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Discover Chiang Rai เมืองเชียงราย , Thailand, with Timothy Tye

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Wat Rong Khun, the White Temple of Chiang RaiWat Rong Khun, the White Temple of Chiang Rai
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Chiang Rai เมืองเชียงราย is the main town and provincial capital of Chiang Rai Province, the northernmost province of Thailand. It was once the capital of an ancient Lanna kingdom founded in 1262 by King Mangrai. Its geographical position, with hills to the west and by the banks of a major river, the Kok, makes it an ideal location for the first capital of the Lanna kingdom.

The choice of Chiang Rai was determined by the king's auspicious elephant, which was let loose to wander the hill. Where it stopped, that was the site for the capital. Even the date and time of the founding of Chiang Rai was regarded as auspicious: 5:48 pm on a Friday evening on the 26th of January, 1263.

Map of Sights in and around Chiang Rai

Places of Interest in Chiang Rai

  1. Chiang Rai First Church: A Presbyterian church built in 1914.
  2. Cultural Hall Museum: Museum showcasing prehistoric tools, medieval costumes, pottery and ancient Lanna manuscripts.
  3. Hall of Opium (GPS: 20.36471, 100.07347)
  4. Hill Tribe Museum: Museum at the centre of Chiang Rai with rather neglected displays of tribal architecture, tools and weaponry.
  5. Golden Triangle (GPS: 20.35429, 100.08139)
  6. Munniti Chiang Rai: A Taoist - Mahayana Buddhist temple
  7. Oub Kham Museum: Museum showcasing the art objects and everyday items used by the royal court of Lanna and surrounding kingdoms.
  8. Princess Mother Museum: Museum chronicling the life of the beloved Princess Mother, mother of the present king, Rama IX.
  9. Wat Klong Wiang: Beautiful temple with a history going back to 1432.
  10. Wat Ming Meuang: Temple at the intersection of Banphaprakan Road and Trairat Road.
  11. Wat Phra Kaeo: The Temple of the Emerald Buddha of Chiang Rai, significant for the fact that the Emerald Buddha was first discovered here in 1434 after a lightning struck open a chedi.
  12. Wat Phra Singh: Temple housing a major Buddha statue, the Phra Sihing Buddha.
  13. Wat Phra That Doi Chom Thong: Temple on the banks of the Kok River, with the chedi holding the oldest relic in Chiang Rai.
  14. Wat Rong Khun (GPS: 19.82407, 99.76295) A unique snow-white temple built by artist Chaloemchai Khositphiphat from 1998.

Categories of Sights in Chiang Rai

Mae Fah Luang Art & Cultural Centre, Chiang RaiMae Fah Luang Art & Cultural Centre, Chiang Rai
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Despite all the auspiciousness attached to the founding of Chiang Rai, it lost the status of capital less than two decades later, when King Mangrai shifted the capital, first to Wiang Kum Kam in 1286, and then, with more permanence, to Chiang Mai in 1296. Although having lost its status as capital, Chiang Rai regained some measure of importance when the Emerald Buddha was discovered at Wat Phra Kaeo here in 1434.

Chiang Rai became part of Burma from the beginning of the 18th century until 1786. By then it was an abandoned town. In 1844 it was repopulated through the relocation of villagers from Chiang Mai, Lamphun and Lampang. In 1899, when Siam annexed the Lanna kingdom, Chiang Rai became a province of Thailand.

Wat Phra Kaeo, the White Temple of Chiang RaiWat Phra Kaeo, the White Temple of Chiang Rai
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Travel to Chiang Rai

Travellers can land at the Chiang Rai International Airport (CEI), which is 8 kilometers from downtown Chiang Rai. Budget travellers can take AirAsia from Bangkok. From the airport, you can take a fixed-price taxi for ฿200.

Travel within Chiang Rai

As with most towns in Thailand, there is a multitude of tuk-tuks (three-wheelers) and songthaews (pickup trucks) that take passengers around. It is possible to hire a tuk-tuk by the hour to explore the various places within and around the city.

Pottery centre, Chiang RaiPottery centre, Chiang Rai
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