varies with customers available and the flow of life along the Mekong and the Myanmar border.

The bus station and songthaew depot is about 50 m before the main road (Hwy 1016) ends in a T-intersection on the banks of the Mekong River.

There does not appear to be any regular public transport south to Chiang Khong and the Lao border crossing, apart from the occasional songthaew. Ask locally for details of this service as departures times vary.

By car

The district can be reached by taking Hwy 110 from Chiang Rai for some 30 km. Then take a right turn onto Hwy 1016 and proceed on for another 30 km.

By boat

It's possible to charter a boat carrying up to 8 people along the Mekong to Chiang Khong (1.5 hr) for around 1,500 baht, or up to Sop Ruak (Golden Triangle) for less (around 40 min).


Like Chiang Mai, Chiang Saen has a city wall surrounding the historic town, with the fourth "wall" provided by the Mekong River.

There are also several ancient sites outside the city wall including Wat Phra That Pha Ngao (วัดพระธาตุผาเงา), a place for dharma practice. Wat Chedi Ched Tod (วัดเจดีย์เจ็ดยอด) is a peaceful place, 1 km beyond Wat Phra That Pha Ngao. Wat Phra That Chom Kitti (วัดพระธาตุจอมกิตติ), about 1.7 km from town, and Wat Sangkha Kaeo Don Han (วัดสังฆาแก้วดอนหัน) where sketches on brick slabs tell stories about the life of the Lord Buddha.



In the evening, many local food stalls set up shop along the bank of the Mekong north of the T-junction. The tables set are small, and you sit on a mat on the ground as locals do. Menu in English and Thai. Try the bamboo chicken and/or bamboo fish (cooked inside bamboo on charcoal fires).

If you walk north beyond the night market, to where the road turns away from the river, there are several eateries sharing a covered terrace above the river. Parking is available. These provide a cafe/basic restaurant setting. The food available at all these outlets is excellent value with a similar but not identical set of standard dishes to choose from at each outlet. The quality is more than adequate, more basic good value rather than exquisite, but the dishes are well-prepared, cooked to order, and taste authentic. The service is pleasant and the beer is cold. The cooks take pride in their work

There is a small restaurant opposite the new banking establishments halfway down the main drag (on your left as you face the river). The food is perfectly adequate and one will not be disappointed. The value is good and the beer is cold. The service is good and the owners are trying hard.


Accommodations in Chiang Saen are limited. Fancier digs are to be found in the Golden Triangle, just north of Chiang Saen.

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This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, September 26, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.