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Chiangrai Made Easy

A VISIT TO Chiangrai is incomplete without getting acquainted with the unspoiled rural scenery in the North of this province. Hire a chauffeur or use Welcome toChiangmai & Chiangrai's handy, comprehensive maps as a guide and drive yourself.

'Take Highway 1 north out of Chiangrai city and just north of the town of Mae Chan (Jaan). Visit the LAAN TONG LODGE BASIN CULTURAL PARK emphasizing the lifestyles of the people inhabiting the six fascinating countries making up the Mekong Basin. The costumes and dances are very entertaining and provide an insight into the diversity of southeast Asia. The park opens daily at 8 am and the schedules of the two shows are at 11 am and 2 pm.

'Turn left onto Highway 1089 which will take you up to the town of Mae Salong located at higher than 1,800 meters elevation, offers a sweeping vista of the surrounding scenery. Indeed, Doi Mae Salong is called Thailand's little Switzerland. The original settlers were Kuomintong Chinese nationalist soldiers who founded the village as a border outpost in the 1930's. The Chinese population has been augmented with Bai-Yi, a Tai-speaking minority people from South China, and Akha, Lisu, and Lahu hill tribe people.

'For the next leg of this tour travel back down highway 1089 and turn onto Highway 110 which is the route to the border town of Mae Sai. About ten kilometers south of Mae Sai a turning to the left will indicate Doi Dtoong, most accurately pronounced Doi Dtoong. Doi Dtoong is a mountain chalet built of golden teak which was a former residence of H.M. the King's deceased mother. The chalet is surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens. Close to the royal chalet is an ancient and revered temple, Wat Pra That Doi Dtoong, which is elaborately decorated and one of the twin chedis in the temple courtyard is believed to contain the Lord Buddha's left clavicle, a very holy relic.

'Find the turning off of the main street of Mae Sai for the road that heads to Chiang Saen and the Golden Triangle. At the village of Sob Ruag, a stop at the Anantara Spa is worthwhile. This stunning resort is located overlooking the Mekong River and is splendidly decorated in Northern Thai motifs. The resort promotes eco-tourism and the preservation of the hill terrain surrounding it.

'The Golden Triangle is the place where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar, and the Lao PDR join, and was notorious as a center of opium production. It is nearly obligatory for a visitor here to be photographed in front of the sign denoting the Golden Triangle. Worthwhile for a visit is the Opium Museum, devoted to detailing the history of opium not only in this area but also globally. Later, follow the lane in front of the opium museum up to a Buddhist temple from which a fine, unimpeded view of the river, Myanmar, and Laos can be obtained. Continue along the road from the Golden Triangle to the ancient town of Chiang Saen. Archaeological evidence indicates that irrigated rice cultivation dates back well over a thousand years around the town of Chiang Saen.

'Chiang Saen is noteworthy for the timeworn Wat Pa Sak, or 'teak forest temple', built in 1295. Also visit Wat Chedi Luang, which takes its name from the fifty-eight meter high chedi built in the temple environs. See the exhibits at the small but excellent National Museum next to Wat Chedi Luang to a get sense of Chiang Saen's long history. Visitors with strong legs might want to ascend the 383 late rite steps which lead up to the temple called Wat Phra Thart Jom Kitti for a panoramic photo opportunity. Another, more direct way to enjoy the scenery of the Maekhong river is to go into town and hire a long-tail boat for a ride on the river itself.

'Follow Highway 1229 out of Chiang Saen and follow it along the river to the town of Chiang Khong. Day trips across the border check point into Lao Territory are possible with the obtaining of a visa.

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