A world-wide experienced tourist from Austria tells about his own impressions from his journey through the most northern province of Thailand – Chiang Mai.
At first – wonderful and amazing! I adore Thailand at all, but I was excited about the variety of nature, culture, ethnic groups, history, sight landmarks and last but not least people and food.
The old slogan: “Northernmost in Siam, beautiful Doi Tung, repository of culture, most delicious rice, sweet and fragrant Lychee, the finest flavoured tea, pineapple from Nang-Lae, source of the giant catfish)” was repaced by "The northernmost of Siam, the frontier of three lands, the home to the culture of Lanna and Doi Tung Temple", add both and add my “at first” – words, then you will get a sense of this unique location on our earth!
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 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.
The majority of the population are generally ethnic Thai, but 12.5% of the population belong to the hill tribes, a minority in Thailand's north. A minority are of Chinese descent, mainly descendants of the Kuomintang soldiers who settled in the region Santikhiri.
Mae Fah Luang Art and Cultural Park (Rai Mae Fah Luang) is in Pa Ngiw Village, about 5 kilometers from the city center. As I mentioned at the begin: 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 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: 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 Lord Buddha in different gestures.
The Golden Triangle, 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 remains of many ancient places and structures attesting to the area having been long-settled.
Doi Mae Salong 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 to Thai territory at the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949. Today the town is a tourist attraction renowned for its tea and its small-town ambience on high hills.
Wat Phra Kaeo 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 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 borders on Burma's Tachileik , joined by the Mae Sai River bridge where the big shopping in Burmas shops are overrun and overruled after ASIAN.
Doi Nang Non "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 exhibits the history of opium in the Golden Triangle.
Chiang Saen : 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 , Wat Phra That Chedi Luang , and Wat Pa Sak .
Phu Chi Fa : 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.
Golf Santiburi Chiang Rai is one of the best courses in the country and is only 15 minutes from the city. Waterford is an attractive course about 45 minutes north of Chiang Rai city. The military course is on the way to the Mae Fah Luang Bridge, not far from Dusit-Hotel. The old airport has a 9 hole course.
Longtail boat cruise A longtail boat ride on the Kok River is a fun way to experience the scenery and see hill tribe villages. There are daily trips from Tha Ton, near the Burmese border. The main boat dock is on the north side of the Mae Fah Luang Bridge, not far from the Rimkok Hotel.
Elephant Riding Elephant riding is possible at Baan Ruamit, about 30 minutes from Chiang Rai by car or 1 hour by longtail boat.