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About Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai City is 200 kilometres northeast of Chiang Mai City, Changwat Chiang Mai; 62 kilometres south of Amphoe Mae Sai and the Myanmar border; 60 kilometres southwest of Amphoe Chiang Saen on the Mae Khong across from the People's Democratic Republic of Laos; and 90 kilometres north of Phayao City, Changwat Phayao.


The Mae Kok River runs along its north side, flowing from west to east and eventually merging with the Mekong River.


12.5% of the population belong to the hill tribes, a collective term for the minority ethnic groups in the North of Thailand such as the Karen, Akha, Lisu, Meo, and Muser. Many Chinese, particularly from Yunnan Province, have migrated to the area and assimilated with the Thai population to such extent that well over half of the large businesses in northern Thailand are owned by people of Chinese heritage.


About 180km from Chiang Mai, the city northern Thais know as ‘Siang Hai’ has been marketed in tourist literature as ‘the gateway to the Golden Triangle’. Thais often tout Chiang Rai as a laid-back alternative to Chiang Mai. Things are on a smaller scale here, from the night market to the amount of sites to see, but the city has a more relaxed atmosphere, less pollution, and its trekking areas are quicker to get to. There are also more volunteering and homestay opportunities outside of Chiang Rai compared to Chiang Mai. Although often compared to the north’s capital, Chiang Rai has its own character and attractions, like the unique, sparkling white Wat Rong Khun temple, just outside the city.


Today, Chiang Rai is a travelers paradise endowed with abundant natural tourist attractions and antiquities; the province itself is evidence of past civilization. Attractions range from magnificent mountain scenery, ruins of ancient settlements, historic sites, Buddhist shrines and ethnic villages as the province is also home to several hill tribes who maintain fascinating lifestyles. For those interested in the natural side of Chiang Rai, jungle trekking is recommended along various trails.