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Weekend Circle Tour in Northern Chiangrai

Among accommodations we recommend in the city are GOLDEN TRIANGLE INN, RED ROSE HOTEL, and NIM SEE SENG Hotel. Stay in LALUNA HOTEL & RESORT with 79 private bungalows Near the old airport. The large swimming pool is a fun place for all family members.

It's very convenient to stay near the new International Airport. Check out the Golden Pine Hotel in the middle of verdant green ricefields. You will get a great view of the rural area while sitting in the tub having a bubble bath. The spacious grounds Teak Garden Resort is located on the Airport Road.

For lodging on the Mae Kok River, choose THE RIVER HOUSE RESORT & SPA, a stylish 5-star hotel with 30 spacious deluxe rooms and 6 junior suites all facing the river. A separate building is dedicated to spa treatments.

HILLTRIBE MUSEUM & HANDICRAFTS should be seen before travelling in Chiang Rai province stop here to learn about unique customs plus find out about unusual places to visit along your route. 620/25 Thanalai Road. Tel. 053-719167.

Like every part of Thailand, Chiang Rai has good dining spots such as the GOLDEN TRIANGLE CAFE & INN frequented by local residents and longtime expatriates.

The RATTANAKOSIN Restaurant at the Chiang Rai Night Bazaar has a great view for diners from the 2nd floor over looking the performances on Stage 2. The interior is decorated in the Rattanakosin period circa 1780's. They have an award winning menu. Try their Thai curries, all delicious and fragrant.

You may like to break up your trip in Mae Chan and stay a few nights at Khum Tikamporn Bed and Breakfast at Tel. 053779263. The main house is nearly 80 years old. Choose one of four modern guest houses.

Chiang Saen has many sights for visitors, CHIANG SAEN RIVER HILL HOTEL offers several tours and sight seeing information. It's convenient to cruise to Luang Prabang down the Mae Khong River in comfort. The package can be arranged Khun Vipat, the Manager, at the hotel.

Refer to the handy directory in this section for more restaurant suggestions after you have visited these mentioned places in this column of recommendations.

Drive around Chiang Rai with, FAR EAST NORTH TOUR's latest model automobiles, such as Suzuki Caribian mini-jeep and vans for rent. Using the many maps in our magazine as your reference source, drive yourself or their chauffeur will drive. They offer a special tour package tours to visit neighboring Shan state under Burma's control. The main route is Mae Sai – Kengtung City (Chiangtoong) with optional adventure to Mong La, bordering on China. The prices depend on selected sight-seeing destination and length of stay for 2 days, 1 night or 3 days, 2 nights. Be sure to prepare original passport with 2 photocopies and 12 photographs, size 1 x 1 1/2". For information : 053-715690, 053-713615 Fax. 053-715691

The Y.M.C.A. International House in Chiang Rai is a good choice for accommodation. Its SALONG KUM RESTAURANT serves delicious Chinese, European and Thai food. On Saturdays and Sundays treat yourself to massage and a sit in the steam room near the restaurant.

A popular way to get to Chiang Rai is a river tour from Thatorn via the Mae Kok River. Include an overnight at HUAI KHUM (GOOM) VILLAGE RESORT a combination of modern facilities lodging with riverfront restaurant and swimming pool plus the located adjacent to a tribal village. To take a long tail boat from Thatorn first point to the name on the board for the driver. Or drive by car approximately 11 kilometers to Tha Makaeng following the direction signs to the resort physically located in Baan Huai Chompu.

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 Chiang Rai that must be experienced. It runs from Thatorn in northern Chiangmai Province to Chiang Rai City and then on to meet with the Mae Khong River at Chiang Khong. From Baan Thatorn boats and rafts regularly ferry passengers to and Chiang Rai. The journey takes about six hours. Use our Useful Chiang Rai Directory for lodging recommendations.

Chiang Rai Viewpoint

Visitors can take about 20 minutes to see the wonderful panoramic view of Chiang Rai city and surrounding countryside from the viewpoint terrace at the temple on Doi Khao Kwai. Wat Khao Kwai is located on a hill just to the west of the former airport. When literally translated into English, Doi Khao Kwai means "Buffalo Horn Hill." As part of the temple's architecture there is a mythical beast sculpted in stone. This beast resembles a black bear, with bear paws and the general body structure of a bear; but it has five eyes and four ears. A story explains around 700 years ago, the area was where wild animals roamed freely. One man was brave enough to track this bear into its den where the man found great wealth there. He did not kill the beast. Instead he built a temple to worship Buddha. In remembrance of the beast's generosity, the man included the sculpture of the magical beast.

Natural Rock

Still another lovely setting is ‘Lagoon of the Sleeping Lady' or Hhun-naam Nangnorn, 13 kilometers north toward Mae Sai from Chiang Rai 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.

Explore Caves

Caves are another natural curiosity of Chiang Rai province, many of them shrines to Lord Buddha. Thum Luang (‘Big Cave'), Thum Poo (‘Crab Cave'), and Thum Pla (‘Fish Cave'), near Khunnaam Nangnorn, are known for their spectacular interiors. Watch out for monkeys who like to investigate your belongings and photo equipment.

With its unique attractions, mountain scenery, and fresh, unexplored feeling, Chiang Rai province is definitely worth a visit (lasting for several days!)

Doi Mae Salong

Called Thailand's Little Switzerland, Doi Mae Salong village is a settlement up on top a high mountain peak, out in the middle of Chiang Rai'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. You can stay at one of several guesthouses. One comfortable choice is 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 20 kilometers 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 MAE SALONG VILLA RESTAURANT is famous for tasty roasted pork leg with Chinese dumplings plus Yunnan cuisine, prepared from farm fresh vegetables and livestock raised there. The meal will be complete with delicious homegrown Oolong tea.

Doi Tung (Dtoong)

Wat Phra Thart Doi Tung is a sacred hilltop shrine and it is regarded as the holiest sanctuary by the residents of Chiang Rai 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 kilometers from the Chiang Rai 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 panoramas are breathtaking. Stop at Akha and Lahu villages famous for textiles.

At the Princess Mother's Royal Chalet rising 2,000 meters above sea level, Doi Tung Tourism and Service Centre has opened 45 newly furnished guest rooms accommodation. Tel. 053-767015-7 ext. 308,309 or the Bangkok Office 02-254-2225-6.

Mae Sai and Tachilek

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 Thai Tourist Police or Immigration in advance before crossing over the border.

Ancient Chiang Saen

In Chiang Saen, one can still see many ruins, built during the era of King Mengrai, founder of the Kingdom of Lanna. The remaining earthen ramparts are nearly 80% of the city's original walls. Ancient Chiang Saen was razed in the 1,700'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 Mongkut) ordered a Lamphun prince to repopulate the site with people from nearby towns. Today, Chiang Saen offers camping, boating, and fishing at private lakes. The CHIANG SAEN NATIONAL MUSEUM is open daily except Mondays (and substitute holidays) for the public to view a collection of exquisite and revered artifacts from the founding of this city in 1328 by King Saen Pu. You can explore the ancient ruins nearby.

A perfect place to stay is the CHIANG SAEN RIVER HILL HOTEL. Hire bikes to ride around the small city to explore the ruins plus visit the busy new port. Imported fruit and items shipped in from southern China can be bought from sidewalk vendors.

On the Chiang Saen-Mae Sai Road, the OPIUM HALL is a museum built by the Tourism Authority of Thailand. The hall relates the fascinating history of opium as a medicinal product. It's only in the last 60 years that opium as a drug has become the scourge of civilization. The walk through takes about three hours. Plan to visit in the morning and stay for buffet lunch at a modest amount.

For years visitors had their photo taken at simple wood sign at the delta, but today a very large Buddhist monument has been constructed. The size is so impressive and when the sun shines the gold reflection is awesome.

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 Chiang Rai Province on the east and the sites along its banks include Chiang Khong, Chiang Saen, and the Golden Triangle itself.

Chiang Khong / Laos

One side trip recommended by residents of Chiang Rai is to the east, through the heartland of Chiang Rai 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 rout to Chiang Khong is a ‘Circle' trip, first going from Chiang Rai 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 Chiang Rai city for Chiang Khong.

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. One passenger trip with lunch can be arranged. To arrange a visa into Laos, telephone Golden Triangle Tour about two days before your arrival in Chiang Rai. Ask what type of documents you will need to provide to get the paperwork completed and amount of current visa fee.


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