Discover Thailand’s northern gem: Chiang Rai

This cultural paradise is filled with museums, temples and a rich tradition of handicrafts.

Chiang Rai is full of mystical temples and cultural gems.
  • Pilar Mitchell
  • December 2018
Brought to you by Tourism Authority of Thailand

Chiang Rai is in Thailand’s mountainous north, far from any beach. The north of the province sits on the Golden Triangle, the point where the borders of Laos, Thailand and Myanmar converge. Formerly the capital of the ancient Lanna kingdom, the city of Chiang Rai is an artists’ haven with plenty of museums, temples and an incredible tradition of textile and silver craftsmanship by local hill tribes.

What to see

Visiting Wat Rong Khun, or the White Temple, is surreal. The snow-white structure is covered in intricate, sometimes curious carvings, from classic Naga serpents to Western pop-culture idols like Michael Jackson. Privately owned, funded and designed by Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, the temple is a work in progress, slated for completion only in 2070.

Chiang Rai is also home to Chiang Saen, one of Thailand’s oldest cities, believed to date back to the 7th century. Some ancient sites survive here, including Buddha figures, ruins and the city’s defensive wall to the east, all interspersed with the city’s modern life. History buffs can learn more at Chiang Saen National Museum.

Back in Chiang Rai city, the colourful night bazaar is known for selling incredible textiles, silverwork and beads from the local tribes. In-between shopping, be sure to head to the outdoor food court for snacks such as northern sausage and deep-fried mealworms.

There are plenty of luxury resorts to retreat into in Chiang Rai.
There are plenty of luxury resorts to retreat into in Chiang Rai.

Where to stay

For a luxurious retreat high in the mountains, visit Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp and Resort. Wake to stunning views and choose from myriad activities each day – whether it’s a spa treatment, visiting the elephants, a private excursion to the Golden Triangle or a cooking class. Closer to the city centre, The Legend Chiang Rai is a comfortable boutique resort on the banks of the Mae Kok River.