Chiang Rai is one of the most alluring destinations outside of Bangkok as this region offers a staggering range of amazing attractions. The rolling hills, sweeping mountains, lush green forests and nature, and rich melting pot of cultures make Chiang Rai one of the most engaging places to visit.
Many small villages are filled with Thai local experiences that are far differently to those found in big cities. The culture of this region has been inspired by Lanna, Karen and other indigenous ethnic groups providing tourists, both foreign and domestic, with a noticeably friendly and vibrant atmosphere. Trekking tours to the hill tribes, remain one of the purest Thai local experiences available for intrepid explorers.
All combined Chiang Rai offers parts of all five product categories under the Amazing Thailand’s ‘Open to the New Shades’ concept, promoted by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), that encompasses ‘Gastronomy Tourism’, ‘Arts and Crafts’, ‘Nature’, ‘Culture’ and ‘Way of Life’.
Here are a few of the many amazing attractions available:
Chiang Saen is known for its viewpoint overlooking the famed ‘Golden Triangle’ where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet. There are two viewpoints to take in the views where Khong and Ruak rivers converge. The first one is from the hills of the Wat Phra That Pha Ngao temple with the second one just down the hill. Both have the official signposts for photo taking for ease of access.
Heavenly Tree Top Walk at Doi Tung Royal Villa and Mae Fah Luang Garden
Chiang Rai’s Doi Tung Royal Villa and Mae Fah Luang Garden offers a Tree Top Walk activity that matches today’s trendy and wandering lifestyle. Visitors can experience a 300-metre long walkway built 30 metres up among the trees of the Mae Fah Luang Garden. Around since August 2016 and it’s a fun activity that allows visitors to see the jungle from a bird’s-eye view. Rope bridges help them soar above the jungle for an amazing vista of coffee and vetiver grass plantations and simmering mountains in the distance.
It feels like a mix of zip lining and nature walk. There were a few places where bridges are very high up, even though the mesh railing is tall and the floorboards solid, most are happy to have a harness. There are seven bridges of varying lengths and six resting points in between to get your catch one’s balance and regain bearings. These resting points have small wooden platforms a few feet across with railings and not much else. It’s a good place to wait for those in front of you to clean the next rope bridge before going. The Tree Top Walk activity is an add-on to the visit to the Doi Tung Royal Villa of the late Princess Mother. Located 1,630 metres above sea level, the villa built in 1987 evokes a Swiss Chalet, with a Lanna twist.
Ban Pang Ha Mulberry Bark Paper
The time-honoured art of making 100% handcrafted mulberry paper (or ‘Saa‘ Karen villagers’ name for mulberry tree) is alive and well in Ban Pang Ha, a community-based tourism village in Mae Sai district in the northernmost spot of Thailand. Over 600 years ago Karen hilltribes used the remarkable bark that naturally peeled from the trunk of this tall broad-leafed tree for making natural paper without destroying or cutting down any trees.
Rich Thai local experience pervaded the Ban Pang Ha local way of life as locals here lead a simple way of life. Their livelihood depends on knife-making. The village is also famous for their production of ‘Kimju’ guava fruit.
Wat Rong Khun (White Temple)
This glistening masterpiece is dedicated the reign of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej and is marked with its own artistic style. The gleaming building is decorated with creatures from Thai and Buddhist mythology and visitors enter the main Ubosot over a bridge representing cycle of rebirth. A visitor to the White Temple’s lovely lavatories are a must, which are located behind a gleaming gold façade and intricately decorated. Work on Wat Rong Khun will go on until 2070 so donate to this amazing art project if you can.
This is Thailand’s largest tea plantation – producing over 400 tonnes of Oolong tea a year. Fruit and flowers are grown here too. Singha Park offers friendly-family activities including cycling, a zip line, and a petting zoo with giraffes and zebras. An electric tram takes visitors around, if you don’t fancy cycling. Enjoy a meal at the park’s Bhu Bhirom Restaurant which offers delicious dishes and magical views.
The province’s Mae Fah Luang Chiang Rai International Airport serves about 16 domestic flights per day by Thai Smile Airways, Nok Air, Thai Air Asia, Bangkok Airways, and Thai Lion Air, arriving from Bangkok’s Don Mueang International and Suvarnabhumi Airports. There’s also a twice-daily international direct flight between Hong Kong and Chiang Rai, operated by HK Express.
Apart from air access, Chiang Rai is also the northern gateway to Thailand along the Asian Highway R3A, east-west corridor and R12 route, as well as the Mekong River that borders Thailand at Chiang Khong in Chiang Rai and Huay Xai in Lao PDR. Visitors that choose to arrive in Chiang Rai using one of these alternative transportation options are assured of yet another Thai local experience.
Where to Stay
Chiang Rai offers a range of accommodation, from simple homestay to boutique resorts and international-standard hotels to five-star tented camps. Many accommodation options are either located in the town centre, Chiang Saen and Mae Sai areas.