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Chiang Rai is one of the Thailand’s most romantic cities to visit. A reality show, The Bachelor 2013, had filmed the finale here. Sean Lowe, the Bachelor 2013 said about Chiang Rai, the following.  “Chiang Rai is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. It’s really an amazing place and I really built a lifetime of memories in those few days.”

Ok, we might get too obsessed with the Bachelor 2013, but it doesn’t mean that the romantic trips only exist in TV programs. This article is recommendations to take you through Chiang Rai, the first capital of the ancient Lanna Kingdom, highlighting must-see activities, as well as some exciting hidden treasures not featured in most ads and travel guides.

There are plenty of hotels in Chiang Rai. However, considering price, location, hotel hospitality, food and what we normally call “value for money”, Le Meridien Chiang Rai Resort is standing in front of the line for the most romantic stay in the Chiang Rai city. It is one of the latest additions to the stable of stylish, luxe hideaways and features everything you expect from the chain.

The hotel, situated along the Mae Kok River, is just 10 minutes away from Chiang Rai International Airport and less than five minutes from town.

As you walk up the steps to the spacious, open lobby, the painting on the ceiling of the entrance welcomes you to a world that’s away from your ordinary life. From the lobby terrace, two magnificent rain-trees catch the eye: the bigger one shading the wooden deck near the infinity swimming pool, the smaller one standing at the corner of the courtyard. One drawback of Le Meridien Chiang Rai Resort is that Wi-Fi access from your room is not free. The access will cost approximately 500 baht a day.

Le Meridien Resort Chiang Rai

Le Meridien Resort Chiang Rai

The rooms and suites are spread discretely over a huge area near the Mae Kok river and each boast a private balcony. All rooms border a pristine lawn stretching past the lake, pool and riverside restaurant to the river. You and your partner can lazily wander through the property all day.

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Chiang Rai Beach

The next place to get to feel romantic is Chiang Rai Beach (หาดเชียงราย). Actually it is not a beach at all, but it is just a  shallow river bank (Mae Kok River). You’ll need some form of transportation to get there as it about 5 km from the city.  There are stalls selling food and sit down places to eat a snack or Thai meal. The park is very quiet and countrified. Local people come here to relax and have a picnic, drink some local whiskey and enjoy a family day out.

It is considered “romantic” as it is one of the few places where you might just see Thai people hugging and kissing in public. Okay, it might not be as romantic as you might expect, but it is a good place to get away from crowds and enjoy a quiet afternoon. As there is nothing much to see there, you might get bored after staying there a couple of hours.

There is one occasion that Chiang Rai Beach becomes the hottest place. That is during the Loi Krathong festival (เทศกาลลอยกระทง). Loy Krathong is one of Thailand’s most colorful festivals; celebrated every year on the night of the full moon in November. A krathong is a floral float usually the size of a dinner plate, on rivers or lake. Chiang Rai beach is the only a place in Chiang Rai where people can actually go into the river bank and do “Loi Krathong” with a big crowd.

If you’re the kind of traveler who enjoys planning visits around festivals and events, Thailand’s Loi Krathong festival should not be missed. Known by many as the festival of lights, this festival symbolizes good fortune for the year to come. The climax of the celebration is the lighting of a different kind of float—the hot-air lanterns called “Krong Fai” that float up through the night sky by the thousands.

Boon Rawd Farm, Chiang Rai

Boon Rawd Farm, Chiang Rai

About 20 minutes from downtown Chiang Rai is Boonrawd Farm (บุญรอดฟาร์ม), a new weekend hangout that’s become popular with local families and tourists. The place is owned by Singha Corporation with a 8,600-rai area. It was established in 1983, initially to grow barley for beer brewery (Singha Beer).

For some reasons, the barley farm was not a success, however the farm became popular for jujube fruit, star fruit and tea instead. The farm itself becomes one of the largest producer of oolong tea. Also today it cultivates other crops that thrive in the cold weather, like apple and strawberry.

Bhu Bhirom @Singha Park on Den Ha-Dong Mada Road of Chiang Rai
The farm is also home to a magnificent garden filled with colorful flowers and bottle gourds, 50 rai of barley fields, a 600-rai tea plantation, a 30-rai Japanese rice field, strawberry and cherry tomato plantations and 2,600-rai of rubber trees. If farm and fruits are too boring for you, don’t turn it off yet. There’s a restaurant called Bhu Bhirom, perched on the hill serving succulent steaks and local dishes made from tea leaves.  It is an ideal place to enjoy good food with a glorious sunset.

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The Black House, Chiang Rai

Everybody is talking about White Temple or Wat Rong Khun (วัดร่องขุ่น) and it is become too mainstream.  Many people journey to Chiang Rai to visit the White Temple, but they forget to visit its counterpart, the Black House. Created by Thai artist, Thawan Duchanee (ถวัลย์ ดัชนี) the Black House is quite an architectural feat, it comprises 40 small black houses constructed from different materials, from concrete to glass.

About 90 kms from Chiang Rai city center or 60 kms further down from the White Temple, there is little known Doi Chaang (ดอยช้าง), home to the Chiang Rai Highland Agricultural Research Centre and known throughout Thailand for quality Arabica coffee, called Doi Chaang coffee. Surprisingly, Doi Chaang Coffee is better known than its home.  Doi Chaang is located in Mae Suai district about 1,700 meters above sea level, the coffee plantations, about 20,000 rai of them, stretch out over several villages.

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Scenic at Doi Chaang (วิวจากดอยช้าง)

The center was set up in 1985 to educate local hill-tribes how to grow and turn these precious beans into premium coffee, as well as to cultivate macadamia nuts. It’s also home to the temple forest of Phra Buddha Uthayan, where visitors can pay respect to Buddha images and learn about the rural lifestyle.

Couples can renew their vows while watching the sun set over Doi Chang village below or cuddle up in a tent on Doi Kad Phi (ดอยกาดผี) then greet the sun as it rises slowly over the mountains and hovers over a sea of mist. Doi Kad Phi is little known for tourists but quite popular for the locals as the spot where local tourists can camp in tents and wait for the sunrise.

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Doi Kad Phi (ดอยกาดผี)

Chiang Rai is the home of Thailand’s several ancient hill tribes who have been living much the way they have for hundreds of years. If you come to Chiang Rai and not visit one of the hill tribes, it is a real miss.

It is believed that these Thai hill tribes migrated from parts of China to the thick forests and mountains of Chiang Rai centuries ago. Typical trek itineraries visit Akha, Karen, Lisu and Lahu tribe villages. The Akha Hill House is a particular favorite trekking group, beloved for its affordability and friendly staff.

If you want to learn more about Chiang Rai’s fascinating hill tribes, the best way to do it is to immerse yourself in their culture. One good spot for a romantic rendezvous is Ban Lorcha (บ้านหล่อชา) in Mae Chan district, home to 64 Akha families and which has been receiving visitors since 2001. Supported by the Population and Community Development Association (สมาคมพัฒนาประชากรและชุมชน), it offers a fascinating a 1.2-kilometre walking tour of the village, which is led by local guides who explain their culture, beliefs and lifestyle.

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Meet Hill-tribe at Ban Lorcha

One of the must-see’s in Akha village is the ghost gate adorned with wooden carved figures and a bamboo dancing show that typically celebrates the Akha New Year. The Akha house is a must-see, a simple windowless hut with a partition separating the sleeping quarters of the men and women and with a living room where the head of household boils the water for tea.

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An Akha house

Those who want to feed their passion should stop at Doi Mae Salong (ดอยแม่สลอง), a charming resort that’s full of Chinese restaurants serving typically Yunnanese dishes and home to several boutique resorts too. It’s famous for its terraced oolong tea (ชาอู่หลง) plantations and much of its produce is exported to China and Taiwan.

Many of the residents are descendants of the anti-communist Kuomintang (KMT) forces who were granted citizenship in return for policing the area against communist infiltration. Their history can be traced at The Chinese Martyr’s Memorial Museum.

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Misty mountain at Doi Ma Salong

A Chiang Rai visit without the Mae Fah Luang Arboretum at Doi Chang Moob (สวนรุกขชาติแม่ฟ้าหลวงดอยช้างมูบ) is not a complete trip. This area was once one of Thailand’s biggest opium plantations during 1960’s or during Vietnam war. In 1992, the Princess Mother turned the 250-rai into a beautiful garden growing plants, vegetables and rare species of flowers such as rhododendron, camellia and azalea. The area had became the biggest permanent flower garden in Chiang Rai.

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Elephant riding @ Golden Triangle Thailand

There’s nothing that keeps the spark alive like trying new and adventurous things. There is no better place to do so than Golden Triangle, Chiang Saen, where you can explore the mountainous areas via the back of an elephant. Couples can trek through a bamboo forest atop an elephant, dine in the middle of an exotic rice paddy field while being tended to by a private chef and butler, or recreate the famous rose ceremony at Anantara’s hilltop pavilian. This is the place where the final dates of Bachelor season 17 was filmed.

Chiang Khong is the city where you can truly relax without doing and worrying about anything! It is the city that will make you king of the world. If you want to find a place to finish your 3-inch book, Chiang Khong is perfect. If you want to get away from the cynical world, Chiang Khong will give you a warm stay.

Chiang Khong by Mekong River

Down to the south 110 kms from Chiang Rai city or 70 from Chiang Khong, there is a breathtaking climb up to the viewpoint on Pha Tang (ผาตั้ง). You will enjoy the stunning scenery of the Mekong River and the landscape of Thailand and Laos. You can carry on climbing to the peak to enjoy the sunset. To experience the real trip, you could flag down a local guide and ask for a ride to the top of the mountain.

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Pha Tang

For a final breath of truly fresh air in Chiang Rai, climb up to the top of Phu Chi Fah (ภูชี้ฟ้า) to catch the sunrise and declare your love in the morning mist. Phu Chi Fa is a popular mountain that is visited by numerous Thai tourists to northern Thailand. The best time to visit is from October to the beginning of February. Don’t go there from March to the beginning of September as there is nothing there.

The word ‘Phu’ in Thai means mountain or hill, and ‘Chi’ stands for ‘point” while ‘Fa’ means sky. Thus Phu Chi Fah means the mountain with a peak pointing to the sky. There the visitors can enjoy immaculate vistas of nature. The geographical distinctiveness of Phu Chi Fa makes it the most immaculate destination in Chiang Rai to enjoy the beauty of the rising sun. On the mountain top, the highest flat terrain is a huge grassy plain that expands up to the Laotian border.

After spending the day trekking through the jungle, relaxing in a park or floating down the Mekong, or trekking to the top of Phu Chi Fah, back to the city, Chiang Rai’s night bazaar is the perfect place to take an evening stroll. It is located on Phaholyothin Road, inside the city. There you can shop for souvenirs before heading back home.


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