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7 Authentic Things to do in Chiang Rai
Although Chiang Rai is known for the Golden Triangle and the White Temple, beyond this well-trodden tourist trail lies the real Chiang Rai. Away from the city and the tourist highlights lies Chiang Rai’s sweeping topography of fertile valleys and mountainous borders with Myanmar and Laos. We want you to be able to explore the real Chiang Rai, so we’ve composed this list of 7 most authentic things to do in Chiang Rai.
The province of Chiang Rai is agriculturally dense and culturally diverse. Chiang Rai is home to a local population of northern Thais and a wide variety of ethnic minority groups, also known as hill tribes including the: Akha, Karen, Mien (Yao), Palong, Lahu, and Lisu.
As a neighboring city to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai is a popular tourist destination, but still less explored than Chiang Mai. It’s a sprawling and diverse province that will give you a taste of non-touristic and rural northern Thailand. Let’s bypass the tourist hotspots and dive into the 7 most authentic things to do in Chiang Rai !
1) Explore the Hill Tribes
Since Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos all meet here in the mountainous area in Chiang Rai, there is an abundance of hill tribe villages that have carved out a peaceful existence for themselves in Northern Thailand. From cultivating rice, to raising animals, to crafting jewelry, visiting the hill tribes in Chiang Rai is a unique cultural activity to northern Thailand.
Make sure to discover Karen hill tribe culture, the Karen are the largest tribe in northern Thailand. Visiting an Akha village is also a unique cultural experience in Chiang Rai. We recommend visiting ‘Ban Lorcha’ Akha hill tribe village, a community based tourism village where an Akha village guide will show you different aspects of Akha life. The villagers demonstrate their dance, traditional methods of spinning yarn and hunting.
2) Sunrise at Phu Chi Fah
Phu Chi Fah is the best spot to witness a truly incredible sunrise. The name Phu Chi Fah means ‘the mountain that points to the sky ‘. Catching the sunrise here is one of the most remarkable things to do in Chiang Rai. It’s a popular spot for local tourists during the winter, but is relatively unknown to international tourists.
When the sun rises, you’ll see the peaks of ragged mountain tops peeking up through a sea of fog.
3) Khun Korn Waterfall
The Khun Korn Waterfall is one of the most incredible waterfalls in all of Thailand. It sits just 30km outside of Chiang Rai, and a scooter is definitely the best way to get there. From the parking area, the waterfall is a 1.4km walk through lush, exotic wilderness. Standing 70 meters tall, this gorgeous waterfall is one of Chiang Rai’s best natural attractions.
4) Tea tasting at Mae Salong
Mae Salong is an idyllic Chinese village nestled in the mountain tops of Chiang Rai. The terraced tea plantations that weave down the green mountainsides give Mae Salong its signature look.
The tea plantations blanket the hills, and here you can see workers with their big baskets diligently picking tea leaves. The highland air is cool and crisp, a welcome contrast to the heat of the lowlands.
The tea factories here offer visitors tea tasting demonstrations, where they show the different types of tea produced and preparation methods.
5) Doi Tung
Doi Tung Mae Fah Luang Garden and the Tree Top Walk is one of the most popular things to do in Chiang Rai. Tickets to the Mae Fah Luang Botanical Garden are 90 baht and will lead you into an incredible array of manicured flower beds and paved pathways.
Expect to see plentiful fountains, rock art and even a small maze! There are nearly ten acres of land filled with a variety of annual and perennial flowering plants that have been lovingly manicured into patterns and designs. Inside the garden area, you won’t miss the large sign for the treetop walk, which leads you across an adventurous looking rope bridge that runs high above the forest. From here you can take in the lush natural landscape that lies beneath you. Soak up the panoramic view of the plantations, forests, and surrounding mountains.
6) Mae Fah Luang
The Mae Fah Luang Art and Culture Park is home to an enormous collection of folk art and teak artifacts from the Lanna Kingdom. You can expect to see wonderful exhibitions, including an old tool museum, photography displays, and even modern art galleries.
Inside the buildings, the moody lighting compliments the artifacts. Outside, there is a tranquil temple to walk around featuring gardens and a pond that is usually brimming with floating flowers and greenery.
Nestled in the forest itself, this art and culture park is the kind of spot to bring a book and relax in the outdoors. Whilst the indoor museum is a tranquil space to appreciate the cultural art of the region.
7) Cruise down the Mae Kok River
Traditional long-tail wooden boats cruise down the Mae Kok River daily between Chiang Rai and Thaton, a tiny town right on the border of Myanmar. On this boat trip visitors are treated to a range of scenery, from the nature of thick sub-tropical forests to the mighty mountain ranges of Chiang Rai.
You’ll pass by locals and villagers swimming in the river. You might even see herds of water buffaloes cooling off in the water. If you don’t want to travel the entire way to Thaton, you can always hire a boat for a shorter sightseeing trip. Your panoramic cruise along the Mae Kok River is one of the most memorable and special things to do in Chiang Rai.
Q) How Many Days Do I Need To Visit Chiang Rai ?
We recommend you take at least 3 full days to visit Chiang Rai. Chiang Rai is a large province, and some of the most authentic and interesting parts of it, are spread out throughout the province. From its colourful ethnic minorities, striking mountainous borders and riverboat trips, there’s a lot more to Chiang Rai besides the Golden Triangle. If you’re not sure if you have enough time to visit Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai, check out our 4d/3n Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai Tour for ideas
Q) Is Chiang Rai Worth Visiting?
If you’re not convinced already, we say that Chiang Rai is definitely worth a visit ! Don’t forget that you can also fly direct from Chiang Rai to Bangkok. It’s around 1 hours and 20 minutes flight time, non stop to Bangkok. There are around 7 airlines that operate this route, so flights depart regularly and daily. Airlines that fly from Chiang Rai to Bangkok are (Nok Air, Thai Lion Air, Air Asia, Thai Smile, Thai Vietjet, Thai Airways and Bangkok Airways).
If you’re not sure if you can fit Chiang Rai into your itinerary, or have any questions about travelling to Chiang Rai, feel free to contact us
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