Located in the northernmost region of Thailand, Chiang Rai was founded in 1262 by Phra Mengrai as the capital of the Lao-Thai Lanna kingdom. A mountainous area offering stunning green landscapes filled with rivers and jungle, it became a province in 1910. To the north, Chiang Rai borders Burma and to the east is Laos.
Its population consists of various ethnic groups, including those from hill tribes and Chinese lineage, making it a special place in Thailand for tourists to experience unique traditions.
Chiang Rai town, a close competitor to its neighbour Chiang Mai, offers a more laid-back vibe, and has recently become popular with tourists looking for a quieter, more authentic experience of Northern Thailand.
A diversity of attractions and a relaxed vibe coupled with a top-notch accommodation makes Chiang Rai a great destination for a wedding with a difference.
Sample a brew at the Choui Fong Tea Plantation
Get a massage Monmueang Lanna Massage
Go on a Mekong River Cruise
Visit The Golden Triangle (the border between Thailand, Laos, and Burma)
Soak your feet in the Pong Phra baht Hot Springs
Bird watching at Chiang Saen Lake
Visit the elephant camp at Kok River
Chiang Rai city tour by tricycle
Phra That Doi Jom Thong, Wat Phra Singh, Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Rong Khun (also known as The White Temple), Ku Phra Chao Meng Rai
Chiang Saen Historical Park
Baan Dam (Black House) Museum
Hill Tribe Museum & Education Centre
Chui Fong Tea Farm
The Golden Triangle (the border between Thailand, Laos, and Burma)
Hall of Opium, Golden Triangle Park
The tradition in Chiang Rai is to have a khan toke dinner, featuring different dishes served on a small, round table, and found in many restaurants in town. Food in northern Thailand has been influenced by the country’s neighbors Burma and Laos, and also by China. Some traditional dishes include khang khanoon (spicy jackfruit curry) served with sticky rice and sai ooa (spicy pork sausages).
Hungry Wolf’s Steak & Ale House
Chiang Rai is not exactly known for being party central, but there are still a few hangouts where expats, backpackers, and volunteers meet to share a drink or two to the rhythm of live music or gathered around a pool game.
The Turntable Jazz bar
Many rural communities in Chiang Rai are producing handicrafts or working in agriculture. Both goods can be purchased on-site, be it in these same remote villages or in the city. The Mae Sai border market, an hour’s drive north of Chiang Mai, is a great place for shopping. Tachileik market in Myanmar is also interesting (check for visa requirements).
The Chiang Rai Night Bazaar is open daily from 6:30-11 pm.
Mae Fah Luang Arts & Crafts
- The cool season (from mid-October to mid-February) is the best time to visit Chiang Rai as the weather creates stunning views from the mountaintops. Enjoy Chiang Rai’s Flower Festival which is held from the end of December until the beginning of January.
- Hill tribes perform cultural shows that you don’t want to miss during the New Year Festival (end of December/beginning of January).
- Get briefed at the Population Development Association’s Hill-tribe Education Centre prior to organising or setting out on a trek to visit hill tribe villages.
Flights from Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi and Don Muaeng airports) to Chiang Rai International Airport take 1.30 hours. Airlines like Air Asia, Nok Air, Thai Lion Air, Bangkok Airways, and Thai Smile Airways fly daily to and from there.
Approximate travel time from the airport to a hotel in Chiang Rai can take anything from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours – keep this in mind when booking your hotel.