Chiang Rai Vacations

A popular base for excursions to hill tribe villages, this unassuming town is home to several excellent temples and a much-loved night market.

A more low-key alternative to its well-known neighbor, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai offers a cool climate, as well as appealing green valleys, riverbanks and mountains. It is a great launching point for trips into the surrounding wilderness and a wonderful place to discover Northern Thailand’s rich and distinct culture. 

Start with a trip to the Hilltribe Museum and Education Center and learn about the region’s various tribes before trekking out to meet them. Treks range from easy walking trails to more challenging excursions into the mountains near the Burmese border. Most treks offer the opportunity to visit local tribes, such as the Karen or Akha, sometimes involving overnight stays in remote villages.

Ride down the Mae Nam Kok River in a traditional  longtail boat for views of this region’s thick, unspoiled jungle. You can stop at hot springs, caves, elephant camps or small villages along the length of the river. 

Take some time to visit Wat Phra Kaew, which was once home to Bangkok’s famous Emerald Buddha. According to legend, the green jasper Buddha appeared after this tranquil temple’s chedi was hit by lightning in 15th century. The Buddha is now housed in Bangkok, but you can see a replica. 

Don’t miss Wat Rong Khun, an unusual contemporary Buddhist temple. The building is undergoing renovation after earthquake damage in 2014 and is not open to visitors at certain times. However, it is still worth going to see the exterior of this striking, all-white temple.

Chiang Rai Beach is a relaxing spot for a picnic or a stroll along the sandy shoreline. In the evening, make your way to the Chiang Rai Night Bazaar for shopping and dining. Try northern Thai dishes or local specialties such as fried insects. 

Catch a daily connection from Bangkok to Chiang Rai Airport, which is located around 5 miles (8 kilometers) north of the city. Alternatively, nearby Chiang Mai Airport serves international carriers and connects to Chiang Rai by bus.  


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