Chiang Rai Tours

Making a side-trip to Chiang Rai is a classic option for visitors to Chiang Mai. The Golden Triangle is one of the most popular sightseeing attractions, but there is so much more to Chiang Rai province!

The city of Chiang Rai was established in the year 1262 by King Mengrai, who later built Chiang Mai as well. Prior to this, his ancestors had migrated from Yunnan province in China and established a kingdom centered on Chiang Saen and stretching into northern Laos. Centuries later, the royal family in Chiang Mai continued to regard Chiang Saen as their ancestral home and used it as a family retreat.

Chiang Rai City

Singha Park

The 'park' consists of over 12 square km of tea fields, lakes, fruit trees and flower beds. In the center of Singha ParkSingha Park is a restaurant with views of it all, so this is a great option if your itinerary has you passing by at lunch-time.

White Temple & Black House

In recent years, White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) has become the most popular attraction within the city of Chiang Rai. The white temple is the highlight of a larger complex that showcases the works of artist Chalermchai Kositpipat.

The Black House is temple-styled art gallery - it showcases the work of another renowned Chiang Rai artist Thawan Duchanee. The art is quite confronting and not to everyone's taste - we recommend you do some research before including this in your itinerary.

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Northern Border Region

Mae Sai

60 km north of Ching Rai, Mae Sai is a border-crossing with Myanmar, and is the northern-most point of Thailand. This part of the border is formed by the Mae Sai river which flows east from here to join the Ruak river before feeding into the Mekong river at the golden triangle.

With all the cross-border trade, the markets here are vibrant and have some interesting hand-made items. 

Golden Triangle

The golden triangle is a large geographic region including parts of Myanmar, Laos, and Northern Thailand. Infamous as one of the largest sources of opium production in the world, especially during the 2nd half of the 20th century, the center of the golden triangle is a point where the Ruak river converges with the the Mekong river. As national borders, these rivers  bring together the borders of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos at a single point.

It is possible to take a short boat ride across to Laos - no visa is required, and your passport is held in safety on the Thai side of the Mekong river. On the other side there is a small market of minor interest, but the boat ride itself is quite fun and provides a good view of the banks on both sides as well as passing cargo boats.

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Western Mountain Region

Doi Tung

Doi TungDoi Tung is a prominent peak in Chiang Rai province. Home to Shan, Lahu, and Akha communities, this area was previously dominated by opium farming. The opium trade enriched the trade bosses, but caused widespread devestation of the environment and local people. Under royal patronage, around 15 hectares was reforested and repurposed for sustainable agricultural development in 1988.Today this mountainous district is incredibly beautiful and unrecognizable from the scarred landscape you see in old photos at the museum.

The main attraction is the Mae Fah Luang gardens, but there is also ticketed entry to the royal pavillions and the museum. Locally grown Doi Tung branded coffee is available at the cafes on site, and is one of the most recognised coffee brands in Thailand.

Mae Salong

This amazing district is centred on the town of Santikhiri, which is populated by the descendants of Kuomintang (KMT) soldiers who were unable or unwilling to evacuate to Taiwan after losing to the Chinese communist forces in 1949. Fleeing China, the "lost army" were involved in armed conflicts and opium production in Myanmar for many years. Assisting Thailand in combatting communist insurgents, the families of the "lost army" were eventually granted land and citizenship by Thailand in the 1980's.

As a result of one of the most unlikely and amazing stories of the 20th century, you are now able to walk through the daily market of ths happy and peaceful town surrounded by tea fields. Stay at least long enough to taste the various local teas, but if you have more time, you can enjoy some Yannanese specialties for dinner.

Driving in either direction from the village (towards Chiang Rai or Chiang Mai), you pass some amazing farmland and get to see local people going about their work wearing traditional garb. What you wil see here is totally free ot the contrived 'demonstration village' experience you will find closer to the big cities. This is the most accessible area in Northern Thailand where you can see hilltibe people retaining their traditional culture and practices.

Thaton

 Thaton is a sleepy town in the far northern reaches of Chiang Mai province. It is a good place to stop for lunch with picturesque river views. A white Buddha statue overlooking the town offers views up and down the river.

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Chiang Rai Tours - Map

Chiang Rai Map

We recommend spending at least 1 night in Chiang Rai province. While many visitors to Chiang Mai take a day trip to Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle, most of the day is spent on the road, so we recommend against this (see day-trip reviews on tripadvisor if you are not convinced).

The most direct route from Chiang Mai is route 118, heading north-east from Chiang Mai. There are alternate scenic routes via the northern end of Chiang Mai province, so if you have 2 nights or more in Chiang Rai province, you may return by a different route.

Chiang Rai Tours - Sample Itineraries

1 Night (Chiang Rai + Golden Triangle)

Day 1 - Pickup from your hotel in Chiang Mai - Lunch at Singha Park - Early afternoon at White Temple - Check into Chiang Rai hotel mid afternoon - Dinner in city and walk through night markets

Day 2 - Golden Triangle - Boat across Mekong river to Laos - Lunch - Mae Sai border town (northern-most point of Thailand) - Return to Chiang Mai.

2 Nights (Chiang Rai + Golden Triangle + Yunnanese Village)

Day 1 - Pickup from your hotel in Chiang Mai - Lunch at Singha Park - Early afternoon at White Temple - Check into Chiang Rai hotel mid afternoon - Dinner in city and walk through night markets

Day 2 - Doi Tung/Mae Fah Luang Gardens - Mae Sai border town (northern-most point of Thailand) - Lunch - Golden Triangle - Boat across Mekong river to Laos - Return to hotel in Chiang Rai

Day 3 - Drive through mountain-side farms - tea tasting and walk in tea plantation at Mae Salong - local fruit and vegetable market - Lunch at Thaton - Check in to hotel in Chiang Mai

Olsen Tours accepts most major credit cards

Olsen Tours Chiang Mai

Multi-Day Itineraries

We love to talk about tours! Let us know what you need, and we will be happy to provide a customized itinerary for you.

 

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Tour Transport

Depending on the number of people in your group, we will provide an SUV or minibus.

Chiang Mai Golf Packages SUV

 

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