Situated just north of it’s sister city, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai is a province of exceptional natural beauty without a lot of traffic, minimal crime and better air quality, maybe that is why so many are now choosing Chiang Rai for their Thailand retirement home instead of Chiang Mai.
Chiang Rai has been inhabited since the seventh century, but it was not until 1262 that the King Meng Rai established the first capital of the Lanna Kingdom. The capital was later moved to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai has since lived in the shadow of its neighboring province, but for expats and tourists it is a good thing.
Today, Chiang Rai is a traveler’s paradise, with abundant natural attractions and antiquities. Attractions range from the ruins of ancient settlements and Buddhist shrines magnificent mountain scenery and hill tribe villages. For those interested in the natural side of Chiang Rai, jungle trekking is a magical experience; explore the northern mountains along the various hiking trails, many of which the access of people from different groups of hill tribes, many of which maintain their traditional lifestyles.
Chiang Rai, the former capital of the great kingdom of Lanna, is a province full of fascinating cultural and natural wonders, including the Golden Triangle, where Thailand, Laos, Burma and meet, an area that was once the center of the production opium trade that had great influence on cultural practices and lifestyles. Chiang Rai had fallen off the radar of tourism for many years, its people enjoying a very slow development and most traditional rural lifestyles.
Recently tourism has soared in Chiang Rai, where visitors have come to explore the natural beauty of the countryside, including a variety of different tribal communities in the mountains. Fortunately for tourists, Chiang Rai is also a center for community development projects, helping rural people to develop their sites without adversely affecting its natural and cultural assets. Chiang Rai is also the home of Retire In Thailand.
With a population of fewer than 100,000, Chiang Rai offers an intimacy that cannot be found in a large city such as Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Phuket and Pattaya. Although there are internationally accredited hospitals here, as well as some large shopping complexes just outside the city center, a small-town ambiance prevails.
Chiang Rai is in a natural setting. Thick, cool forests, majestic waterfalls, elephant camps, hot springs and some of the most diverse hill-tribe villages in the world are located just a short distance outside the city.
Most expats move to Chiang Rai after living in Chiang Mai. Here they tout the cleaner air, lighter traffic, friendlier population and lower cost of living. And unlike better-known Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai is not overrun by tourists and expats.
Chiang Rai has largely escaped the breakneck pace of “development at any cost” prevalent in much of Southeast Asia. Rental prices are extremely low, and you get a lot of house for your money.