Photo: Scenery surrounding Chiang Rai.


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Remote hill-tribe villages perched on rugged, mist-shrouded mountains; opium warlords leading mule trains through the dense jungles of the Golden Triangle; ancient temples set in picturesque riverbank towns aside the mighty Mekong: call us romantic but Chiang Rai can conjure up some evocative and exotic images.

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Yet both the province and provincial capital of this northernmost region of Thailand largely defy preconceptions. Mountains skirt its western borders with Burma (Myanmar) and Chiang Mai Province while another range paralleling the Mekong to the southeast culminates in spectacular Phu Chee Fah but otherwise much of the landscape is predominately flat agricultural land. Chiang Rai City itself, though actually predating its larger, southern neighbour, has a busy, modern air and is far from the mini-Chiang Mai you may imagine.

Not your typical temple. Photo taken in or around Chiang Rai, Thailand by Mark Ord.

Not your typical temple. Photo: Mark Ord

The mountains to the west, including Doi Mae Salong, Doi Chang and Doi Tung (doi meaning mountain in the northern dialect if you hadn’t guessed) are truly spectacular but descend abruptly into a wide valley, broken with occasional low hills and scattered karst outcrops that stretch to the province’s eastern border with Laos—the Mekong River. This is the location of a clutch of riverbank towns; touristy, kitsch Sob Ruak—officially designated the Golden Triangle; charming Chiang Saen—ancient city and now river port for China trade, and cutesy Chiang Khong—guesthouse-laden entry point into Laos and embarkation stage for the popular boat journeys to Laos’ ... Travelfish members only (Around 2,100 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Chiang Rai.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Chiang Rai.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Chiang Rai.
 Read up on how to get to Chiang Rai, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Chiang Rai? Please read this.
 Buy a SIM card for Thailand—pick it up at the airport when you arrive.
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