Chiang Rai is both the name of Thailand’s northernmost province and also the name of the capital of the province plus it’s considered the eco-tourism capital of Thailand.
The province shares the mighty Mekong River as a common border with Laos to the east and Myanmar (Burma) to the west, creating the once notorious Golden Triangle where the drug trade flourished into the 1990’s. Through strict control and law enforcement the opium trade has been pushed back into Laos and Myanmar. These days the only evidence of this drug era you’ll see is in the museums.
This mountainous Northern Province is home to 13 different hill tribes, mostly of Tibet and Chinese decent. The countryside is relatively unspoiled with hills, valleys with winding rivers and dense jungle. The tree lined Mae Nam Kok river flows through Chiang Rai City which is a smaller version of its bigger sister Chiang Mai. With just 40,000 people you’ll find it to be cleaner, quieter and mellow. The main part of town is just a few blocks of shops, restaurants and quiet bars, travel agencies, a subdued night market selling plenty of hilltribe clothing and crafts. Chiang Rai isn’t the place to come for nightlife but is the place to go as a base for treks to hilltribe villages, day trips to the Golden Triangle, Chiang Saen and across the border into Laos.