Chiang Rai Province

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Chiang Rai
เชียงราย Lanna-Chiang Rai.png
Official seal of Chiang Rai
   Chiang Rai in    Thailand
   Chiang Rai in    Thailand
Coordinates: 19°54′N 99°49′E / 19.900°N 99.817°E / 19.900; 99.817Coordinates: 19°54′N 99°49′E / 19.900°N 99.817°E / 19.900; 99.817
Capital Chiang Rai
 • Governor Sumet Saengnimnuan
 • Total 11,678 km2 (4,509 sq mi)
Population (2014)
 • Total 1,207,699[1]
Human Development Index
 • HDI (2009) 0.752 (high) (rank?)
Postal code 57xxx
Calling code 053
Vehicle registration เชียงราย
Accession into Kingdom of Thailand 1910
Accession into Kingdom of Thailand 1932

Chiang Rai (Thai: เชียงราย, pronounced [t͡ɕʰīaŋ.rāːj]; Lanna:ᨩ᩠ᨿᨦᩁᩣ᩠ᨿ, pronounced [tɕiaŋ.haaj]; Burmese: Burmese-Chiang Rai.png) is the northernmost province of Thailand. It is bordered by the Shan State of Myanmar to the north, Bokeo Province of Laos to the east, Phayao to the south, Lampang to the southwest, and Chiang Mai to the west.


The average elevation of the province is 580 metres (1,900 ft). The north of the province is part of the so-called Golden Triangle, where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Burma converge, an area which prior to the rise of agricultural production of coffee, pineapple, coconuts, and banana plantations, was unsafe because of drug smuggling across the borders. The Mekong River forms the boundary with Laos, the Mae Sai and Ruak River with Burma. Through the town of Chiang Rai itself, flows the "Mae Kok" Kok River and south of it the Lao River, a tributary of the Kok.

While the eastern part of the province is characterized by relatively flat river plains, the northern and western part consist of the hilly terrain of the Thai highlands with the Khun Tan Range and the Phi Pan Nam Range in the west and the Daen Lao Range in the north. While not the highest elevation of the province, the 1,389-metre (4,557 ft) high[2] Doi Tung ("flag hill") is the most important terrain feature. The Wat Phra That Doi Tung temple on top of the hill, according to the chronicles, dates back to the year 911. Nearby is the Doi Tung royal villa, former residence of the late princess mother (mother of the present king) Somdej Phra Srinagarindra. Thanks to her activities the hills were reforested, and the hill tribes diverted from growing opium poppies to other crops including coffee, bananas, coconuts, and pineapples.


Climate data for Chiang Rai (1981–2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 28.6
Average low °C (°F) 12.8
Average rainfall mm (inches) 7.5
Average rainy days (≥ 1 mm) 2 1 3 10 17 19 22 24 18 12 6 3 137
Average relative humidity (%) 75 67 62 66 76 80 82 84 83 82 79 77 76.1
Source: Thai Meteorological Department (Normal 1981-2010), (Avg. rainy days 1961-1990)
King Mengrai Monument, Chiang Rai Province


Populations have dwelled in Chiang Rai since the 7th century and it became the center of the Lanna Thai Kingdom during the 13th century. The region, rich in natural resources, was occupied by the Burmese until 1786.

Chiang Rai Province's golden triangle bordering Laos and Burma was once the hub of opium production.

Chiang Rai became a province in 1910, after being part of the kingdom of Lannathai for centuries. After Lanna Thai was incorporated into Thailand, it remained an autonomous region and thus the Chiang Rai area was administered from Chiang Mai.

Chiang Rai Province is a transit point for Rohingya refugees from Myanmar (Burma) who are transported there from Sangkhlaburi district in Kanchanaburi Province.[3]


The majority of the population are generally ethnic Thai, but 12.5% of the population are of hill tribes descent, a minority in Thailand's north. A minority are of Chinese descent, mainly descendants of the Kuomintang soldiers who settled in the region, notably in Santikhiri.


Orange trumpet (left) and Tree Jasmine (right)

The seal of the province shows a white elephant, the royal symbol, recalling that Chiang Rai was founded by King Mengrai, according to legend because his elephant liked the place.

The provincial tree is the tree jasmine (Radermachera ignea), and the provincial flower is the orange trumpet (Pyrostegia venusta).

The former provincial slogan was: "เหนือสุดในสยาม อร่ามดอยตุง ผดุงวัฒนธรรม รสล้ำข้าวสาร หอมหวานลิ้นจี่ สตรีโสภา ชาเลิศรส สัปปะรดนางแล" ("Northernmost in Siam, beautiful Doi Tung, repository of culture, most delicious rice, sweet and fragrant litchi, beautiful women, the finest flavoured tea, pineapple from Nang-Lae, source of the giant catfish).

The current slogan is, "เหนือสุดในสยาม ชายแดนสามแผ่นดิน ถิ่นวัฒนธรรมล้านนา ล้ำค่าพระธาตุดอยตุง" ("The northernmost of Siam, the frontier of three lands, the home to the culture of Lanna and Doi Tung Temple")

Administrative divisions[edit]

Map of Amphoe

Chiang Rai is subdivided into 18 districts (amphoe). The districts are further subdivided into 124 subdistricts (tambon) and 1,751 villages (muban).


Construction of a reinforced concrete bridge, Chiang Rai Province (2009)
Chiang Rai Mae Fah Luang International Airport has domestic flights to both Bangkok airports, which connect to regional and international flights.
There is daily boat service between Chiang Rai and Tha Ton.
There is no railway system in Chiang Rai. The nearest station is in Chiang Mai.
Chiang Rai Province is intersected by Asian Highway 2, which runs for over 13,000 km (over 8,000 miles) from Denpasar in Indonesia to Kosravi in Iran, and by Asian Highway 3, which runs for over 7,000 km (4,300 mi) from Kentung in Myanmar to Ulan-Ude in Russia.

Decent bus services are available in the province. In more remote areas, songthaews are the norm.


Phu Chi Fa mountain range


Mae Fah Luang Art and Cultural Park (Rai Mae Fah Luang) is in Pa Ngiw Village, about 5 kilometers from the city center. It was founded by the late princess mother, who bought a 140 rai plot to set up a center for developing the youths from rural areas under the supervision of the Mae Fah Luang Foundation. The garden is a park cum museum preserving Lanna cultural objects.

Doi Tung (ดอยตุง) is a revered mountain which includes the Doi Tung Palace and the Mae Fa Luang Flower Garden. The Wat Phra That Doi Tung Holy Relic, an old religious site on top of the mountain, is about 2,000 metres above sea level.

Wat Rong Khun (วัดร่องขุ่น): The temple was designed and built by artist Chaloemchai Khositphiphat. A white ordination hall, Phra Ubosot, is decorated with a glittering mosaic of mirrors. There are large mural paintings of the Buddha in different gestures.

The Golden Triangle (สามเหลี่ยมทองคำ), locally called "Sop Ruak", is where the Mekong meets the Ruak River and also where the borders of three countries, Laos, Burma, and Thailand, converge. There are the remains of ancient structures attesting to the area having been long-settled.

Doi Mae Salong (ดอยแม่สลอง) is home to a community settled by remnants of the 93rd Division of the Republic of China Army, who moved out of Yunnan province, China, into Burma, and after that to Thai territory at the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949. Today the town is a tourist attraction known for its tea and its small-town ambience.

Wat Phra Kaeo (วัดพระแก้ว) once housed Thailand's most revered Buddha image, the Emerald Buddha. It was discovered in 1444. The statue had been moved by various state rulers to be placed in their respective capitals as a symbol of dominance, including Lampang, Chiang Rai, and Vientiane before finally enshrined in Bangkok's Wat Phra Kaeo during the reign of King Rama I of the Rattanakosin period.

Kok River (แม่น้ำกก) flows through the town of Chiang Rai and is 130 kilometres long. Longtail boats can be hired and cruises can be made from town.

Amphoe Mae Sai: Mae Sai (แม่สาย), borders on Burma's Tachileik (ท่าขี้เหล็ก), joined by the Mae Sai River Bridge.

Doi Nang Non (ดอยนางนอน), "sleeping woman mountain", is an unusual land feature in Mae Chan district on the west side of the highway between Chiang Rai and Mae Sai. The silhouette of the mountain range takes on the shape of a reclining woman when seen from certain angles. There is a viewpoint at Mae Chan, where this land feature can be best observed.

The Hall of Opium, Golden Triangle Park (หอฝิ่นอุทยานสามเหลี่ยมทองคำ) exhibits the history of opium in the Golden Triangle.

Chiang Saen's old city walls are still largely intact

Chiang Saen (เชียงแสน): an ancient town which once served as the main town before King Mengrai established Chiang Rai as the capital of the Lanna Kingdom in 1262. Traces of old double city walls and many other antiquities still remain in and outside the district town. The attractions include Chiang Saen National Museum (พิพิธภัณฑสถานแห่งชาติเชียงแสน), Wat Phra That Chedi Luang (วัดพระธาตุเจดีย์หลวง), and Wat Pa Sak (วัดป่าสัก).

Phu Chi Fa (ภูชี้ฟ้า): There is a trail which leads from a parking lot up to the viewing point on the top of this mountain, a distance of 1.8 kilometres. From the sheer cliff of Phu Chi Fa, views, especially the sea of clouds at sunrise, can be seen. The cool climate produces flowering shrubs of various species.

Local products[edit]

Chiang Rai is rich in handicrafts such as hand-woven cotton materials in bright colored festive garments, dresses and hilltribe silver ornaments, as well as wood carvings. Certain food items are quite popular such as "naem" and "mu yo" (preserved and fermented pork sausages). Agricultural products include lychee (April–May), bananas, coconuts, coffee, pineapples, and tea.

An Akha woman packs sun-dried, wet-processed coffee beans in the village of Maejantai

Chiang Rai Province is emerging as a coffee-growing region for its rich and mellow arabica coffee. Coffee is grown in several areas particularly Doi Tung and Mae Salong and other areas in Chiang Rai Province

Local culture[edit]

Northern Thailand's culture is Lanna in origin and the people are very proud of their northern roots. The region is home to distinctly different food, music, arts, way of life, and even language. Chiang Rai is a melange of hill tribes and their cultures.

Ethnic groups[edit]

Khon Muang are the city folk who originally came from Chiang Mai, Lamphun, Lampang, and Phrae. Culturally, they design their houses having only one floor with wooden gable decorations called "ka-lae". They are known for their craftsmanship in wood carving, weaving, lacquer ware, and musical instruments.

Tai Yai (Shan) are a Tai ethnic group who primarily live in what is now Shan State in Burma, and also in Mae Hong Son Province in Thailand. They grow rice, farm, raise cattle, and trade. Their craftsmanship lies in weaving, pottery, wood carving, and bronze ware.

Akha have the largest population of any hill tribe in the region. Originating from Tibet and southern China, they dwell on high ground around 1,200 meters above sea level. Within their villages they build spirit gateways to protect them from evil spirits.

Lahu (Musor) are also from the Yunnanese area and live in high areas. They are known as hunters and planters.

Karen live in various areas of the region which have valleys and riverbanks.

Chin Haw in Chiang Rai consist primarily of the former Kuomintang (KMT army) who took refuge in the area, mainly in Santikhiri/Doi Mae Salong.

Hmong from southern China, inhabit high ground. They raise livestock and grow rice, corn, tobacco, and cabbage. They are also known for their embroidery and silver.

Tai Lue (Dai) live in dwellings of usually only a single room wooden house built on high poles. They are skilled in weaving.

Lisu from southern China and Tibet are renowned for their colorful dress and also build their dwellings on high stilts. They harvest rice and corn and their men are skilled in hunting.

Yao (Mien) reside along mountain sides and grow corn and other crops. They are skilled blacksmiths, silversmiths, and embroiders.

Events & Festivals[edit]

Wai Sa Phaya Mengrai or "Phokhun Mengrai Maharat Festival" (งานไหว้สาพญาเม็งราย หรือ งานพ่อขุนเม็งรายมหาราช) is held from 23 January–1 February. The Buang Suang worshipping ceremony is to commemorate Phokhun Mengrai Maharat.

Dok Siao Ban "Blooming Siao Flower Festival" at Phu Chi Fa (งานดอกเสี้ยวบานที่ภูชี้ฟ้า) is held during 13–15 February. There are sports competitions and cultural performances from hill tribes at Ban Rom Fa Thai in Amphoe Thoeng.

Songkran Festival and Boat Races of Mueang Chiang Saen (งานประเพณีสงกรานต์และแข่งเรือเมืองเชียงแสน) is held during 13–18 April of each year. In this festival, there is a parade, water bathing ceremony of the Phrachao Lanthong Buddha image, boat races, and folk performances.

Lychee Fair (งานเทศกาลลิ้นจี่และของดีเมืองเชียงราย) is held around the middle of May every year. There is a float competition, Lychee beauty contest and booths of many products at Chiang Rai stadium.

Buatong Ban or "Blooming Mexican Sunflower Festival" (งานเทศกาลดอกบัวตองบาน) is held in November, affording people the opportunity to see the sunflower fields, waterfalls, and mists at Ban Hua Mae Kham, Amphoe Mae Fa Luang. There are also hilltribe performances.

Chiang Rai Flower Festival (งานเทศกาลเชียงรายดอกไม้บาน) is held from the end of December to January every year. There are flower processions, flower gardens, a Miss Thinn Thai Ngarm Contest, and also the fair of agricultural products and the variety of flowers.

Chiang Saen, Mae Chan, and Doi Mae Salong are three substantially different places. Chiang Saen's culture has been influenced by its collection of Buddhist scriptures and temples. It was once the provincial capital. Mae Chan's renown lies in its silver and tribal handicrafts. Once officially unrecognized by the Thai government, Doi Mae Salong is a Chinese KMT (Kuomintang) area renowned for its natural beauty and Yunnanese culture. Besides the Chinese 93rd Infantry of the Kuomintang, several other ethnic minorities have settled down in the region including the Tai Yai, Tai Lue, Tai Khoen, and Tai Yuan.


  • The area is known for its traditional Lanna music with instruments such as the sau (fiddle) and kaen (panpipe).
  • The north of Thailand has its own distinctive art and crafts including bronze casting, carving, mulberry paper, Buddha images, and sign painting.
  • Local handmade items popular with tourists are clay charcoal stoves, tea sets, brooms and dust pans, and umbrellas for shade and decoration.

Local foods[edit]

The staple diet of local people consists of sticky rice (glutinous rice) which is rolled into balls and served in small handmade bamboo containers. The rice is served steamed and some add sweeteners for a dessert rice. Typical main dishes in the area are dishes of curried chicken or shrimp and particularly kaeng khanun (spicy jackfruit curry), kaeng yuak (banana stalk curry), sai ua (grilled pork sausage), and Yunnanese and Burmese rice noodles. Khao soi is a noodle dish with chicken stock and chicken that is also popular. Nam ngiao is a traditional noodle dish with chicken or pork.



  1. ^ "Population of the Kingdom" (PDF). Department of Provincial Affairs (DOPA) Thailand (in Thai). 2014-12-31. Retrieved 19 Mar 2015. 
  2. ^ Geographical data
  3. ^ "Putrajaya's migrant deluge woes", The Star, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 13 May 2015,

External links[edit]