North east of Chiang Mai is the region’s quieter neighbour, Chiang Rai. Mountainous and inviting, this smaller province lies on the south bank of the Kok River, and borders with Burma and Laos.
Chiang Rai's climates are cooler than those in the south, offering ideal weather conditions for travellers embarking on hill treks. Whilst trekking, it is possible to spend the night in any of the regions temples, although a small donation is required. The bordering of Burma and Laos at the meeting of the Mekong and Ruak rivers forms the notorious Golden Triangle – once one of the world’s largest opium producers. Today, the area is simply renowned for its beauty, with lush forests, mountain-tops and extensive rice paddies creating a picturesque landscape.
One of the region’s key landmarks is the Wat Rong Khun, or the White Temple. The unusual structure was only recently built, but its striking mix of contemporary art and classic Buddhist architecture gives it a sense of surreal wonder. Unlike any other Thai temple, the design incorporates gothic elements, and must be reached via a bridge that crosses the ‘pits of hell’.
The scenic Mae Kok River runs through the heart of Chiang Rai, flowing gently past jungle banks and towering cliffs. Colourful long-tail boats make the journey down the river each day, and the trip is a great way to take in what is considered one of the most beautiful and unspoiled waterways of the world.
South of Chiang Rai town lies Doi Luang, one of Thailand’s largest National Parks. An imposing limestone peak – the third largest mountain in the country – stands proudly above the valley, while the rest of the park is dominated by dense jungle, stunning waterfalls and a rich variety of plant and animal life. The park is not the easiest to reach, but is a real must-see for nature lovers.
13 hours 55 minutes
Best Time To Go
November to March
The climate in Chiang Rai is generally a little cooler than in Chiang Mai, although temperatures average in the late twenties for most of the year. The cool season runs from December to March, but the temperatures will be increasing soon after New Year and by April or May it will be very hot and humid once more. During the rainy season of May to September the downpours can be extremely heavy, but tend to only last for an hour or so in the afternoons.