If you have lived in Chiang Rai long enough, you probably already know lots about the province, but here are some random facts about Chiang Rai that you might not have known.
Ok, not all items are facts. I add some of the most famous phrases local people say about something in Chiang Rai, mostly in a funny way. As for the “saying” items, some of them are “local jokes” told in drinking parties (เรื่องสนุกในวงเหล้า). Thai people in general like to socialize very much – especially people in Northern Thailand. Every time they have a gathering, they normally bring something they see or hear repeatedly into the discussion why it happened that way, of course, just for the entertainment. When people say it again and again, adding something funny, it becomes a local joke. Later this joke becomes popular among Thai people and some actually believe it was true.
If you have Thai friends and you ask them about one of the phrases below, they will be surprised that you know about it. Some of them are local “jokes”
- [Fact] Both Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai were built by the same king.
Justification: Chiang Mai is the Thailand’s second biggest province in terms of population. Generally Chiang Mai is more popular than Chiang Rai. Both cities were built by King Meng Rai. He built Chiang Rai a capital city of Lanna Kingdom. Later found that the area about 200 kms away was more suitable for a capital city in many way.s So he moved most of people to the new city and founded it as “Chiang Mai” which means a new city. Chiang Mai succeeded Chiang Rai as the capital of the Lannakingdom. Chiang Mai is literary a sister city of Chiang Rai. Many local people don’t know about this. Because of the size and popularity some local people thought Chiang Mai came first.
King Meng Rai
- [Fact] Chiang Rai Province is 752 years old even older than Chiang Mai and Bangkok.
Justification: Built by King Meg Rai 752 years ago, Chiang Rai is one of the oldest cities in the country. Bangkok is only 233 years old, while Chiang Mai is 719 years old.
- [Fact] The oldest city of Thailand is in Chiang Rai.
Justification:According to modern scholar, Chiang Saen (also in Chiang Rai) is the oldest city in Thailand – 1,470 years old. According to Tai Groups of Thailand Vol 1by Joachim Schliesinger, Chiang Saen (sometimes called Yonok Chiang Saen) was establish by King Singhonawat (สิงหนวัติ) along with 100,000 men and women in 773 AD. Plenty of cities existed long before Chiang Saen, but they all vanished or evolved into new cities. Chiang Saen is the only city in Thailand that still stands and exists until today.
- Par Club has been the most popular (and the biggest) night club in Chiang Rai, and it had sucked a lot of money from teenagers and young adults for more than 20 years.
Justification: Today, many people don’t know what Par Club is. It is the very first large night club in Chiang Rai, built many years ago and it was the only pub that could hold a few thousand people. It was the must-go nightlife destination for teenagers, until the booming of small pubs in several area in the city last 5-6 years. Par Club became less popular and had been closed a few times for renovation. Now it is re-open but it is not popular anymore..
- [Local saying] “Sperm” the the place where middle age Chiang Rai women come to pick up good looking men.
Justification: Sperm is a night club. For some reason many good looking young men like to come here, and many people say that this also attracts middle-aged women to come.
- [Local saying] “Moom Kon Maung” (มุมคนเมือง) is the destination where middle-age men escape their wives.
Justification: Moom Kon Maung is country-style night club locate near Mae Kon intersection. Because it features only country songs, most customers are middle-age men. There are not many teenagers here. This may change, as more and more motorbikes (meaning more teenagers) are parked in front of the pub.
- Big C is the first super store and local people were excited when it arrived.
Justification: Like other cities, Chiang Rai used to be a little sleepy town. There was no shopping mall – no Central Plaza. There was only one cinema in the town and it closed almost 20 years ago. About 10 years ago, Big C was open on Phahoyothin Road. The very first days the place was crowded.
Big C Chiang Rai – very first super store in Chiang Rai.
- All local know that Mae Sai is a place for cheap and low quality stuff. Most Thai people who travel to Mae Sai only go to buy cheap stuff.
- [Local saying] Because there is no toilet at the top of Phu Chi Fah, the top stinks of human urine
Justification: Don’t know about this but heard a few people complain about how hard it is to find a toilet at the top of Phu Chi Fah. Now there are a lot more guesthouse and things should have changed.
- [Fact] Chiang Khong is a little sleepy town but it has the biggest Tesco Lotus store.
Justification: Due to new Thai-Laos friendship bridge which will boost economy of the areas, Tesco Lotus decided to put a large store here. Not sure it’s the biggest store in town or not but it is huge.
- [Fact] Chiang Rai used to be 4th largest province in Thailand.
Justification: Chiang Rai was the 4th largest province until 1977 Phayao District Phayao was separated from Chiang Rai and became a province of its own. Now Chiang Rai is 12th on the list.
- [Locals saying] The Clock Tower is the most confusing roundabout in the city. In fact, it’s the most stupid round about system in the country and possibly the world.
Justification: The Clock Tower is the junction 4 roads and the clock tower just sits in the middle. There is no indication sign what to do. It can be confusing for drivers who are not familiar with it and the locals do not adhere to the rules of using a roundabout.
- [Fact] Soun Tung and Come National Park (สวนตุงและโคม) was an old prison.
Justification:It is indeed an old prison.
Soun Tung and Come National Park (Photo:thaiis.net)
- [Local saying] The most expensive rice paddies are in Phan because farmers believe that Phan has the best soil for rice.
Justification:While the most expensive land is in the city, the most expensive farm land is in Phan. A piece of land close to main road will cost between 300,000 – 600,000 Baht / Rai (1,600 sqm), not to mention land for resident which is much higher. There is no proof that soil there is the best for rice. The land in city area cost over 2 million per Rai.
- [Local people say] Phan District is small in size but has the second largest economy, just behind Chiang Rai city. There are over 10 jewelry shops, super stores and all the banks available.
Justification: Not sure about this, but many people in Phan are wealthy.
- [Local saying] Because of quality of soil in particular areas, Mae Chan is considered to be the best place in Chiang Rai to grow corn.
Justification: Nobody has a proof that this statement but it is true that most farmers here grow corn as the major crop.
- [Fact] There is a bridge, and a road called “Chiang Mai Gate” (ประตูเชียงใหม่) but they are in Chiang Rai.
Justification: There is gate bridge about 500 meters west of the clock tower. It is called Chiang Mai Gate. The road that connects this bridge is also called Chiang Mai Gate.
Chiang Mai Gate in Chiang Rai
- [Fact] Chiang Rai used to have city moats or canals similar to Chiang Mai.
Justification: A moat is a man-made river surrounding a city center. In Chiang Rai, the moats were built outside the city wall (Chiang Rai city center had a city wall too). In 1907, Dr. William A. Briggs, founder of Overbrook Hospital together with Thai authorities filled almost all parts of the city moat because it was believed to be the habitat of germs that caused diseases. The remaining moat only has 500 meters long in front of Samakkee Wittayakom school.
- [Local saying] It is known to Chiang Rai people that Samakkee Wittayakom School is the best school in Chiang Rai.
Justification: Samakkee Wittayakom school is the biggest high school in Chiang Rai. The percentage of students who can enter top universities in Thailand is high. Every year students complete the admission exam to this school.
- [Fact] There are 3 major universities in Chiang Rai.
Justification:Chiang Rai is a small city but there are 3 universities in it. There are Mae Fah Laung University, Chiang Rai Rajabhat University and Rajamangala University of Technology Lanna. Chiang Rai is only one of a few provinces where more than one universities are located. Most provinces don’t have any university at all.
- [Fact] Mae Fah Laung University is one of the most expensive university in Thailand.
Justification: Mae Fah Laung University is indeed very expensive by Thailand’s standards. For example, the tuition fee for Bachelor of Business Administration Program in Business Administration is 22,000 Baht per semester ($770), with an additional 180,000 Baht for one-time university fee.
Mae Fah Laung University (photo: Mae Fah Laung University)
- [Fact] The biggest river Chiang Rai is the Kok River.
Justification: Many people mistakenly think that the Mekong river is the biggest river in Chiang Rai. However, the Mekong does not run through any part of Chiang Rai. It’s only a natural border between Chiang Khong and Laos. So it is not considered to be a river in Chiang Rai. The biggest river is the Kok River (or Mae Nam Kok) which originates in the Daen Lao Range, Shan State, Myanmar constituting of 275 kms in length.
- [Local saying] Doi Hang (ดอยฮาง) has beautiful landscapes but authority, and for this reason Thai authorities decided to build a prison there.
Justification: Doi Hang is little known to people. It does have a beautiful landscape. Chiang Rai prison sits on one of small hills there. It has a good view of the surroundings. Many years ago Thai authorities moved the city prison to here because the old prison was too close to the city.
- [Local saying] Ta Kien Ku (ตะเคียนคู่ – Twin Iron Wood) is one of the well-known, older sacred spots. Now only one of them is left.
Justification: Generally Iron wood trees are considered to be sacred trees for many Thai people. Thai people in the old days believed there was spirit or ghostly being living inside each of the iron wood trees to protect the surrounding area. Twin iron wood trees are considered to be the most sacred trees of all. It is very hard to find 2 iron wood trees with the same age and the same height standing close to each other. There are 4 well-known sacred Ta Kien Ku (or written as Takien Koo or Ta Kien Koo) exist in Thailand today – in Chon Buri P, Chanta Buri, Krabi and Chiang Rai.
In Chiang Rai, there were 2 iron wood trees on Phahoyothin Road about 4 kms from the south of the city. These twin trees are believe to be over 100 years old. Many years ago when the authorities built Phahoyothin road from Bangkok to Mae Sai, they cut down all the trees that stood on the intended road line – no matter how big or how old they were. These 2 trees happened to be at the right spot and they were not cut down. Later the road was expanded into a 4-lane road and many trees were cut down again but these 2 trees were not affected by the road construction. The local people who lived in the area also didn’t want them to be cut down. The two trees had stood there for many years. Only a few years ago, there was lightning strike on one the trees. Now there is only 1 iron wood there. People still call this area Ta Kien Ku. The new bus terminal which is located near the area is known to local people as “Ta Kien Ku Bus Terminal”.
By the way, Phahonyothin Road starts from Victory Monument in Bangkok and ends in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai. It was originally called “Democracy Road” and later in 1950 changed to Phahonyothin Road to honor Phot Phahonyothin who happened to be the header of Siamese coup d’état of 1932 (Thailand’s first coup whose purpose to change the country from Absolute monarchy to Democracy). How ironic 😛
Takien Ku (Twin Iron Wood) in Chiang Rai (Photo: oknation.com)
- [Local saying] Riding a Tuk-Tuk is very expensive. When you ride a Tuk-Tuk, it’s like a pig walking into a slaughterhouse
Justification: We all know that Tuk-Tuks are overpriced. You don’t see many local people riding Tuk-Tuks.
- [Local saying] Wiang Chai is the closet district to Chiang Rai city, but it’s like 30 years behind Chiang Rai.
Justification: Wiang Chai District is 11 kms from city center and it is less developed than Chiang Rai city. When you’re there you wouldn’t believe it is only 10 minutes from the city. There is not much of development or public infrastructure.
- [Local saying] People in Chiang Rai say that “If you want to get rich, go to Mae Sai. But if you want to die, go to Phan”.
Justification: We all know that Mae Sai has a lot of business transactions and it creates a lot of wealthy people. In the past there was speculation that Phan District was the area many politicians live. Thai people have a bad perception of politicians, they think politicians are bad people and they are not to be messed with.
- Chiang Rai has biggest number of artists in Thailand but there is no art museum in the city.
Justification: There are more than a dozen artists known to be born and raised in Chiang Rai. Chalermchai Kositpipat and Thawan Duchanee are the 2 of the most famous artistsCorrection: Chiang Rai does have an Art Museum and it is called Chiang Rai’s Art Bridge (ขัวศิลปะ). It’s located on Phathoyothin Road, next to Wat KhauKree.
- [Local saying] If one opens a restaurant in “Pra Too Phi” area, he will be out of business soon.
Justification: “Pra Too Pee” (the Ghost’s Gate or Phi Gate) is the area locals know to be the worst area to open restaurants because all most all of them will be out of business at some point. Thai people believe that anything to do with ghosts is a curse and restaurants in this area are also cursed.
Why is this area called Phi Gate or Ghost’s gate? This is very interesting to know. We have to go back to the history. Major cities in Thailand in ancient times normally had a city wall. For example, Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai had city walls. Even the old city of Bangkok used to have city a wall.
Inside the city wall there were a number of gates, for example Chiang Rai’s city wall had 12 gates, and Chiang Mai also had 12. Each of the gates had its objective. For example, one gate was for the army to march out of the city, another gate was for bringing treasures or supplies (like rice, fruits, gold, etc) in or out, while another gate was reserved for royal events. When people were dead, it was not okay to have the funeral inside the city wall because it was considered bad luck for the city. The dead bodies had to be moved out and hold with funeral somewhere outside the city wall. There was on gate reserved for this purpose – it is called “Ghost’s Gate”. All dead bodies had to pass through this gate only. Most people didn’t want to stay near, or even be associated with this gate. The areas near this gate were generally deserted and normally not pleasant because nobody wanted to live of do anything close the the gate.
Now the city wall including the gates are gone but the people’s belief hasn’t changed. Local people still don’t want to get associated with anything to Ghost’s Gate. This could be one of the reasons restaurants are not successful near Phi Gate.
Pra Too Phee (Phi Gate)
However, what happens in Bangkok is just opposite. Many restaurants near the Bangkok’s Phi Gate are known to be the most delicious restaurants of their kind and they are very crowded. For example, U Look Chin Yaowarad (อู๋ลูกชิ้นปลาเยาวราช – Noodles with fish balls) is known as one of the most delicious fish ball noodles. Tee Yong Tau Foo (ตี๋เย็นตาโฟรสเด็ด) and Chow Wang Thai Crispy Pancakes (ขนมเบื้องไทย ชาววัง) are also very famous. The best of the best Pad Thai (ผัดไทย) in Bangkok is known to be Pad Thai Thip Samai. It appears in various magazines, TV programs and many travel blogs. Bangkok people call this restaurant as “Pad Thai Pratoo Phi“. You can verify this by searching for “most delicious pad thai in bangkok” in google. It is the area that make a lot of money for people and they started to call Bangkok’s Phi Gate “Deciduous Gate”. Hope this happens in Chiang Rai one day.
- [Local saying] The best tea is in Doi Mae Salong, while the best coffee in Mae Suai.
Justification: It’s quite true. As appeared in media and news, Doi Mae Salong is best known for Oolong Tea, while Doi Chang and Doi Wawee are popular for coffee beans.
- Phan District is considered to have the most preserved forest because most of forest areas are declared as national parks.
- [Local saying] “The best Khanom Jin Nam Ngiao (ขนมจีนน้ำเงี้ยว) is in Chiang Rai. There are 2 most popular Nam Ngiao that almost everyone Chiang Rai knows about. One is Nam Ngiao Mor Din Pa Edd in Nong Bau (น้ำเงี้ยวหม้อดินป้าอี๊ด หนองบัว ) and another one is Nam Ngiao Pa Sook in San Kong Noi. (น้ำเงี้ยวป้าสุข สันโค้งน้อย). Especially, there are many review in Pantip.com that Nam Ngiao Pa Sook is the most delicious Nam Ngiao in Thailand. It has been featured in many magazines. Now it has a 2nd location in Silom, Bangkok. Don’t know how the second one is doing so far. Anyway, if you are in Chiang Rai, you should try these 2 restaurants.
Justification:Just try it yourself to see if it is true.
Nam Ngiao Pa Sook (Nam Ngiao auntie Sook)
This is what Khanom Jin Nam Ngiao looks like – one of the most popular meals in Chiang Rai
- [Local saying] Nakon Pratom restaurant (ร้านนครปฐม) in front of Edison department store near the night bazaar serves popular menu “Khao Moo Dang & Khao Moo Krob” in a very big dish. It’s a popular place for students because they can have a heavy meal with little money.
Justification:Just try it yourself.
- Chiang Rai has one of the best golf courses in the country – “Santiburi Country Club Golf Course” but not many people have heard of it because it does very little marketing.
Justification: Santiburi Golf Club Chiang Rai belongs to Singha Brewery (it also owns Singha Park). This golf course is designed by an internationally-recognized golf course designer – Robert Trent Jones, Jr. It is located in Wiang Chai District, 12 kms SE of the city. It is rated by Golf Digest Magazine in 2012 as the 9th best golf course in Thailand.
Santiburi Country Club Golf Course in Chiang Rai
- [Local saying] Sabun Ngar Khan Tok restaurant is believed to be Thailand’s most expensive Northern Thailand food restaurant. Most local people never eat here because of its price.
Justification:Just it it out to see if it is true.
- Edison department store sells brand name cloth and it has 50% discount almost the whole year.
Justification:Just it it out to see if it is true.
Edison Department Store – Chiang Rai (Photo:skyscrapercity.com)
- [Local saying] Lobo Bar is the worst bar in Chiang Rai. It is overpriced, and has nothing to offer.
Justification: Many local people complain about this. Probably only someone’s experience.
- [Local saying] The store that offers the most discount is not Big C or Tesco Lotus, but it is Thanapiriya store. Its selling point is huge discount.
Justification:Just it it out to see if it is true.
- [Fact] Green Bus has monopolized inter-city buses between Chiang Rai and Chiang Rai for more than 40 years.
Justification: Passenger had been obliged to ride with very poor conditioned buses with bad service for a long time. Only recently there has been huge improvement – old buses have been replaced with modern models. Service also improved dramatically.
Green Bus between Chiang Mai – Chiang Rai – Mae Sai
Green Bus Interior VIP Seats. Very nice buses these days. 4-5 years ago you would see something totally different.
- [Local saying] The police almost always setup check-points near King Mengrai Statue while most of accidents occur outside the city. Local people say that if you’re stopped by the police between 08:00 – 17:00, people call it “Hell on Earth”. After 17:00 the police become overly friendly, people call it “Heaven on Earth”.
Justification: This is just someone’s experience.
- [Local saying] Many parents consider Chiang Rai Municipality School 6 (โรงเรียนเทศบาล 6) as the most advance primary school in Chiang Rai. It offers English programs with English-speaking teachers. Also it is one of the most beautiful schools you can find in Thailand.
Justification: Chiang Rai Municipality School 6 is one of the 7 municipality schools operated by the Thai Government as demonstration schools in Chiang Rai.
One of the building at Chiang Rai Municipality School 6
- [Fact] Mae Saui Intersection is not located in Mae Saui
Justification:This intersection is in Mae Lao.
- [Local saying] Nong Pueng (“หนองปึ๋ง”) is not very far, but every time people make a plan to go to one of restaurants there will be complaints of “it’s too far”. Restaurants in Nong Pueng are known to be the least expensive in Chiang Rai town. Soom Koong Ten Nong Pueng (ซุ้มกุ้งเต้นหนองปึ๋ง) is the most famous restaurant there and it is unbelievably cheap – one dish cost 39 Baht (the same dish would cost 120 Baht in Bangkok). For example, 10 people with 20 dishes and 3 bottles of Singha beer will probably cost between 800 – 1,200 Baht. For the same choices it would be more than 5,000 Baht in Bangkok.
Justification: See for yourself if it is true. Last time I went there was 2013 with 12 people. We ordered 14 food items and 5 bottles of Singh beer. The cost of the whole lot was 1,048 Baht. The most expensive dish was Steamed Fish in Lemon Sauce – 120 Baht, and the rest of the dishes cost between 39-49 Baht. This is some time ago, but the price shouldn’t change much.
Soom Koong Ten Nong Pueng Local Restaurant.
- [Fact] There are 6 bridges that cross over Mae Kok river.
Justification:Include the one near Karen Union Hill Tribe.
- Monks on horseback in Archa Tong Forest Monastery in Chiang Rai are quite popular among travelers from other cities and among foreigners. But this is little known to local people. If you ask people on the street about this, most people have no idea what it is and where the monastery is located.
Justification: After 30 years living in Chiang Rai, I learned there is a temple where the monks ride horses only 2 years ago.
Monks on horseback in Mae Chan
- [Local saying] The best local steak is “Loong Nuod Steak” near Apisquare store.
- It is funny that Kad Baan Doo (กาดบ้านดู่ or Baan Doo Market) is known among student as Little Nepal.
Justification: Baan Doo Market has no relationship with Nepal, but when pronounce in Thai as “Kad-Ban-Doo”, it is similar to Kathmandu which is the capital city of Napel.
- [Fact] Less than 40% of people in Mae Sai are original Thai.
Justification: Fact. According to demographic figure, about 60% of people in Mae Sai had their root from Yong descent, Myanmar.
- Many local people think that the Sakura trees that grow in Doi Mae Salong are the same ones as Sakura in Japan. They are not.
Justification: Despite that they are in the same genus Prunus, sakura in Japan is known as cherry blossom and sakura in Thailand is known as Wild Himalayan Cherry or “นางพญาเสือโคร่ง”. They mostly grow at an altitude of 1,200 – 2,400 meters above sea level. They look similar, but the ones in Japan are more popular. Most of the Sakura trees in Thailand have cut down by local people. Now only a small portion of them are left. Besides Doi Mae Salong, Thailand’s sakura also grow on Doi Intanon (ดอยอินทนนท์) and Doi Mae Ya (แม่ยะ).
Thailand’s Salura at Doi Mae Salong
- Api Plaza (อภิพาซ่า) used to be the biggest and most popular department store in Chiang Rai for many years. Suddenly it disappeared into thin air.
Justification: Over the past 30 years, almost everybody who came to Chiang Rai for shopping would go to this store – Api Plazza. It was like Central Plaza today. Due to the boom of modern-trade stores, its popularity began to decline 20 years ago. In 2007, this big store was burn down, and now only its ruins left to be seen.
- [Local saying] Kad Sirikorn (Sirikorn Market – ตลาดสิริกรณ์) is the best market for fresh, high quality fruits, and also they are expensive. This saying is very popular for housewives
- [Fact] Chiang Rai also has a beach “Chiang Rai Beach” some call it “Little Pattaya”
Justification: Chiang Rai Beach is nothing but a huge river bank with a mountain view in the back. There are stalls selling food and sit down places to eat a snack or Thai meal. In summer (Mar – May), this place will be very crowded but other times of the year, there is almost nobody here. It’s one of the places where teenagers like to hang out.
Chiang Rai Beach
- Most Thai people love dogs, but there are a few villages in Mae Chan District where people eat dogs.
Justification: It is only a very few people that eat dogs. However, it is quite known to local people that some there do eat dogs. Later it became a generalization that people in Mar Chan eat dogs, which is not 100% true.
- [Local saying] “Don’t drive behind the cars that have registration plate from Phayao because they are the worst drivers in Thailand”
Justification: I’ve heard this joke since 10-15 years ago. Probably it’s a joke but people keep saying it for many years. Don’t know about the story behind it. The last time I heard it is just 4 weeks ago. Guess what people from Phayao know about this too, and they might also say thing about people from Chiang Rai. If you have Thai friends in Chiang Rai, try asking them this, but don’t ask people from Phayao 🙂
- [Local saying] Thai people say Chiang Rai is the place where most of the drunk people Thailand stay.
Justification: There is no statistics for this but alcohol is a mandatory thing on the table when there is a special event. One of the reasons could be because Chiang Rai and most parts of Northern Thailand used to have bootleg whisky “เหล้าเถื่อน”. This kind of whisky was popular among locals in the remote areas before the Thai government cracked down heavily in past 10 years.
This is how people make their own whisky in Northern Thailand
- [Fact] Like Chiang Mai Chiang Rai used to have a city wall a century ago.
Justification: In the same way as Chiang Mai, when the King Mengrai founded Chiang Rai, the city wall and moats were built to surround the perimeter of the city. There are 12 gates to enter the city center. Later the wall was destroyed due to war. The remaining part was torn down about 50-60 years ago by the authorities because because of a new city plan.
The map showing line of city wall (in red) and city moats (in blue). Yellow dots are the location of the wall’s gates.
- [Fact] Almost all local people who live in Doi Mae Salong are Chinese.
Justification: They are people of Chinese descent – they were originally the army of the Kuomintang’s 93rd Division who sought refuge in Thailand 50 years ago.
- There is a law that prohibits night clubs being open after 02:00 am. It seems that a lot of night clubs such as Sugar Beach and Drink Solution because they are opened until 04:00 am. In addition, “Variety Pub” is the only pub in Chiang Rai that is open until dawn.
Justification:This is Thailand 🙂
- [Local saying] Lab Sanam Keela (ลาบสนามกีฬา) is known to have the best menu on “Lab Moo Kau”. It’s must-go for Northern Thailand Food’s lovers.
Justification: This is one of the most popular among Thai people who like North Thailand food. The food is really good and cheap. Don’t come during lunch time, because it’s almost always full. Try it for yourself.
The most popular menu – Lab Moo Kau