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Chiang Rai Attractions

Overview of Chiang Rai

The charming town of Chiang Rai is found in Thailand’s northernmost province, roughly 500 miles north of Bangkok. This city is the capital of the province of the same name, and in antiquity it was briefly the seat of the powerful Lanna Kingdom.

Chiang Rai is bisected by Phaholythin road, the main street running north-south through the city centre. Here, a few charming restaurants, hotels and second-hand book stores offer tourists comfortable amenities without the burden of big-city life. Many tourists arrive via the bus station, as the country’s northbound railroad terminates further south in Chiang Mai.

Clipped to the north by the Mae Kok River, Chiang Rai is not far from Thailand’s northern border where the mighty Mekong River skirts the boundaries of Thailand, Laos and Burma in a culturally rich region known as the Golden Triangle. Opium was once the booming cash crop here in the valleys of the Mekong and Mae Kok, though alternative crops have since replaced the majority of the poppy fields.

Most of Chiang Rai’s visitors spend relatively little time in the town and instead invest their energy in area excursions. Daytrips to the Golden Triangle are becoming increasingly popular, and tourists continue to make Chiang Rai their home base between jungle treks and visits to outlying hill tribe villages.

This part of the country also hosts communities of Chinese immigrants who arrived in the last 50 years, fleeing communist oppression. Though these groups capitalise on local markets and embrace tourism, they still manage to maintain their own cultural identity. Villages like the one on Doi Mae Salong are extremely unique, fostering a fascinating blend of cultures.

In fact, it is just this kind of cultural infusion that makes Chiang Rai so tantalising to visitors. Remnants of ancient Burma still simmer in pots of kaow soy curries, while rows of oolong tea grow in Chinese plantations. Locals are just as proud of Bangkok’s royal family as they are of ancient King Meng Rai and the historic old guard, the loyalties of which vacillated between Burma, Laos and Thailand.

Whether you’re visiting Chiang Rai to discover the Golden Triangle, trek into the dense jungles, interact with hill tribes, or just relax in the unhurried city centre, you’ll be well taken care of by local accommodation. There are plenty of intimate guesthouses and historic lodges alongside an increasing number of upscale hotels, the latter of which are driven by the ever-growing stream of tourists that arrive from Chiang Mai and Bangkok.

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Soups and curries

Soups and curries

The line between soups (ต้ม tom, literally just “boiled”) and curries (เเกง kaeng) is a little fuzzy, and many dishes the Thais call curries would be soups to an Indian. A plate of rice with a ladleful of a curry or two on top, known as khao kaeng ...

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Pad thai

Pad thai

From Cape Town to Khao San Road, the default international Thai dish! Dropped in a searing hot wok, fistfuls of small, thin or wide noodles (you choose) do a steamy minute-long dance alongside crunchy beansprouts, onion and egg, before disembarking for the nearest ...

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Take the Slow Boat to Thailand

Take the Slow Boat to Thailand

Ride along the Mekong River from Luang Prabang Laos, to Chang Rai – See the Mekong River and meet the local people that live along its shores. Share the slow boat to Thailand with locals going home from the market and watch life unfold along the Rivers Banks ...

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Shop and Snack at Talat Nam Taling Chan

Shop and Snack at Talat Nam Taling Chan

Taling Chan floating market is one of the more popular local weekend markets to visit. Though it’s called a floating market, the land section has grown much larger than the boat market section, making way for a variety of interesting stalls and a bonanza of tasty ...

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Watch a Sepak Takraw Match

Watch a Sepak Takraw Match

Sepak Takraw is a popular Southeast Asian sport that’s played by overly athletic acrobats who bus crazy moves in a sport that’s a combination of volleyball and football. The sport is simply a joy to watch and marvel at the insane abilities of the athletes.

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