Biking in Chiang Rai,
Part 1: Hilltribe Museum,
Oub Come Museum & Chiang Rai Beach
by Alberto de la Paz
Chiang Rai, like Chiangmai has a very ancient history. It was once a fortified city complete with walls and moats. When the city fathers decided to modernize, however, part of the walls were buried under asphalt. A section of Paholyothin Highway passing in front of the Golden Triangle Inn and King Meng Rai's monument, is on top of part of the Ancient City's wall. A section of the moat can still be observed near the Chiangmai Gate.
When coming to Chiang Rai, people often ask the question, "What can I do and see here in the city of Chiang Rai?" Actually, there are a number of things that you could do. One only needs to hire a motorcycle which goes for about 150 to 200 baht a day. The more intrepid traveler might opt for a bicycle, which could be hired anywhere from 80 to 150 baht per day (Helmets not included).
So where do you start? Allow me then to take you around the city of Chiang Rai. Let's start with the Hilltribe Museum and Education Center.
Hilltribe Museum and Education Center
Many tourists come to Chiang Rai to visit a hilltribe village at one point in time during their short stay. We therefore recommend tourists to visit this museum in order to learn more about the hilltribe people and understand their culture before heading off to the mountains.
The Hilltribe Museum and Education Center is located on the third floor of the Population and Community Development Association's Building. It is adjacent to the Cabbages and Condoms restaurant, which is a public-benefit restaurant with an objective to promote condom usage for birth control and protection against HIV/AIDS.
A 25-minute slide show, which can be heard in 5 languages (Thai, English, French, German and Nihongo) will give you a brief introduction to hilltribe culture. The museum is a great alternative to visit in case you come to Chiang Rai during the rainy season. There are loads of information printed in English Language. The museum staff can also give you a guided tour of the museum.
Oub Come Museum :
Northern Thailand is also known as the Lanna Kingdom. Over the millennia, the Lanna people have changed into the people that now populate Chiang Rai and its surrounding provinces. Their rich culture however, is thankfully preserved by the private collectors like Atchan Julasuk, the owner of the Oub Come Museum.
The Oub Come Museum is located near the Den Ha intersection. Entrance to the museum will costs about 200 baht. This is money well spent considering the impressive collection of Lanna-period treasures.
The museum also has a small handicraft shop where you can purchase fine hand-woven silk products.
Chiang Rai Beach
Down the road from the Oub Come Museum is a place called Chiang Rai beach. Can this be possible? It used to be called Pattaya Noi or Little Pattaya by local residents, but has been renamed Chiang Rai beach. It actually is the bank of the Kok River and is very popular among locals because of the beautiful scenery that includes a very picturesque limestone outcrop.
Several restaurants have been established and also a number of huts located at the very edge of the bank of the Kok River providing an unobstructed view of the beautiful scenery. It is easy to get drunk on the beautiful surrounding salone. If you do get drunk, nobody will mind if you flop down on a mat and get some z's. Just six-kilometer from downtown, this short bike ride to Chiang Rai beach is an easy trip.
Longer Bicycling Trips :
Now, are you ready for more cycling adventure? There are a number of places that can be reached by a bicycle. One such place is the Huay Mark Liam hot spring. This route will take you along one side of the Kok River and then cross over to the other side of the river by a hanging bridge. The total distance of this route is about 65 kilometers. Therefore, this route is not recommended for all persons. About 20 kilometers of this route is on dirt trails on hilly terrain. During the rainy season, this route can become a bit technical. You will have a chance to visit the elephant village on this route. I will tell you more about this route next time.
So now that you have a better idea of where to go, what about Bicycles? There are several places where you can rent bicycles. My favorite shop is called Fat Free located along Thanalai Road near Pratu - Chiangmai (Chiangmai Gate). There are other shops that have limited numbers of bicycles as shown in the map. Rent a bike that suits your needs. Biking around Chiang Rai is a novel way of getting around.