Chiang Rai is the capital of Chiang Rai Province, Northern Thailand.
The Chiang Rai metro area has a population of 100,000 and is the main commercial center serving the Golden Triangle border region of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos. It is an excellent base for exploring the region. Chiang Rai is essentially a service city for the surrounding province. Despite its relatively small population, Chiang Rai has respected universities and other civic facilities.
The character is distinctly Northern and is different to Chiang Mai to the south in various ways. The food is definitely spicier and the ethnic composition includes a good percentage of hill tribes and Myanmar exiles such as various varieties of Karen tribes people.
Getting to Chiang Rai
Mae Fah Luang-Chiang Rai International Airport (CEI) is located on Phaholyotin Rd 8 km from the centre of Chiang Rai. Car rental is available on arrival from several companies as well as in town.
The airport is served by AirAsia, Nok Air, Bangkok Airways, Lion Air and Thai Airways to Bangkok. China Eastern Airlines offers three direct flights per week to/from Kunming China.
There are two bus stations in Chiang Rai: the old bus station and new bus station.
Old Bus Station (Bus Terminal 1) is located in the center of town. Buses coming from towns in Chiang Rai province such as Chiang Khong and Mae Sai stop here. From here you take the bus south to Phayao and Lampang. Greenbus services to and from Chiang Mai also arrive and depart from here, after stopping to drop off or pick up passengers in the New Bus station. There is enough English written on the signs and buses at the terminal to tell where the bus is going. They have a big booth with lots of windows at the bus station. Take a number and then by your ticket when called.
New Bus Station (Bus Terminal 2) is 7km south of the city, just off the Super Highway. Buses from elsewhere in Thailand stop here. Greenbus services to and from Chiang Mai stop by here on the way to the Old Bus Station, or on the way to Chiang Mai after departing from the Old Bus Station. During the busy season, it is best to buy your bus ticket in advance through the Greenbus website. There are several bus types ranging from A class (no on board services) to V class (on board service with toilet).
There is a songthaew (officially a “minibus”) connecting the two bus terminals. It costs 25 baht per person and takes 15 minutes. Some drivers ask you to pay more if there are fewer than 10 passengers, despite what the official price list posted inside the songthaew says. You can just wait for the next one and pay 25 baht.
However, said service only operates till 5 pm and thereafter, tuk-tuks, motorcycle taxi (50 Baht) and taxicabs exist for the trip back into town.
Both bus stations have plenty of tuk-tuks and songthaews outside, as well as a few metered taxis at Bus Terminal 2.
The nearest train station is at Chiang Mai.
Chiang Rai is about 820 km north of Bangkok and 180 km north of Chiang Mai and is easily accessible from Bangkok via Hwy 1 and Hwy 32 and from Chiang Mai via Hwy 118.
By private van with chauffeur – A Dangerous choice
Many transportation and tour companies offer private van services from major cities to Chiang Rai. You’ll find the Toyota Commuter vans most common and each van sits up to 9 passengers. Businesses will usually quote a flat vehicle price while gas is paid separate. If you plan overnight trips, remember to consult with said company regarding the accommodation of your chauffeur. Most of the time, 300 to 500 THB is tipped for the driver to find a place to sleep or buy some essentials to overnight in the van. Many companies offer private van services although it’s recommended to always go with one that is licensed by the Tourism Authority of Thailand and has clear responsible business principles. Finally, personally I would never get in one of these silver vans. The drivers are reckless, they drive too fast and have no driver skills training. Travel in one at your own risk.
Public transport consists mainly of tuk-tuks and songthaews, plus a smaller number of taxis. The city itself can be explored on foot, but for trips into the province consider renting a car or a motorbike. Budget and Avis both have offices in Chiang Rai and there are several local agencies. If you don’t feel up to driving in what may be a very different environment, then consider hiring a car with driver. It doesn’t cost much more.
Chiang Rai has a few cyclo-rickshaws (samlors), which can be a pleasant way to see the main sights if you want a fairly quick tour.
By motorbike – Another dangerous choice
A motorbike is a good way to see these parts; there are several trails and a 250cc dirt bike is a great way to see the countryside. If you do not have an international motor cycle license do not rent and drive one here. If you have an accident, no insurance will cover you and in fact most travel insurance packages do not cover motor cycle accidents.
- ST Motorcycle is located in the centre of town. It has the most choices of machines.
- Chiang Rai Big Bike Rental 869/79 Soi Thai Viwat
- Soon’s delivers motorcycles to some guest houses and may also have a pick-up location, but some bikes may not be reliable.
What to See
Temples and churches
One of The Black Houses in Bandaam Museum
Guardian statue, Wat Klong Wiang
Ordination hall (wiharn) at Wat Ming Meuang
- Baan dam Museum (AKA Black House or Black Temple), 414 Moo 13 Nanglae, Muang, Chiang Rai, 57100 (“Located), ☎ +66 53 705 834, +66 53 776 333, +66 81 673 1155 ([email protected]), . 09:00-17:00, closed from 12:00- 13:00. 80 baht. edit
Created by Thailand national artist Thawan Duchanee, the grounds include nearly 40 small black houses made of wood, glass, concrete, bricks, or terracotta in various unique styles and design scattered around the temple area. The cluster of houses accommodates Thawan’s collections of paintings, sculptures, animal bones, skins, horns, and silver and gold items from around the world. Several of the houses exhibit Balinese and Burmese architecture and art dating back to the Ayutthaya Period. The artist uses bones as a source of inspiration to paint. It is definitely not a place for animal lovers. There are also various kinds of baskets and drums from many regions and countries on display at Baandam. Not all exhibits are open to public. Open to everyone except tour groups. For more information or to arrange group visits, call +66 89 767 4444 or +66 53 705 834.
You can travel to the Black House by public transport. There is a public bus from the Chiang Rai bus station (20 baht, 30 min, platforms 5 & 6, but ask driver or the Tourist Information counter in the station). The bus will drop you off on the highway and you’ll have to walk about 500 m down a side road to get there. To get back, walk back to the opposite side of the highway and flag down a public bus or songthaew. You shouldn’t have to pay more than 20 baht. Tip: Buy a cold drink at the small store along the highway, put on some repellent and find a sheltered place to wait instead – the proper bus shelter is another 120m away from the alighting area. Public buses have up to a 40min wait. The last bus back is around 6pm.
- Chiang Rai First Church, its largest, was built in 1914 at PratuSiri corner. It’s Presbyterian.
- Munniti Chiang Rai Across from Sammakkhi Wittayakhom School on Banpaprakan is this Taoist and Mahayana Buddhist temple, a rare sight in Theraveda Buddhist Thailand. There is a Shan house nearby. And on the road to Pattaya Noi is a temple dedicated to to the Chinese Goddess of Mercy featuring a large statue. In the Ban Kheck area is another Goddess of Mercy temple.
- Wat Klong Wiang. Dating back to 1432, this is an excellent but little-visited temple showcasing exuberant Lanna-style at its best. Noteworthy are the colourful guardian statues, the elephants in the back and the “No Killing Area” admonition at the entrance.
- Wat Ming Meuang, intersection of Banphaprakan and Trairat Rds. Small temple housing the spirit of the city (ming meuang) in an exquisitely carved and decorated Lanna-style, almost Laotian wiharn.
- Wat Phra Kaow This beautiful Buddhist temple on Trairat Rd right in town is famous for having housed, in the 14th century, the Emerald Buddha, one of the most famous Buddha images in Thailand. According to legend, the statue was (re)discovered when a bolt of lightning hit a chedi (stupa) on the grounds, cracking it open and revealing the Buddha inside. The temple grounds are lush with greenery and house a compact but excellent two-story air conditioned museum, with a near-exact replica (1 mm shorter!) of the Emerald Buddha. The original is now housed in Bangkok in the temple of the same name, on the grounds of the Royal Palace.
replica Buddha at Wat Phra Kaeo
- Wat Phra Sing is located near the townhall used to house a major Buddha statue, the Phra Buddha Sihing, which is now enshrined in Chiang Mai. Like Wat Phra Kaeo, the temple now houses a replica instead. A special feature is the Lanna-style Ubosot and the wooden door panels carved by Chiang Rai contemporary craftsmen. Tel: +66 53 745 038.
- Wat Phra That Doi Chom Thong, located on Doi Chom Thong on the banks of the Kok River within the town area, contains what is believed to be the oldest holy relic even before King Mengrai built Chiang Rai. The chedi containing the holy relic was probably renovated at the same time the town was being built. A major religious site in Chiang Rai. It was from here that King Mengrai spotted the strategic location on which to establish the town. Tel: +66 53 716 055.
- White Temple (Wat Rong Khun), located at Ban Rong Khun, Tambon Pa O Don Chai, along Phahonyothin roadside at Km816, approximately 13 km from the city GPS 19.824542, 99.763185. 50 baht to enter main temple. This unique modern temple was designed and built by artist Chaloemchai Khositphiphat starting in 1998. A beautiful white ordination hall—Phra Ubosot—is decorated with silver glittering pieces of mirrors. There are large mural paintings of the Lord Buddha in different gestures. A gable is decorated with a gable apex, a leaf-shaped gable-edging in the shapes of Phya Naga, dragon and mythical creatures, which are entirely made of white stucco. There are viharn, small halls for recitation surrounding the ordination hall, museum, and reception pavilion. The gallery exhibits paintings of Chaloemchai Khositphiphat. Work on the temple continues, and it is not expected to be completed for the next few decades. It opens daily at 08:00-17:00. Tel: +66 53 673 579 Fax: +66 53 673 539.
Don’t forget that this is a temple, so it means you should be dressed appropriately: cover your shoulders and wear shorts/skirt covering your knees! Unlike as in other temples where they mostly don’t care (anymore) and just look down at you when being dressed disrespectfully, in this temple they do take care and they will give you long skirt to cover yourself.
It’s easy to get to the temple by public transport: there is a public bus from the Chiang Rai bus station (20 baht, 30 min; platform 8, but ask driver or counter). To get back, flag down a public bus or songthaew from the police station on the left side of the road leading back to the main highway.
- The Chiang Rai Cultural Centre is just north of the new airport, to the other side of the highway, next door to Rajapat Teacher’s College.
- Cultural Hall Museum Near the TAT building on Singhaklai Rd is a large white building that has a huge statue of King Mongkut at the main entrance. Visitors can find prehistoric tools, two medieval cannons, costume examples, ancient pottery, and examples of ancient Lanna literature in the Dhamma script. There are also videos available, a model of the city and a display of five major areas of Tai culture. Admission for adults is 10 baht, for children 5 baht.
- Haw Shan Art Gallery Out NongBua Rd, across from Family Bakery, in a large, dark-wood, Shan-style pavilion. It can be opened for special showings.
- Hill Tribe Museum and Education Centre, 620/1 Tanalai Rd, Tel. +66 53 740 088, . Situated in the centre of town, it is aimed at promoting a better understanding of hill tribes and their cultures. The dusty low-key displays include housing styles, tools, utensils and traditional hunting, fishing and agricultural equipment, but it’s worth a visit for an unsanitised view of how the hill tribes are exploited by some Thais and the tourist industry.
The centre also runs their own hill tribe tours, where the money actually goes to employ and helps the tribes people. Open 08:30 to 18:00. There is a branch of Bangkok’s Cabbages and Condoms restaurant downstairs, whose profits go to support family planning and sex education projects in Thailand. Buying a ticket for the museum also gives you a voucher for a free tea/coffee in Cabbages & Condoms.
Additionally, the museum on Level 3 accepts donations of blankets and warm clothing as the winter season can be very cold for the children of the hill tribes.
- Lanna Museum, at Rong Rian Ban Sang Khong Yai, just southwest of Chiang Rai Hospital at an elementary school. It is opened by request.
- Mae Fah Luang Art & Cultural Park, 5 km west of town, has lovely two lakes, a barge and several large Shan-style small ponds. There is interesting Haw Kam Golden Temple with two Shan halls containing accoutrements collected by Princess Maha Chakri and examples of Lanna craftsmanship: seven-armed candelabra, Buddha images, wooden alters, embroidered cloth for wrapping Buddhist scriptures, carved wood screens, swords, and monks’ fans.
- Oub Kham Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์อูปคำ), 81/1 Na Khai Rd, Tambon Rob Wiang near Den Ha Market, one kilometre from the centre of town. The collection embraces objects used in the royal courts such as Lanna, Khum Chao Phare and Khum Chao Chiang Mai some parts are from northeast Myanmar, southwest China and Vietnam which are about 500-1,000 years old. Visitors can admire 120 year-old ancient fabrics, Sin Mai Kham-golden silk skirt-from the Mandalay, the golden throne, king’s golden costumes and silver ornaments. A golden bowl used by royals, is a masterpiece. All of those show the glory of the kingdom in the past. It opens daily from 09:00-17:00. Admission for adults is 200 baht and for children 100 baht. Tel: +66 53 713 349.
- Princess Mother ’90 Museum is a sizeable fascinating pavilion dedicated to the life of the beloved Princess Mother (mother of the present king, King Rama IX). On display are fine collections of lacquer boxes, wooden pulleys, pottery, weaving equipment and some old handwritten folded texts with drawings. Admission is free.
- The Sirindhorn Chinese Language and Culture Centre (ศูนย์ภาษาวัฒนธรรมจีนสิรินธร)at Mae Fah Luang University was established through the cooperation of Mae Fa Luang University and the People’s Republic of China. The centre was built as a memorial to honour the Princess mother as a symbol of friendship between the two nations. The centre’s design adheres to Chinese principles. Construction took 7 months to complete at a cost of approximately 60 million baht. The architecture replicates the Suzhou Chinese structure, building decorations and the garden ornaments by complying with the design layouts and using authentic materials shipped from China. The roofing tiles, the doors and the marble tiles laid at the entrance are all examples of a few of the materials brought from China. Tel: +66 53 917 093, +66 53 917 097.
- The Kok River flows through the town of Chiang Rai and is 130 km long. Chiang Rai Beach lies on the banks of this river and is a popular picnic spot in summer. Long-tailed boats and cruises can be made from town to travel along both sides of lovely views. Stops can be made at hill tribe villages of the Akha, Lisu, Lahu, and Karen, etc. Elephant rides are also available to see the surrounding area. For more information, contact C.R. Pier, Tel: +66 53 750 009. Another river route starts from Tha Ton in Chiang Mai going northward to Chiang Rai. The boat trip takes about four hours. Trips by bamboo raft takes 3 days and 2 nights, contact Tha Ton Boat Club. Tel: +66 53 459 427 or Thip Travel Tel: +66 53 459 312.
- Gate of Siam – on the border with Laos – you stand high up on a mountain and Laos is in front of you across the mighty Mekong River.
- Phu Chi Fah – great sunrise view.
- Namtok Khun Kon Forest Park can be reached by taking Hwy 1211 from town. After 18 km, turn right and proceed on for another 12 km. Or go along Hwy 1 (Chiang Rai-Phayao) for about 15 km where there is a right turn to proceed further another 17 km, then a 30-minute walk to the waterfall. The highest and most scenic waterfall in Chiang Rai, Khun Kon, is some 70 m in height. Along the route to the site are cool, shady natural surroundings suitable for relaxation and nature walks. It is somewhat of a walk from the parking area, and it is quite hilly, so if you are not reasonably fit for a half hour walk over undulating terrain, then do not try it.
- The King Mengrai the Great Memorial is located in town on the intersection leading to Mae Chan. Originally, King Mengrai was the ruler of Nakhon Hiran Ngoen Yang (an ancient town on the bank of the Mae Khong around Chiang Saen) before Chiang Rai was established as the administrative centre in 1262. He consolidated his power by merging the different cities in the north and founded the Lanna Thai Kingdom in 1296 with Chiang Mai as the capital.
- The King Mengrai Stupa in front of Wat Ngam Mueang atop Doi Ngam Mueang in Muang district was built by King Chaisongkram to contain the remains of his father (King Mengrai).
- Choui Fong Tea Plantation( ไร่ชาฉุยฟง)
For half a century, Choui Fong Tea has been well-known for the highest quality traditional tea cultivated in its own gardens in Chiang Rai – the agricultural center in the kingdom of Thailand. In terms of production capacity, Choui Fong is the largest of tea producers in the province of Chiang Rai. The tea plantation is located 1,200 meters above sea level, Chui Fong Tea Plantation’s vast area of over 600 rai spans over three districts, Therdtai, Mae Fah Luang and Mae Chan. It is newly opened and has been popular with tourists. The plantation is located in Mae Chan District, Chiang Rai Province. The tea plantation opened about two years ago and has a broad coverage of vast tea plantation. The teas are planted along the curve of the mountain. There are many spots for the tourists to admire the stunning view of the tea plantations. There are also restaurants, beverage and bakeries. Another Choui Fong Tea Plantation is in Mae Fah Luang District. The beautiful vast tea plantation is planted in the curvy ridges and tiers by stairs which look beautiful. The route is quite steep and narrow but all types of vehicle can drive it. There are no restaurant there, but has scenery of the tea plantation. This place is the setting of several drama series, which will promote tourists to come and visit this place.
How to go to Choui Fong Tea Plantation (Mae Chan) Starting from Chiang Rai airport, you need to drive to Phahonyotin road (Chiang Rai-Maesai). After driving about 32 kilometers, you will be on the highway 1130 and continue driving about 5 kilometers and you will finally arrive. Overall it takes 45 minutes to go to Tea plantation. How to go to Choui Fong Tea Plantation (Mae Fah Luang) The route is the same as Mae chan tea farm but continue driving around 23 kilometers which will pass the Mae chan tea farm. When you see the military outpost, you keep going straight approximately 13 kilometers. Following the sign of Sanphapayathai national park, keep on driving for 7 kilometers. Lastly, you keep following the direction of Mae Fah Luang tea farm and you will arrive safely. Overall it takes 2 hours to go to Tea plantation.
Office Hours : 8.00 AM. – 5.00 PM. Contact : Tel. +66 53 771 563 Fax. +66 53 956 109
What to Do
- Learn Thai cooking; Cook Thai Yourself offers an excellent and original cooking class
- Organize a trekking tour to the hill tribes. Japa Tours is an excellent choice.
- Rock Climbing just 3 km northwest of Chiang Rai. Beautiful limestone rock soars up 80 m. Two dozen routes, all skill levels, are cleared and fixed for top roping. Also at Boomerang Adventure Park; the only zip lines north of Chiang Mai, and Asia’s largest swing, called ‘Pie in the Sky’. It has an arc of 45 m.
- Trail running/walking The Chiang Rai Hash House Harriers convene on the 3rd Saturday of each month. Usually, a 6 to 7 km trail in the countryside followed by a social circle with food and beer. A good opportunity to discover little known places around Chiang Rai and meet locals. All are welcomed.
- Views of City Buffalo Horn Hill has a splendid overview of Chiang Rai. Take the old road to Chiang Mai, called Thanon Ratchayotha. After a few kilometres, a hill can be seen on the left. Take a left at Nongpoung Soi 3 and wind toward the hill with the temple on top. Other sweeping views can be gained from the top of Doi Kong Kao (Rice Box Hill) 4 km west of town. There’s a steep walkway up its western side, well worth it. There is a 3 m standing gold-coloured Buddha statue at its summit. The summit of the 90 m vertical limestone cliff at Boomerang Park affords a view of the city and miles of the river valley, though it’s a bouldering scramble up its west flank to get there.
- Waterfalls and Hot Springs Kun Korn is a 70 m waterfall about about 28 km on the road to the west, there are lots of big signs guiding you to it. Take a right at the wooden sign of the same name. Take the scenic windy road to its end. From the parking are it is 1400m walk through the rainforest. A smaller set of waterfalls is northwest of town at Mae Sai hill tribe village (not the border town of the same name). There’s also a hill tribe museum at that village. Yet another pair of rather large waterfalls is west of town at an Akha village. Go west from town, along the south side of the river, for about 19 km, and look for signs which lead you left in to steep hills. Pong Phra Bat hot springs; Take highway 1 north out of Chiang Rai, to the first village (Bandu)/turn left just after the big market on the Hwy. Go for about 5 km. If you continue on that road to its end, you get to Pong Prabat waterfall, which is a year ’round steam winding through a very nice forest. Another hot springs is Pha Soet, near the river. It’s located on a winding road going directly west out of town, which parallels the river – about 29 km. Huai Hin Fon hot springs and nearby waterfall are 7.5 km west of Mae Chan, on the south side of the road.
- Golf There are three high class golf courses east of Chiang Rai. Happy City is 8 kms east of town, Santiburi is 10 km east of town and Waterford Valley is 35 km northeast of town. In town there are two 9-hole courses. The Army Course that you find close to Mae Fa Luang Bridge and The Old Airport course, which also has a driving range. You can also find a golf instructor there.
- Lion Hill Cave Located 2 km west of town, directly across the Mae Kok River from Pattaya Noi. On its west end there’s a Buddha Cave and a pleasant picnic/park area. Close to its east end, there’s a 3-chambered cavern, and each chamber has a natural skylight at its apex. The largest chamber is big enough to house a middle-aged sequoia tree. Trekkers can hike through the hills from the river side (south) to the road side (north). Volunteers from nearby Boomerang Park have kept both approaches clear of weeds, and have cut a new path leading from the north opening to the road below. Lion Hill is also home to Thailand’s largest red fig tree, halfway along the hill on the river side. Early summer is when you can see its massive branches covered in dark pink figs.
- Wanna Farm is an interesting place about 5 km east of Chiang Rai on 1020 (go east at the big light on the highway south of town). The farm has ostriches which you can feed or ride for 150 baht. It has a low-quality midway section with old carnival games to play. Offers camping and other random activities as well.
- Central Plaza Movie Theatre Central Plaza has a movie theatre that shows English-language movies.
- Bi-lingual Movie Nights, Open Mic Nights, Yoga, Monthly Art Exhibitions and Workshops at Prataap Jai in Sankhongnoi (home to the Sunday Happy St). This small three storey shop aims to be a place “where cultures align”. It offers a number of affordable activities in both English and Thai. The website details current events.
- Bicycling Chiang Rai is made for cycling; little traffic, good roads, flat. Many shops rent out bicycles. If you are looking for a proper bike try ADD Bike at 151/4 Thanalai Road. Tel. 053-744-317, GPS – N 19 54.485, E 099 49.621. Or Fat Free Bike Shop, 542/2 Baanpa Pragarn Road Tel. 053-752-532, 089-755-4676 GPS – N 19 54.412, E 099 49.973. (Near clocktower).
- Cooking with Ann Thai cooking class that offer private cooking lesson and she let you choose your own dishes to cook.
- Wai Sa Phaya Mengrai or Phokhun Mengrai Maharat Festival is held 23 January–1 February. See the Buang Suang worshipping ceremony which commemorates Phokhun Mengrai Maharat. The fair is organised by the Chiang Rai Provincial Office, Tel: +66 53 711 612
- Lychee Fair is held around the middle of May every year. There is a float competition, lychee beauty contest and booths of many local products at the provincial stadium of Chiang Rai.
Where To Shop
Morning Market– In the morning there is a good market in Chiang Rai that sells bamboo sticks, fish, among a lot of good local foods meaning you get a real feel for the place.
- Night Bazaar & Food Court – The Night Bazaar is located between the bus station and Phaholyothin Rd in the centre of town. The market consists of many small stands lining the narrow street running between Phaholyothin Rd and the bus station. Everything is on display from silk ready-made garments to tattoo etching, even pets. The hill tribes sell an amazing selection of old coins, high quality needlework, and very fine quilted bed spreads.This may be one of the best and most interesting Night Markets around…far more interesting than the rather repetetive ones in Chiang Mai and Luang Prabang
- Saturday Walking Street – The Saturday Walking Street is located on Thanon Thanalai in the centre of town. The market is 4 blocks long with a attached food area with music near the Eastern End. The market is open between 18:00 until 22:00.
- Sunday Walking Street – As of August 2011 there is now a second walking street along Sankhongnoi, southwest of the town centre. Though slightly smaller, the Sankhongnoi Happy Street features more performances and cultural activities than the Saturday Walking Street.
- Central Plaza – Central Plaza is Chiang Rai’s mall. Located south of the city centre on the super highway it is 4 stories tall and has cinema which shows English-language movies. It has a high end supermarket with many Western foods (Grd Flr). It is located across the highway from Big C and is connected by a pedestrian bridge. Big C has a number of small shops surrounding as well and acts as a mini mall. Big C clothes have Western sizes. Both Big Cs and Central Plaza have food courts.
Where To Eat
Night Bazaar food court opening up at dusk
There is lots of good food to be found in Chiang Rai, but most tourists seem to end up eating at the Night Bazaar. There are two separate places to eat here: “Centrepoint”, run by a single restaurant with a Western-Thai menu and comparatively high prices (dishes 100-200 baht), and then the “actual” night bazaar food court (dishes 30-100 baht). Both have free music and dance performances almost nightly. The one run by the Night Market Restaurant has comfortable wooden furniture while the food court uses rather ugly yellow metal tables and chairs. While there are over 50 food stalls to choose from, the fare on offer is mostly quite touristy, with food toned down for the tourist palate. About half the stalls seem to be devoted to selling deep-fried stuff (fritters, French fries, tempura, etc) to accompany beer. There are also a few non-Thai stalls, offering Italian, Indian, German etc, plus the obligatory (and extremely overpriced) insect stall for creepy-crawly cravings. The most popular meals, and the ones you see Thai families and couples eating, are from the hotpot stands. Choose between beef, pork, chicken, or seafood, and cook your own proteins and vegetables in a soup pot.
- Chiang Rai Beach during the day or the early evening is an excellent spot. There are around 20 cafes and restaurants overlooking the ‘Mae Kok River’. Bring your dictionary with you for there are no English menus to be found. A bit out of town. Go by tuk-tuk or motorbike.
- Muang Thong Restaurant, delicious Chinese food, very popular with locals. At the edge of Jetyod Rd and Phaholyothin Rd. Try the garlic fish.
- Nakhon Pathom Phahonyothin, near Banphaprakan Rd intersection. The famous khao moo deng (rice with red sautéed pork, or as shown on the menu: ‘rice with BBQ pork’, 30 baht) tastes best at this big Chinese restaurant. No English sign but look for the red sign board with large yellow font Thai letters. It’s opposite the Lebanese shop. Big cold coffee machines attract the locals to having lunch there.
- Phetburi, Th Banphaprakan. Local curry-and-rice restaurant, just pick your favourites from the display. Under 50 baht for a full meal. Ratburi, right next door, is very similar.
- Po Sai, Thanon Jet Yot 1023/2 (opposite Wangcome Hotel). Famous for its khao soy (Burmese style chicken curry with noodles, 30 baht) and other northern dishes like special Northern Thai sausage (25 baht) and nam phrik num (dip made of aubergine and peppers). There is an English menu. Portions are on the small side but are cheap and delicious. Open early but closes by 18:00.
- Tong Tung Restaurant (no English sign) serves you Northern Thai food. Try this semi-outdoor place on the western side of the road about 1 km south of Banphaprakan Rd on 1/1 Thanon Sanambin (old Airport Rd). Their ‘Kaeng Hung Lay’ curry is recommended.
- Coffee P2 is a nice coffee shop located on Thanalai Rd (Saturday Walking Street) near Ratanaket Rd. Their food is organic and they grow their own hydroponic lettuce. They also have delicious steaks and good pastries. You can also get a beer.
- Ingfa is located just west of the town centre on Ratchayotha. This new restaurant has a vast menu of Thai and Western food including pizzas. Their hamburger is probably the best in Chiang Rai.
- The North In The North Hotel. Specializes in home-made Northern-style food. Here you can find Northern Thai sausage, Kaeng Hunglay (northern pork curry) and a variety of northern style dishes made by the mother of the owner. Their family recipes will give you a real taste of Northern cuisine. The North Hotel is situated next to Oasis, just in the middle of a small street between the Night Bazaar and fruit and flower market.2013-05-28, the personnel derisively claimed to never have had a restaurant in the place.
- Oasis is a very specialized and delicious vegetarian restaurant. Behind the new main stage at the ‘Night Bazaar’ you’ll notice a high building situated behind the small cafes which still belong to the market. It’s at the corner of a street which leads to the fruit market. A “must” for vegetarians. Open until 20:00.
- Sabroso is an authentic Mexican restaurant, run by a Mexican family. Cochinita Torta at Sabroso in a casual contemporary setting (air-conditioned). They serve tacos, tortas, burritos, tostadas, enchiladas, quesadillas, chorizo, cheesy beans, salads, and a couple of Tex-Mex options like chimichangas and nachos. They also have great Margaritas, horchata, jamaica, limonada, tres leches cake, flan… Their staff is super friendly, and they speak English well! All dishes are under 195 baht, and they take credit cards. Taco Tuesday: tacos at 50% off. Torta Thursday: tortas 50% off. To get there, go north from the main street downtown, past the police stations. After you cross the bridge, it’ll be right there on your left.
- Soodkhed Steak serves meat-based Western fare at a very affordable price range outside the tourist centre. Situated at the residential end of Thanon Baanpapragarn, after the High School. Fan-only. No alcohol served.
- Siam Corner on Jet Yot Rd. Very good Thai food, some Western dishes also.
- Aye’s Restaurant Great restaurant, serving both European and Thai quality food. From German schnitzels and English breakfast to traditional Thai food. Located on Paholyothin Rd diagonally opposite entrance to Night Bazaar. There’s a nice atmosphere and a live music every night.
- Cabbages and Condoms 620/25 Thanalai Rd (Hilltribe Museum), Tel: +66 53 719 167, Classy (if somewhat toned-down) Thai food in chic settings, with condoms cropping up in all sorts of unexpected places. Profits go to support family planning and sex education in Thailand.
- Da Vinci is another good place on the main road serving nice pizzas from a wood burning oven as well as pastas and salads. Their lasagne is recommended. Only go if you are feeling rich!
- Hungry Wolf’s Excellent authentic American food including pizzas, burgers, pastas, wings, salads, and more at very high prices. They have a large beer selection and draft beer as well. They’re well known in the city most likely for their 25 inch pizzas. The owners are an American from New York and an Australian, friendly and willing to accommodate. They deliver too. For precise directions use their Facebook or find them on Google. A “must” if you want quality Western food but not cheap.
Jet Yod Rd is lined with foriegner-friendly bars, restaurants, and guest houses.
- Rose Bar, (Just off Jet Yod Road opposite Wangcome Hotel). classy bar with some nice outside seating.
- Cat Bar, (on Jet Yod Rd). with jam sessions almost every day and a pool table
- Easy Bar, (on Jet Yod Rd). Open all day. You can have a meal here, read The Bangkok Post, watch cable TV
- SitSip Bar & Coffee House, (on the ground floor, Wangcome Hotel), ☎ +66 53 711 800. The place is decorated in modern style. Serving drinks, foods and snacks, and lots of cocktails.
- The Turntable Jazz Bar, (in the North Hotel between the Night Bazaar and Sirikorn (flower and fruit) Market), ☎ +66 53 719 873 (fax: +66 53 740 156), . This is the only place you can find a wide range of jazz records from the 40 year-old collection of the hotel’s Norwegian co-owner. Several jazz-related books can also be found. The bar offers cheap beer and drinks and a friendly atmosphere.
The Connect cafe next to the central bus station is excellent and serves a wide range of food. Very popular with tourists. Some small element of your bill goes towards a charitable institution.
Where To Stay
Some of the information below is old, so please double check the room rates before heading to the guest house/hotels on the list. Information without a date on could be quite old.
|This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:|
|Budget||less than B500|
- Thailand Tour-Hotel, Rattanakade Rd. (At Phaholyothin Rd.) (From the City central bus station, go onto Rattanakade main Rd. and walk towards the Mae Kok river for 3~4 min. Before you reach Phaholyothin Rd., you’ll find the yellow sign, it says “Dorm Bed B99” on your right.). Very close from the City central bus station. Great location! The owner family live somewhere else, and they often go back home. So very often you don’t find anybody at the reception especially in the morning. When they go back home, they lock the front door. So if you arrive while they are gone, you’ll have to wait for them to come back. Sometimes they would be gone for a few hours, but eventually they’ll come back, so be patient. The guests will all have keys to the front door, a key to the room and another key for the locker. When you go out, don’t forget your keys, you’ll be locked out even during the daytime. It’s better to check-in after 15:00, you’ll likely to find them sitting at the reception. The owners are nice and helpful people. Free WiFi in the rooms. (Dec. 2014) 4 Bed Dorm:B99, Rooms:B180~. edit
- Ban Lotus Guest House – Restaurant, (From the City central bus station, walk towards the Mae Kok river on Rattanakade Rd. until the Police Station (about 15min walk), then you’ll need to go into a small ally on the right. It’s less than 5min walk from the Police Station. If you can’t find it, ask at the Police Station, they should know. It’s located behind the Police Residence and in the same street as the Mae Hong Son GH and Jitaree GH.), ☎ 080-879-9242. They have a large courtyard for camping. Free parking space available for bicycles and motorcycles. There is a self-catering kitchen, tea and coffee free for breakfast. Wifi available. An ideal place for campers. (Dec. 2014) Camping: B50/person, Singles without bathroom: B100, Singles with bathroom: B150 (low season: B100); Doubles/Twins with bathroom: B200. Rent a motorcycle start from B150/day.
- Akha Camping Set in the stunning mountains of Doi Chang, Mae Suai, Chiang Rai, Camp on a private site in an authentic hill tribe village from 100-500 baht.☎+66 93 256 2760″
- City Home Guest House, ☎+66 053600155, 868 Paholyothin Rd, 2 mins walk from bus station. 50m north of Night Bazaar entrance. Dorm room (6 beds) 180 Baht. Small rooms with fan and shared bathroom for 350B, private bathroom and airco for 650B(201507). Free Wi-Fi. Nice staff. Backs onto Night Bazaar and so is noisy until 12:00am.
- Tourist Inn  1004/1 Jedyod road, pretty close to the bus station. 150B for a single room with shared toilet (pretty clean) to 600B Deluxe AC room. Free speedy Wi-Fi. Staff is a little bit distant but it’s pretty usual for a big place with no personality, however, this is good value for money hotel and it’s walking distance from everything. As of Feb 2014 email and website do not work.
- Baan Bua Homestay, Down lane beside Tourist Inn, pretty close to the bus station. 180B for a three bed fan dormitory attached bathroom. 400B for a double room. Free speedy Wi-Fi. Friendly Staff Also walking distance from everything. ☎085 622 9683
- Chian House, 172 Sriboonruang Rd (North of the City not far from the Kok river), Very friendly staff, Family run, swimming pool. Walking distance to Local market, Night Bazaar, Bars, Kok river and many temples. 180-500 Bath. edit
- Baan Norn Plearn Guesthouse, 382 Banpaprakan Rd (close to Bus Station 1 and Wat Phra Kaew), ☎ +66 87 304 8911 ([email protected]). checkin: flexible; checkout: 12:00. Fourteen uniquely decorated rooms with modern amenities. Comfortable, clean, quiet, and secure. Enjoy complimentary breakfast, 24-hour kitchen use with coffee and tea provided, free Wi-Fi and use of well-maintained bicycles for guest convenience. Spacious café, garden, family room, and book. Laundry service, cheerful and objective touring advice, and motorbike rental available. English spoken and environmentally friendly. Please review pictures via Facebook page. 450+ baht.
- Chat House  100-400 baht. Old wooden house with attached restaurant and friendly staff. Free Wi-Fi. Near Wat Phra Kaeo and Overbrook hospital dormitory. Laundry for 40 baht/kg, you are not allowed to do laundry by yourself. Bed in 4-bed-dorm 100B, but they might tell you it’s not available even if it is. Single room with shared bathroom 150B. Shared toilets and showers (hot shower only in the morning) are downstairs outside.
- Fun-D Hostel Chiang Rai, 753 Phahonyothin Rd., Wiang, Meuang (1 km from the Bus Station 1, walk north-east to the bigger road and follow it east), ☎ +66(0)53 712 123, +66(0)90 520 0688,check-in: 14:00; check-out: at Noon. Fun-D Hostel Chiang Rai is a brand new, chic & colorful place with 24-hour reception, providing all air conditioned dorms; 4 bunk beds with shared but separate gender bathrooms, or the dorms with private bathrooms and 1 double deluxe room. Self service breakfast included from 7 a.m.-10 a.m..Nice restaurant serving Thai and fusion dishes. Free Wi-Fi throughout the area. The Laundry is offering Automatic coin-operated washing machine & dryer. Located in the center of Chiang Rai, easy to travel and explore the whole city with variety of tourist attractions. dorm from ฿259+. (19.907762,99.84042)
- Lek & Damian, Sanpanad Road, Newly opened, family-run and very friendly homestay place! Just three Dormbeds (150 Baht) and one Singleroom (250 Baht), but cosy and clean. Free Wi-Fi, drinking water and hot shower. The owner Lek is amazingly helpful and welcoming!
- Easy House, 869/163-4 Premaviphat Rd, ☎ +66 53 60 0 963. Simple fan rooms with shared bathrooms. Bathrooms and rooms are clean though the mattresses are rather worn. Nice bar/restaurant downstairs. No laundry but laundromats nearby. 170 baht single room. 200 baht double room.
- Jitaree Guest House, (next to Mae Hong Son Guest House.). Twin/double with fan and private bathroom. included WiFi, in a quiet courtyard. 300 baht. Clean rooms (with tv) and friendly staff. Owner can arrange motorbike rentals (300 THB & up). The concrete building makes the room feeling more private compared to traditional Thai wooden buildings.
- Mae Hong Son Guest House in Chiang Rai, 126 Santirach Rd, tel. +66 05 371 5367, +66 86 586 4764. Located ~1 km (~15 min walk from bus station) north of downtown. Pass the police station it’s the second alley on the right, before the new bridge. Rooms are basic, but clean and staff are very friendly. Doubles from 150 baht (fan and shared bathroom) to 250 baht (private bathroom). Free Wi-Fi. Good restaurant & bar, bicycle/motorbike rental, laundry service (40 baht/kg) and tour service.
- Orchids Guesthouse, 1012/3 Jet Yod Rd (off Jet Yod Rd), ☎ +66 53 718 361, 15 new very clean, spotless double rooms with air-con, TV, free Wi-Fi, coffee/tea included. Central location, quiet rooms, they also offer car, bicycles or motorcycle hire and trekking options with a licensed guide. 350-450 baht.
- Ruangnakorn Hotel (near the police station) costs 450 baht.
- Sport Inn Hotel 557 Prachasanti Rd, tel: +66 53 756 959, fax: +66 53 756 156. Very nice hotel, free Wi-Fi, 300m from the golf club, 2.5km south of night bazaar, 1km from central plaza and BigC, Air-con double rooms 350 baht.
- YMCA International Hotel 70 Phaholyothin Rd, tel:+66 53 713 785 to 6, +66 53 702 763 to 4 – rates 100-400 baht.
- Akha River House, 423/25 Moo 21 Kholoy, ☎ +66 89 997 5505, checkout: 12:00. Quiet guest house. Free Wi-Fi, laundry. 20 rooms. Mud-style house with bamboo furniture. Lots of space to relax outside. On the bank of the Mea Kok River. It has a nice restaurant and their staff are very friendly. Organize a great jungle trek. 250 baht double (communal bathroom) 350 baht double (private bathroom) – 1,200 baht.
- Baan Bua Homestay, 1047/2 Jet Yod Rd, ☎ +66 53 717952, +66 84 950 6304 ([email protected]), . 500-700 baht. edit
- Baan Lanna Hotel, 395 Moo 2, Rimkok, ☎ +66 53 712 555 ([email protected]). Clean air-con rooms, mini-bar and friendly staff. 450-800 baht. edit
- Ban Lom Jen Homestay, 227 Moo 4, Maeyao, ☎ +66 85 622 2097 ([email protected]). Air-con and fan-rooms 24 square metres, private shower, balcony, 24″ LCD-satellite TV, fridge, double or twin box spring beds, free Wi-Fi public areas and in rooms. 550-1,150 baht.
- Baan Warabordee, 59/1 Sanpanard Rd, Moo 18, ☎ +66 53 754 488 ([email protected], fax: +66 53 719 293), Very beautiful, clean, air-con, well-decorated rooms in a quiet street near the centre, in the street behind the Wiang Inn. English is spoken reasonably well. It is a 300m walk to a main road, and close to the bus station and night market. You can drop laundry some 300m up the road, give them your hotel number and they will return it by evening if you put it in before 09:00 (they do not speak English). Another 50m at the main road intersection is a restaurant where you can get a good Thai breakfast for under 100 baht, and a cheap dinner with beer also. Some English spoken there. 600 baht.
- Kaeo Fa Sai Nanglae Resort, 298/49 Moo 5 Thanon Thasud, Baan Borthong, Amphur Muang Chiang Rai 57110, ([email protected]),. Mountain views, with pool. Very quiet. All rooms aircon.
- City Home, 868 Phahonyothin Rd, ☎ +66 53 600 155 ([email protected]). 20 rooms, fan/air, cable TV. Good location near night market and bus station. Clean rooms, good value for money. 600 baht.
- Kong Garden View Resort, 134/12 M.3 T. Robwiang Muang (3,5 km away from city centre on a small alley from the route 1233), ☎ +66 82 762-8941 ([email protected]), checkout: 12:00. Large hotel with a central lake, popular among local tourists. Very good value for money. Free shuttle service to bus station and night market. Rooms from800 baht (600 in low season) including buffet breakfast. Fridge, TV, air-con, Wi-Fi.
- Lek House, 95 Rachayotha Rd, ☎ +66 53 711 550 ([email protected]). 4 backpacker rooms, 8 superior rooms: TV, DVD, mini-bar, hot & cold shower, 1 Jacuzzi room. All rooms include breakfast. Friendly staff, swimming pool, genuine Thai kitchen at low-budget prices, bar, free Wi-Fi. 350-1,300 baht.
- New Life Foundation, No. 49, Moo 1, Amphoe Don Sila, Wiang Chai District, Chiang Rai, ☎ +66 85 714 2834 ([email protected]). Friendly non-profit mindful recovery and self-development community on a farm set amongst hills and lakes 30 minutes outside of Chiang Rai city. Great value for money. Clean and basic en suite rooms with fans available for guest stays. Rate inclusive of healthy breakfast and Thai-style buffet lunch and dinner, use of swimming pool, steam bath, and free access to yoga, Tai chi, and meditation sessions held twice daily. Warm water showers, free Wi-Fi in dining hall. Single rooms 750 baht per night, twin-share rooms (2 persons max) 1250 baht per night. Air-con an extra 200 baht per night..
- Sunantha House and Business Hotel, 395/1 Moo 21 Santirat Rd, Rob Wiang, Meuang, ☎ +66 53 744 898 ([email protected]), check-in: After 2pm; check-out: 12 pm. Comfortable, exceptionally clean, quiet and cozy hotel located very close to restaurants and the Mae Sai market, approximately 1km from the city centre. All rooms have a private balcony, queen sized beds, air conditioning, refrigerator private bathroom with shower, TV with free cable, free Wi-Fi. Laundry service available. Bicycle and motor scooter rentals (150 baht/day) are available for guests. 500-600 baht.
- Luck Swan Resort and Spa, 499 Moo 4, Rimkok, ☎ +66 53 750 855 fax: +66 53 750 857. New hotel with Thai and Western food. Air-con rooms. Hotel has a nice garden and gazebo. 1,200 to 1,800 baht. Free Internet access in the lobby.
- La Luna, (a short drive from the Chiang Rai morning market), . Giant bed, nice wet room/bathroom, big satellite TV in the rooms plus nice swimming pool. The gardens are the best feature: lots of tropical plants well-maintained in a labyrinth of guest villas. The restaurant is comparatively expensive compared to the rest of Chiang Rai, but aren’t all hotels. Basic meals are 250 to 350 baht but require add-ons like plain water 50 baht or a small bowl of rice 50 baht. Large breakfast choice including western breakfast items, Thai porridge is on offer which is a must try. Overall, the place is beautiful to look at and rooms are extremely comfortable but the restaurant is a little expensive compared to other places in Chiang Rai.
- Museflower Retreat & Spa, 159/1 Moo 1 Ban Samanmit, T. Donsila, A. Wiang Chai, Chiang Rai 57210 (from city about 17km follow 1/AH2 to Hwy 1020 to Hwy 1152 to Phaya Mengrai)), ☎ +66 (0)931370414 ([email protected]), . Check-in: 2-9pm; checkout: by noon. An all-inclusive cozy vegetarian retreat center that offers healing, learning, and natural living practices. Clean and down-to-earth bungalows with wall fans, solar-heated warm water shower, facing the private lake and organic farm. Room rate inclusive of three organic vegetarian meals per day and one wellness class, such as yoga, stretching, tai chi per day. Facilities include Museflower Spa, salt water swimming pool, herbal steam, floating room, bicycle for rent, aquaponics, free Wi-Fi in all public areas. Facilities also for rent for groups up to 36 people. from 1,980thb & up.
- The Legend Chiang Rai Boutique River Resort & Spa, 124/15 Moo 21 Kohloy Road, ☎ +66 (0)53 910 400 ([email protected], fax: +66 (0)53 719 650).. The Legend Chiang Rai Resort lies along the Mae Kok River, secluded from Chiang Rai town, yet only a few minutes by car from the city center. The property has a panoramic view of the near-by hills and mountains. The riverside is rich with large rain trees and lush vegetation. The immediate surroundings are relatively undeveloped, providing a tranquil, natural location ideal for a resort & spa. 3,300 to 9,100 bhat depending on room type and season.
- Wangcome Hotel, 69/90 Pemawibhata Rd, ☎ +66 53 711 800, . One of Chiang Rai’s older hotels located in the city center, it is currently being updated. New modern lobby, conference room, and rooms that look reasonably up to date. Food is still not top-notch though, but it has certainly improved. Rooms ranging from 900-5000 baht. edit
Leaving Chiang Rai
Bus schedule at the central bus station
To Chiang Mai
There are three types of buses to Chiang Mai:
- VIP : B288
- X-Class : B185
- A-Class : B144
X-Class and A-Class buses stop for a break for 15 minutes about a halfway through the journey, and it takes just over 3 hours to get to Chiang Mai. A-Class bus is a simple large bus without toilet, and it was very comfortable for 3 hours journey. X-class provides free water, nuts, and hand-towel. VIP buses take 3 hours. Buses operated by Greenbus depart regularly throughout the day. Greenbus buses start from the city central bus station (Bus Terminal 1) and stop also at the New Bus Terminal 2 to pick up more passengers.
Three types of buses depart for Bangkok from Bus Terminal 2:
- VIP – 3 buses daily, 990 baht,
Journeys take approximately 11-12 hours. They arrive at the Mo Chit Bus Station in Bangkok.
To Mae Sai
Buses to Mae Sai on the Myanmar-Thailand border leave frequently from Bus Terminal 1, taking over an hour. Greenbus also operates vans between Chiang Rai and Mae Sai, leaving from Platform 19 in Bus Terminal 1. Services begin at 0630 and end at 1830 with departures every half hour.
To Chiang Khong (The Lao Border)
If you want to go to Laos by land from Chiang Rai, you’ll have to go to Chiang Khong, the border town, 113km from Chiang Rai. It takes just over 2 hours by bus.
Buses depart from the old bus station (Bus Terminal 1) between 6:30 to 16:30 every hour, costing B65. The buses are red and have a timetable next to them (March 2017)
To Laos – Huay Xai (Bokeo)
Direct bus to Huay Xai leave from Bus Terminal 2 (10 minutes from the center, 15bath) at 10am, 4:30pm, and 5pm for 220baht, the bus will wait for you at the border for the Visa. At this time only one company operates on this route. However, it is an excellent way to go in Laos hassle-free.
To Laos- Luang Namtha, Oudomxay and Luang Prabang
Direct Bus to Northern Laos towns and leaves from Chiang Rai bus terminal 2 every Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 1230pm. The bus is operated by Transport Co. Thailand. Book bus tickets a day in advance or early in the morning of your departure as the bus starts from Chiang Mai and maybe fully booked. It costs 950 thai baht to Luang
The route of the bus is as follows: Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai (stops for quick lunch), Luang Namtha (stops for quick dinner), Oudomxay and Luang Prabang. Depending on road conditions and how quickly everyone passes through immigration, the total journey from Chiang Rai including stops is roughly 16 hours.
For other direct buses to other destinations in Laos on different week days check at the desk.
- Check out the royal villas and mountaintop temple views at Doi Tung, you can hire a car with driver for about 1600 baht for the day, plus fuel, and you go where you want to go, this is an excellent and enjoyable trip
- Visit Thailand’s northernmost town at Mae Sai and pop across the border to Tachileik, Myanmar (no visa needed).
- Go northeast to the Golden Triangle, where Laos, Myanmar and Thailand meet; formerly a major opium-growing region.