Chiangrai - A Wonderful Place to Stay
Among accommodations we recommended in the city are CHIANG RAI INN HOTEL, GOLDEN TRIANGLE INN, Nim See Seng Hotel, Maleena Ville, Boonbundan Guest House. If you're planing to overnight in Chiang Khong, Mae Sai, Mae Salong or Doi Hua Mae Come, ask for recommended places by contacting Golden Triangle Tours for the latest update on hotels and resorts. This reliable agency also offers special package tours into Laos.
The BAAN BORAN HOTEL (now the Amantara Spa), at the Golden Triangle, is an award-winning hotel in the heart of the Mekong Region. From any area of the property, you may view the mighty Mekong river, Ruak river, Laos and Myanmar. Guests enjoy the hideaway ambience amid nature, adventure and cultural heritage. Information is available for mountain biking and hiking routes around the property. Or relax by taking in the traditional Lanna style architecture of the hotel with breathtaking views from the restaurants or from each private balcony.
BUDGET CAR AND TRUCK RENTAL has a branch office at The Golden Triangle Tours Office on Paholyothin Road for quality and convenient cars or jeeps such as Honda Civic, Suzuki Vitara or Suzuki Caribian. Call toll free (088) 220310.
NATIONAL CAR RENTAL has a branch conveniently located at the Chiang Rai International Airport. You can book a car either in Chiangmai or Chiangrai at Tel. 793683.
Like every part of Thailand, Chiangrai has good dining spots such as the GOLDEN TRIANGLE CAFE & INN frequented by local residents and longtime expatriates. A popular place to eat good food and enjoy cool comfort in a unique setting is in the CHIANG RAI INN. This restaurant has live music in the evenings.
For elegant furniture shop at SUMALEE'S HANDICRAFT AND FURNITURE. Every evening you can select rosewood, or teak in sophisticated designs at Factory prices. Masterpieces for family home and workplace. Located very near Wiang Inn and Wangcome Hotels and opposite Night Bazaar.
The Y.M.C.A. International House in Chiangrai is a good choice for accommodation. Its SALONG KUM RESTAURANT serves delicious Chinese, European and Thai food. Refer to the handy directory in this section for more restaurant suggestions after you have visited these mentioned places in this column.
Drive around Chiangrai with, FAR EAST NORTH TOUR's latest model automobiles, Suzuki Caribian mini-jeep and vans for rent. Using the many maps in our magazine as your reference source, drive yourself or hire a chauffeur to do all the driving. Sight-seeing and trekking tours arranged for half or full day.
Visit LAAN TONG Mekong Basin Cultural Park to see the cultural performers representing six nations of this fascinating region. They have food center, the largest gong in the world plus blossoming gardens amid the hills of Mae Chan.
Visitors having any problem in Chiangrai can call the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) for assistance any time of day or night. Refer to the Useful Chiangrai Directory in this issue important telephone numbers in Chiangrai.
This city opposite Mae Sai is where visitors flock to explore the villages and towns of Myanmar (Burma) now that authorities allow over the border crossing. Travel is restricted to the immediate vicinity of Tachilek. The time difference in Myanmar is 1/2 hour slower than Thailand. Once inside Myanmar all persons must obey that country's laws.
At Mae Sai on the Sai River, the border with Burma, find riverside stalls to rest, eat, and drink, and to observe the trade in jade, rubies, sandalwood, handicrafts, and herbal cosmetics. For regulations on crossing into Burma, please check with the Tourist Police or Immigration in advance.
Wat Phra Thart Doi Tung is a sacred hilltop shrine and it is regarded as the holiest sanctuary by the residents of Chiangrai and nearby provinces. The people of the Shan state in Burma, and Buddhists as far away as Vientiane, Laos revere this reliquary. The shrine is reached by a scenic, but tortuous road 42 kms from the Chiangrai Mae Sai Highway. The temple was built by King Achutaraat of the Yonok Kingdom in 911 A.D. It is believed that the left collarbone of Lord Buddha is enshrined in the twin pagodas. The panoramic views are breathtaking. Travellers can stop at Akha and Lahu villages famous for woven textiles.
At the Princess Mother's Royal Chalet rising 2,000 meters above sea level, Doi Tung Tourism and Service Centre introduces 45 newly furnished guestrooms accommodation, "Ton Nam 31" nestled on a mountain. Each room comes complete with its scenic verandah, overlooking meadows and hill tribe villages and has ensuite bathroom with hot/cold shower, air conditioning, satellite TV and a mini bar. After a long day of touring, relax at our "Club 31". For information, please contact the Tourism & Service Centre Tel. (053) 767-015-7 ext. 308,309 or the Bangkok Office (02) 254-2225-6. E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Chiang Saen, a small village set amongst ruins, was the home of King Mengrai, founder of the Kingdom of Lanna. The remaining earthen ramparts are a mere fraction of the city's original walls. Chiang Saen was burnt to the ground in the 1700's when Thai forces finally drove out the Burmese, who had ruled there since 1558. It was then deserted until 1861, when King Rama IV (King Mongkhut) ordered a Lamphun prince to repopulate the site with people from nearby towns. Today, Chiang Saen offers swimming, boating, and fishing at Chiang Saen Lake, and a branch of the National Museum.
The Mae Kok river runs through the valley south of Doi Mae Salong, to the Burma border on the far north, sprawling mountains cover the land and there are many smaller roads leading into less settled areas between Mae Chan and Mae Sai.
The Mae Kok River is a feature of Chiangrai that must be experienced. It runs from Thaton in northern Chiangmai Province to Chiangrai City and then on to meet with the Mae Khong River at Chiang Khong. From Baan Thaton boats and rafts regularly ferry passengers to and from Chiangrai.
The Mae Khong River needs little description, it is so well known, but those travelling in the North it helps to know that this river borders Chiangrai Province on the east and the sites along its banks include Chiang Khong, Chiang Saen, and the Golden Triangle itself.
One side trip recommended by residents of Chiangrai is to the east, through the heartland of Chiangrai Province and up to into the mountains along the Laotian border to the town of Chiang Khong . Its located on the Mae Khong River downstream from Chiang Saen, across from the Laotian tower of Baan Huay Zai. The most interesting route to Chiang Khong is a 'Circle' trip, first going from Chiangrai city to Chiang Saen and the Golden Triangle, then following the road along the river to Chiang Khong. The road from Chiang Saen is now surfaced making this drive a pleasant adventure for driving.
In the Chiang Khong area there are a number of Hmong and Yao villages, offering a still unspoiled view of traditional life in the hills. To visit these villages or to make sure you have a place to stay overnight in Chiang Khong, contact the Golden Triangle Inn (which has a branch in Chiang Khong) before you leave Chiangrai.
From Chiang Khong it is now possible to cross the Mae Khong into Laos. This is a relatively recent change in regulations for entry to Laos and it makes a visit to Chiang Khong all the more worthwhile. Chiang Khong and its counterpart on the Lao side of the Mae Khong together form a unique area where local people are involved in fishing, weaving and farming. In both Chiang Khong and Lao visitors can acquire unique Lao textiles and visit some of the fascinating villages. At present, one-day trips across the river are possible from GOLDEN TRIANGLE TOUR. Visit the Lantan (Lao Huay) tribe who always build their homestead near a stream and they also weave. For one passenger the trip and lunch is about US $ 100. The cost per person decreases for groups of more than one. To arrange a visa into Lao issued upon arrival at the border when travelling to Baan Huay Zai, telephone Golden Triangle tour about two days before your arrival in Chiangrai. A copy of your passport and a fee will be all that is necessary.
Called Thailand's Little Switzerland, Doi Mae Salong village is a settlement up on top a high mountain peak, out in the middle of Chiangrai's mountain country. Sitting on the highest peak at an elevation of over 6,000 feet above sea level, the settlement commands a grand view of green mountain ridges stretching out to the far horizon in breathtaking panorama. When the mist comes, the view changes dramatically, especially at sunrise or sunset. The air is cool and refreshing all year round. Stay at the Mae Salong Villa to really get the feeling of the different culture in Mae Salong.
The villagers are ethnic Chinese descendants of the KMT nationalist army regiment that took refuge in Thailand almost 50 years ago when Communist forces won the civil war in mainland China. The KMT took refuge in this remote and inaccessible area and the Thai government let them be, under a mutual understanding that they assist in policing the area against Communist infiltration. The fugitives settled down, developed farms and orchards, raised livestock and their families. When the settlement grew larger, the Thai government built a road to incorporate the settlement into the local administration system.
A winding mountain road leads over 30 kms from the foothill to the top. The Doi Mae Salong settlement is a complete town with Buddhist temples. Christian churches, school, sports field, bazaar, tea and preserved fruit factories, restaurants, souvenir shops, clean bungalows and small hotels. The restaurants are famous for the tasty Yunnan cuisine, prepared from farm fresh vegetables and livestock raised there. They produce delicious Oo-long tea.
Natural rock formation
Still another lovely setting is Khun-naam Nangnorm ('Lagoon of the Sleeping Lady'), 13 kms toward Mae Sai from Chiangrai city. You'll learn how the place got its name if you carefully observe the natural rock formation atop the mountains where the formation resembles a lady sleeping.
Caves are another natural curiosity of Chiangrai province, many of them shrines to Lord Buddha. Thum Luang ('Big Cave'), Thum Poo ('Crab Cave'), and Thum Pla ('Fish Cave'), near Khun-naam Nangnorn, are known for their spectacular interiors. Watch out for monkeys who like to investigate your belongings and photo equipment.
A popular way to get to Chiangrai is a river tour from Thaton via the Mae Kok River. An early start is required for the drive to Thaton from Chiangmai. Stops at local villages, markets, and tribal villages can be made on a guided tour, with lunch at Thaton. Depending on the depth of the river, the journey takes about six hours. Upon arrival in Chiangrai, instead of a taxi, a foot-pedaled rickshaw will take you to a hotel or guest house.
With its unique attractions, mountain scenery, and fresh, unexplored feeling, Chiangrai province is definitely worth a visit for several days!
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