Chiang Rai (ชีชีงงรา) is mainly the focus of trips around the city. In the immediate vicinity – you can visit Doi Tong at the local zoo, which is actually a reserve with the purpose of allowing the rare animals to multiply. You can walk around and see birds, peacocks, deer and little bears. The Doi Tung also houses the Queen Mother’s Gardens – a huge garden around the royal villa with plenty of plants and flowerbeds and beautifully shaped rocks. You can also stroll into the jungles, such as the Lam Nam Kok national park, to bathe in the cool waters of one of the many mountains and then go to warm up in one of its hot springs.
Gardens, waterfalls, landscapes and hot springs, not for that we drove north from Chiang Mai. We are here to explore the Golden Triangle, a place that was the center of opium trade and today is used by tourists in Thailand to discover new lands.
You can sail on the Mekong River and look at either side – the Thai side or the other. The view is great. From the town of Mea Sai on the Myanmar border, one can visit Myanmar for a day, eat Burmese food and shop in the local market. So we were in Burma and we could get to Laos as well. From the town of Chiang Khong you can cross the Mekong and enter Laos (prepare money and passport photos). If you get to Sop Ruak, the place where the Roak River spills into the Mekong to create a peninsula, you can stand in Thailand and see Laos and Myanmar. You can even cross the Roak River and get into Laos for a short time.
We were in Thailand, Burma and Laos. Now the bonus. We are already in Asia, let’s taste delicious food from China. For this, you do not even have to leave Thailand – west of Chiang Rai is the city “Mea Salong” also known as Santikhiri. At the end of the 1940s some 12,000 Chinese soldiers fled the terror of the Communist regime and came here.
At first they camped in Myanmar, and from there they fled to Thailand. The city has about 20,000 people, the language spoken is mainly Chinese Mandarin, the Chinese food, the architecture is Chinese (low bamboo houses) and even the landscape, for some reason, resembles the Chinese landscape, even the rice terraces in the surrounding hills. It is possible to spend a few nights in the town and also to go out for tours between the mountains and the remote villages in the area.
So on a simple trip in one country, we got a taste of Asia, touched four countries, and almost all without leaving Thailand, because between us, it makes no sense to leave Thailand, it has everything. So we were grazing in foreign fields, now let’s go back to Chiang Rai, enjoy good Thai food, pampering Thai massage and green views of northern Thailand.
Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle:
The Golden Triangle is the triangular border region of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos, and at the end of the 20th century this area was “gold equivalent,” as it was the main site for the production of “white gold” – opium and heroin made from poppy flowers.
The mountain tribes of this region used poppy as a source of narcotic for centuries, but these crops were limited to tribal personal consumption, medical or spiritual care (shamans would use drugs for inspiration). Exports began in the 19th century mainly for China, but trade became particularly profitable during the Vietnam War and peaked in the 1970s and 1980s. Over half of the opium and heroin supply to Western countries (Europe and the US) and most opium Which reached the markets of Southeast Asia, originated in the Golden Triangle on its three countries.
At the time, the drug barons were in control. The main tension was between the Chinese who settled in the area, fleeing the army outputs communist government and Burmese drug lords, the best known was “Kun Sa,” that ruled the villages and set up its own militia. The Thais indirectly supported the Chinese, hoping to fight the expansion of the communism that had leapt out of Burma and Vietnam.
Towards the 1990s, the king of Thailand set a goal for fighting the drug. The Thais managed to expel Kun Sa and disperse his army, allowing the Chinese to stay in Thailand and obtain citizenship, and in return they would convert the poppy into other crops. At the same time, they began a campaign of information and education among the tribesmen.
Today the drugs are banned in Thailand and the punishment for their possession or dealing them (not to mention creating them) is extremely severe (up to death penalty!). The remains from that period are fascinating museums depicting the period and drug cultivation. The museums are located in the town of Sop Ruak right next to the border triangle.
Chiang Rai – How to get there:
Chiang Rai can be reached by air or land. A number of flights from different airlines depart every day from Bangkok to Chiang Rai. Compare the prices and go. The flights will take you to the airport near the town (about 8 km away, from which there is no public transportation except tuk tuks or taxis), the flight from Bangkok lasts an hour and a half, and there are also flights from Chiang Mai and even from Pai.
It is also possible to get from Bangkok to Chiang Rai on a bus, which takes an average of 12 hours. The railway had not yet reached Chiang Rai.
Most of those who come to Chiang Rai do this from Chiang Mai, plenty of buses leave from Chiang Mai Central Station to Chiang Rai. We recommend taking a comfortable, air conditioned VIP bus. The trip itself takes about three hours through a charming landscape.
You can also take an organized trip from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai and also enjoy the attractions on the way. Confused? Why not you go to our branch in Chiang Mai? You can find us between the Chabad House and the night market, and we will be happy to help you reach Chiang Rai in the best and most convenient way for you.
If you are on the way to Chiang Rai, contact us today, and we will provide you with all the information you need and the best prices!