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The photo is of Maitreya.  According to Buddhist tradition, Maitreya is a Bodhisattva who will appear on Earth in the future, achieve complete enlightenment, and teach the pure dharma. According to scriptures, Maitreya will be a successor to the present Buddha, Gautama Buddha (also known as Śākyamuni Buddha).

General Information

Chiang Rai, the northernmost province of Thailand is about 785 kilometers north of Bangkok. Situated on the Kok River basin, Chiang Rai covers an area of approximately 11,678 square meters with an average elevation of 580 meters above sea level. The province, which is located within the renowned Golden Triangle area where Myanmar, Laos and Thailand converge, is also known as the gateway to Myanmar, Laos and Southern China.

Chiang Rai, which was founded in 1262 by King Meng Rai, was the first capital of the Lanna Thai Kingdom (Kingdom of a million rice fields), which was later conquered by Burma. It was not until 1786 that Chiang Rai became a Thai territory and was proclaimed a province during the reign of King Rama VI in 1910.

Today, Chiang Rai is a traveler 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.

Chiang Rai which tends to be a little more ’laid back’ now competes with Chiang Mai as a tourist attraction and is fast becoming a popular escape for tourists wanting to get away from the troubles they left behind.

Geography

Chiang Rai geography varies. The average elevation of the province is 580 m. The north of the province belongs to the so-called Golden Triangle, at which the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar converge – an area which was very unsafe because of the drug smuggling across the borders. The Mekong River forms the boundary with Laos, the Mae Sai and Ruak River to Myanmar. Through the town of Chiang Rai itself flows the Kok River.

While the eastern part of the province is relatively flat river plains, the western part consists of mountainous terrain. While not the highest elevation of the province, the 1322 m high Doi Tung (Flag hill) is the most important hill. The Wat Phra That Doi Tung temple on top of the hill according to the chronicles dates back to the year 911. Nearby is the Doi Tung royal villa, former residence of the Late Princess mother (mother of the present king) Somdej Phra Srinagarindra. Thanks to her activities the hills were reforested, and the hill tribes changed from growing poppy to other crops.

History

Throughout history populations have dwelled in Chiang Rai.  It became the center of the Lanna Thai Kingdom during the 13th century.  The region, rich in natural resources and textiles, was occupied by the Burmese until 1786.

Chiang Rai became a province in 1910, after being part of the kingdom of Lannathai for centuries. After Lannathai was incorporated into Thailand, it stayed an autonomous region and thus the Chiang Rai area was administered from Chiang Mai.

Chiang Rai province’s Golden Triangle bordering Laos and Burma is also full of nefarious history.  It was once the hub of opium production which had much influence on cultural practices and lifestyles.  Until this day, entire clans  live together  in  bamboo  houses  and  each  village  has  its  own  individual character.

Demographics

The majority of the population is generally ethnic Thai, but 12.5%  of  the  population  belongs  to  the  hill  tribes,  a  minority in the North of Thailand. Another minority are of Chinese descent, mainly descendants of the Kuomintang soldiers who settled in the region, notably Santikhiri.

Symbol

The seal of the province shows a white elephant, the royal symbol.  It remembers  that Chiang  Rai was  founded by King  Mengrai, according  to  the legend because his elephant liked the place.

The provincial tree is the Jasmine and the provincial flower is the Orange Trumpet.

The provincial slogan says: “Northernmost in Siam, beautiful Doi Tung, repository of culture, most delicious rice, sweet and fragrant lychee, beautiful women, the finest flavored tea, pineapple from Nang-Lae  and source of the Giant Catfish”

Or  

“Farthest north in Siam, intersection of three reigns, home to the culture of Lanna”

Administrative divisions

The province is subdivided in 18 districts (Amphoe).  These are further subdivided into 124 sub  districts (tambon) and 1510 villages (muban).

  1. Mueang Chiang Rai
  2. Wiang Chai
  3. Chiang Khong
  4. Thoeng
  5. Phan
  6. Pa Daet
  7. Mae Chan
  8. Chiang Saen
  9. Mae Sai
  10. Mae Suai
  11. Wiang Pa Pao
  12. Phaya Mengrai
  13. Wiang Kaen
  14. Khun Tan
  15. Mae Fa Luang
  16. Mae Lao
  17. Wiang Chiang Rung
  18. Doi Luang

Weather

Thailand is a tropical country so one should expect tropical weather.  The weather in Chiang Rai is much milder than more southern cities.


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