Chiang Rai refers to both a city and the beautiful northernmost province in Thailand with inspiring rugged hills, tranquil rivers and a wealth of natural beauty. The city of Chiang Rai has a population of 62,000 with approximately twelve percent of its residents belonging to the "hill tribes" which are minority ethnic groups reflecting unique diversity from Chinese migration from nearby areas such as China's Yunnan Province. The entire region has a rich history of political conflict and fusion of Cantonese and Thai culture.
The high season in Chiang Rai is between November and March with desirable temperatures averaging 25 degrees Celsius/77 degrees Fahrenheit. December and January are however known as the cool season with temperatures often dropping to as low as 10 degrees Celsius at night. The climate in Chiang Rai is somewhat cooler to the rest of Thailand because of its higher elevation. The rainy season begins in July and ends in October.
While the small rural community of Chiang Rai is not linked to the impressive transit system of Bangkok, the Chiang Rai International Airport is conveniently available for travellers and links with multiple daily flights to Bangkok with a short trip time of one hour and thirty minutes. Major airlines such as Thai Airways and Air Asia fly from Chiang Rai. The major highway linking Bangkok to Chiang Rai, Mae Sai and the border of Burma is Route 1. The distance to travel by automobile from Bangkok to Chiang Rai is 839 kilometres and takes approximately fifteen hours by car or bus depending on the weather and season. For tourists who enjoy travelling by water there is a boat service between Chiang Rai and the Chiang Mai province which takes approximately four hours and offers greater opportunities for site seeing. This can be booked in either of the cities.
Visitors looking to escape the hustle and bustle of metropolitan Bangkok enjoy the change in pace and open vistas of Chiang Rai. The city was the location where the archaeological treasure "The Emerald Buddha" (Phra Kaeo Morakot) was unearthed. According to legend a pagoda in a temple in Chiang Rai was struck by lightning and split a stone column where the Buddha was enclosed. It is now housed at the Grand Palace in Bangkok along with three golden garments which mark the three climatic weather seasons of Thailand. Other notable tourist attractions in Chiang Rai are the Princess Mother Hall, the Doi Tung Royal Villa and the mighty Gate of Siam overlooking the Mekong River.
Luxury hotel accommodation in a resort style setting is available at the Dusit Resort, the Rimkok Resort Hotel and The River House Resort & Spa to name a few. There are also a number of lower budget guest houses and hostels, most notably Baan Warabordee and Akha River house. Chiang Rai is a fantastic place to spend a few days when on a vacation in Thailand. It is not as popular with tourists as it should be although this makes it a perfect time to visit to experience real Thai culture at its best.