Discovering the province of Chiang Rai by paying homage to the royal culture of Lanna art, stopping by at the international hub of commerce in Mae Sai, and climbing up the great mountain of Doi Mae Salong, you may finally realize that Chiang Rai is really a beautiful princess living in the thick rain forests waiting to be found. Now, let us show you how gorgeous she could be.
We would like to take you to explore the princess of the north by paying respect to Lanna-style of temples, visiting the beautiful sculptures of the temple created by well-known national artist, embracing yourselves in the cool atmosphere of the northern national park, and shopping the unique handicrafts from hill tribe’s people. On the top of that, we have a selection of the interesting attractions in Chiang Rai to show you.
Chiang Rai, the northernmost province of Thailand, is known as the province of hundreds of mountain and cool breeze. It is the formal capital of Lanna kingdom, the ancient kingdom ruling the northern area for more than 1000 years ago. The province has situated right at the convergence of 3 countries: Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar. It is also known as the golden triangle.
The average temperature in Chiang Rai is about 24 degree Celsius but the temperature may go up as high as 32 degree Celsius in summer. On the other hand, the average temperature in winter usually stays around 15 degree Celsius in the city area but it can go down to 0-5 degree Celsius at the top of the mountain summit. Chiang Rai is attracting more and more visitors every year, especially in the winter.
Getting There and Away
By Air: Chiang Rai’s Mae Fah Luang International Airport is a few kilometers away from the city. There are several daily direct flights from Bangkok to Chiang Rai and the flight time is 1 hours and 10 minutes. The visitors may choose to fly from Suvarnabhumi International Airport or from Dommuang International Airport of Bangkok. Please check the airline and port of departure to make sure that you don’t go to the wrong airport. Visitors are also given a direct access to Chiang Rai from other domestic airports such as Had Yai, U-tapao, Udonthani, and Suratthani.
By train: There is no direct train service to Chiang Rai but the visitor may get off the train at Lampang or Chiang Mai and then take a connecting bus to Chiang Rai
By Bus: There are several bus services running daily from Bangkok to Chiang Rai. It takes approximately 11 hours traveling by bus. Tickets are available at Bangkok Northern Bus Station in Jatujak area of Bangkok.
By Car: The visitor can take highway 11 through Takfah – Wangthong – Phitsanulok, – Uttaradit – Denchai – Phrae – Rong Kwang and turn left onto highway 103 to Ngao district and then through highway 1 through Phayao and finally into Chiang Rai.
The best way to explore Chiang Rai without hassle is to rent a car at the airport after getting off the plane. Many rental car companies set up their counters at the airport arrival hall. It is highly recommended that you book the car in advance. If you prefer to move around the city without renting a car, there are blue Subaru minibusses waiting to pick you up. Also, there are many bus services connecting the city to several tourist attractions.
Hotel accommodation in Chiang Rai is ranging from budget hostels to five-star hotels. Most of them are located very close to many popular tourist attractions. Some hotels may even offer outdoor tents to let you enjoy the natural atmosphere in close range. There are hundreds of hotel available in downtown Chiang Rai but they are not quite popular since most of the tourist attractions are on the mountain sides.
Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Chiang Rai
1. Doi Tung Palace and Mae Fah Luang Garden
Doi Tung Palace was the place where the late HRH princess mother usually came and lived when she visited Chiang Rai. It is now open to the public. The building is beautifully decorated in Swiss garden house style mixed with Royal Lanna work. The palace itself is surrounded by many beautiful wood carvings and lustful cold flowers of Mae Fah Luang garden. The craft works of the famous artist Misiem Yipinsoi are also on display in front of the building. Additionally, the late HRH princess mother exhibition hall and souvenir shop which is selling products from royal projects are in the walking distance from the main building. A Doi Tung palace can be visited all year round. The temperature remains cool because it is located on the high mountain.
2. Wat Rong Khun (Rong Khum Temple)
Wat Rong Khun is one of the most famous landmarks in Chiang Rai. This temple is designed and built by the prominent Thai artist, Chalemchai Kositpipat. You will experience the majestic beauty as you step into the temple. You may also notice that the chapel is all in white color while inside is decorated with silver mirror. This temple is one of the finest sculptures of Thai modern art to date. Almost every corner of this temple is good for taking either panoramic photo or portrait background. It is a must attraction you won’t miss. The best season to visit this temple is in winter or summer. Please avoid coming here in the rainy season because you may not have a chance to snap any photo shot. Thunder storm here is severe during the rainy season.
3. Wat Phra Singha (Singha Temple)
This ancient temple of Lanna was originally built around the year 1385 to house the Royal Buddha statue which was brought from Chiang Mai and was enshrined in this temple for 20 years before being carried back to Chiang Mai. The temple has been regarded as the symbol of royal Lanna culture in Chiang Rai and the sacred temple of the city. It is becoming more and more popular among the tourists and one of the landmarks you should not miss. Please take your time to admire the natural beauty of ancient culture and its past prosperity. This temple is easily accessible from every corner of the town since it is located in the center. Don’t forget to note it as your destination when you come to this city.
4. Phu Chi Fah ( Chi Fah Mountain) and Pha Tang Cliff
Phu Chi Fah and Pha Tang cliff is a part of the national park in Chiang Rai where many tourists climb up to the top of the mountain to see the sun rise over the sea of mist. It is also a popular spot to see the cherry blossom flowers (a.k.a Sakura) which bloom only in winter. Tourists may choose to go trekking on beautiful nature trails or camping at the mountain summit. We also recommend the tourist to visit Pha Tang cliff which is not far away from the camping site. At Phu Chi Fah and Pha Tang cliff, tourists may find the spectacular scenic spots along the Mekong river running between the border of Thailand and Laos. Both Phu Chi Fah and Pha Tang cliff is good to visit all year round. However, you should visit this national park in winter if you want to see the sea of mist because it is less visible during rainy season and summer time.
5. Sakura Forest At Doi Chang
This place claims to be the biggest sakura forest in Thailand with more than 500.000 cherry blossom trees. In addition, Doi Chang is best known as the home of the coffee plantation in Thailand. Coffee beans harvested here are one of the best coffees in the world. On the top of the summit houses the holy water pond which is regarded as one of the 9 sacred water ground used for the ancient ceremony of the allegiance devotion to the king. You may also find many different Buddha images with different postures enshrined around this area. Each traditional pose has a significance related to an important event in the life – or past lives – of Buddha himself. From the end of December to February, many tourists come to Doi Chang to admire the beauty of 500,000 cherry blossom flowers which are about to bloom.
6. Doi Hua Mae Khum (Hua Mae Khum Mountain)
This is another landmark you should not miss when visiting Chiang Rai. Doi Mae Khum National Park situates on the height of 1,300 meters above sea level. Once you have climbed up to the top of the mountain, you will be stunned by the beautiful view of complex high mountains stretching from the far-east to Myanmar border in the west, the glittering yellow lotus field, and the sea of mist covering the whole area in the early morning. You may also visit the hill tribe villages where the Hmong, Lisu, and Akha tribes are living together in harmony. You can walk down 2 km away from the village and find the Hua Mae Khum waterfall cascading from the 20-meter high cliff. Like the other mountain sites, the best season to visit Doi Hua Mae Khum is in the winter season when the yellow lotus blooms.
7. Doi Mae Salong (Mae Salong Mountain)
It is well known as the former base of the 93rd military division under Kuomintang of the general Chiang Kai-shek. Most of the troop decided to settle down in Thailand and also named their community Santi Khiri (Peaceful mountain) village. Doi Mae Salong is about 1,200 meters above sea level with the average temperature of 15-18 degree Celsius all year round. The village can be accessed from several path ways. You may experience the beautiful Cherry blossom trees along the path way to the village. On the top of the mountain, you will see the large Mahasanti Khiri Pakoda which houses the holy Buddha relic. In addition, you may visit the tomb of general Tuan which is 1,300 meters above the ground and look down to the Santi Khiri village below. Do not forget to pay a visit to several famous tea plantations where you can test the real aroma and taste of a genuine Chinese tea. Most of the tourists come to Doi Mae Salong during the winter period.
8. Singha Park
Formally known as Boonrod Farm, Singha Park is an eco-agricultural tourist attraction with more than 230 acres of farmland. At Singha Park, you will experience the organic fruit plantations, the beautiful flower garden, and the livestock farm where you can milk the cow. The Phu Bhirom restaurant at 360-degree viewpoint is serving delicious foods cooked from raw materials from the farm or you may relax at the coffee shop and enjoy the home-made bakery. Singha Park also has a shuttle bus service running every 30 minutes from 8:30 to 16:30 daily. You can hop-on and hop-off the bus at any time and free to spend your time at any station as long as you like. Singha park is about 20 km from the city and easily accessible from the major highway.
9. Golden Triangle
The golden triangle is formally known as the largest opium plantation in the world. Today this place has transformed into one of most popular tourist attraction in Chiang Rai covering the area of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos. Upon arrival, you may visit the large Buddha image called Buddha Nawamin which is enshrined on the bank of Mekong River. With a few steps away, you may find an excellent photo spot at the Golden Triangle Arch. Then you will get on the boat and enjoy cruising Mekong River to see the beautiful convergence border of 3 countries. The cost of renting the boat is around 300-400 Baht with a maximum load of 6 passengers.
10. Chiang Rai Walking Street
Chiang Rai walking street opens every Saturday from 4 pm to midnight. Make sure to plan your trip to match the market day if you want to go. The market is located right in the center of the town in the busiest spot of Thanalai road. Like Chiang Mai walking street, there are a lot of products ranging from hand-made, home décor, indigenous souvenir, and dazzling and delicious street foods that you cannot afford to miss. On the top of that, there is a traditional dancing stage at the center of the street where local people often enjoy dancing with tourists on the stage. It is a unique attraction which is hard to find from any other places in Thailand.