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Chiangrai and the Mae Khong River

One of the most outstanding features of Chiangrai is its border with Laos, the Mae Khong River. This river is one of the longest and mightiest in the world. It begins in the mountains of Tibet and rolls down through China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam before it empties into the China Sea at its mouth in Southern Vietnam. The stretch along the edge of northeastern Chiangrai is one of the widest points in the river and from the Chiangrai side one can look across at the People's Democratic Republic of Laos. At the far north in Chiangrai is the famous meeting of Myanmar, Thailand and Laos in the Golden Triangle . From this vista one can see the beautiful flowing Mae Khong and all three countries at the same time. Boats plow up and down the Mae Khong River between Chiangrai and Laos, carrying trade goods back and forth between the Thai side and the Laos side.

The Mae Khong River has a culture all its own. As the river that feeds much needed water to the rice fields that are everywhere in Southeast Asia, it is a revered river that has been responsible for many tales about the people and the kind of life people have lived along the river in ages gone by. Many of Thailand's rivers of the north, including the Ping, the Wang, the Yom and the Naan Rivers, are in some way connected with the Mae Khong and together these five rivers are responsible for the tremendous fertility of the farming soil of Thailand. This, of course, is also true for the farming areas of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

At one time in history the borders of Siam extended northward and eastward and included the present countries of both Laos and Cambodia. This was a period in Thai history when the entire Mae Khong River in Southeast Asia was within Siamese territory. At another time, both Thailand and Laos, as well as the southern part of Vietnam were part of Great Khorm Empire that later became Cambodia. The Mae Khong River has had a history that has always been center stage in Southeast Asia history and development. The driving force behind the river's importance, of course, has always been the vast water resources it supplies to the plains areas of the region.

Not so very long ago the development of this region as a tourist destination did not seem at all feasible. However with the governments of these countries turning more toward a free market economy, the abundance of historical and cultural heritage combined with lush natural beauty entices visitors to explore this attractive region.

The first phase of a planned rail linking the neighboring countries of the Mae Khong is already under construction from Thailand to Laos. The 30-kilometer sector between Nong Khai and Vientiane, Laos should be completed in eight months. There have news reports that China has also started the rail project connecting Kunming to the Laotian border.

Mae Khong Highlights

Myanmar :
  • Shwedagon Pagoda, a historical site located in Rangoon, about 2.5 kilometers north of the city center.
  • Kyaikhtiyo (Golden Rock) Pagoda, 160 kms fron Rangoon and about 20 kms from the town of Kyaikhtiyo.
  • The Mingun Bell Pagoda, 11 kms north of Mandalay.
  • The lake near Taunggyi, 30 kms south of the town.
  • Ananda Temple in Pukam city.
Laos :
  • The ancient town of Luang Prabang. The town includes culture, historical, prehistorical and nature sights such as ancient pagodas, national museums and lush landscapes. It is also where ethnic minorities reside along the Mae Khong River
  • Champasak province. For tourists the area offers: pre-Angkor temple of Wat Phou, Khone Prapheng Waterfall, a view of Paksong district, Phapho village with its ethnic minorities, and boat cruises on the Mae Khong River from Pakse to Kong Island.
  • Vientiane, the capital of Laos. The city boasts historical monuments and ancient pagodas.
  • Xieng Khouang province. The area is home to the Plain of Jars, Hot springs, temples and villages of ethnic minorities.
  • Lak Xao in Bolikhamxay province. The area offers natural wonders such as caves, lush fauna, rushing waterfalls and hot springs.
Thailand :
  • The hill tribe villages in Chiangmai and Chiangrai, Thailand's most northern provinces that share borders with Myanmar and Laos.
  • Ancient city of Wiang Goom Garm, a survey site of King Mengrai in 1286 to 1295 in Chiangmai province that recently celebrated its founding 700 years ago.
  • Baan Chiang archaeological site where prehistoric skeletons and potteries have been excavated, 50 km east of Udon Thani province
  • Prasart Hin Khao Phanom Roong Historical Park in Buri Ram province.
  • The ancient Khmer sanctuaries and prehistoric paintings at Ubon Ratchathani, on the northeastern plateau, about 679 kms from Bangkok the capital.
China's Yunnan province :
  • Kunming, "The City of Eternal Spring", the provincial capital.
  • The stone forests of Yunnan, 80 kms from Kunming.
  • Xishuangbanna, home of the Dai minority, 740 kms west of Kunming.
  • The scenic medieval city of Dali, 40 kms west of Kunming.
  • Lijang, China's oldest town and home to the Jade Dragon Snow Mountains, located in the northwestern part of the province. The town is 200 kms away from Dali.

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