The northern-most province in Thailand is Chiang Rai Province. Some 780 kilometres from Bangkok, Chiang Rai has a cooler climate than the rest of Thailand and is noted for its scenic mountain ranges, lush green valleys and tropical fruits such as lychees and pineapples. People have lived in what is now Chiang Rai Province in Thailand for centuries. From the 7th to the 13th centuries it was ruled by King Mangrai the Great and was the centre of the Lanna Kingdom (the Kingdom of a Million Rice Fields). King Mangrai made Chiang Rai town his capital in 1262 (King Mang Rai's City). However, in 1558 the area fell under Burmese rule and remained occupied for over 200 years. It wasn't until 1932 that it was classified as a northern region, part of the country of Siam (now Thailand).
Now Days the city of Chiang Rai s a thriving little city and a great place to visit in its own right making it a great place to stay while visiting the many places within the Province. There are many great places to visit while in Chiang Rai Province and I presented some of the very best below:
Wat Phra Kaew in Chiang-Rai is historically significant for the Thai People. It was a past home to the Emerald Buddha now located in Wat Phra Kaew next to the Grand Palace in Bangkok. Within the grounds of the Temple there is a Buddhist Museum which is worth walking through if you have the time. The Temple is located in downtown Chiang-Rai and you can follow the link in this blog to see the exact location.
Most of the cities in Thailand have a 'city pillar', which is usually made of stone and situated in a spot that is considered to be the heart of the city. These religious pillars or omphalos are sometimes referred to as 'navel' pillars because they sit in the center of the city (not to be confused with the word 'naval', which refers to the navy.)
The Sadu Meuang (Navel City Pillar) of Chiang Rai is unusual because instead of being just one pillar it is made up of 109 separate pillars. It was constructed in 1987 to mark the occasion of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej's sixtieth birthday and the 725th anniversary of the City.
The monument was designed and built using the Khmer style in accordance with traditional Lanna beliefs, which reflects a combination of Buddhist and Hindu theology. There is a central column, which stands on a marble triangular base. This column is said to be five times as wide as His Majesty's fist and as high as His Majesty is tall. The other 108 columns are laid out around the central column, with the outside pillars signifying the earthly realm of human beings and the inner part comprising of six tiers representing the six realms of heaven (Catummaharajika, Tavatimsa, Yama, Tusita, Nimmanarati, and Paranimmitavasavatti).
Chiang-Mai is well known throughout Thailand for the delicious strawberries that are grown in the Province's fertile soil. Taking a stop at one of the farms is a great experience and a great time to taste some fantastic strawberries. The farm I had stopped allowed me to tour the farm with my camera. The strawberries were very sweet and delicious.
Tucked away in Wiang Kaen sub-district, some 130 kilometers from Chiang Rai Town lies Doi Pha Tang. Doi Pha Tang is a very beautiful mountain on the border between Thailand and Laos, about 25 km to the north of the more popular tourist spot Phu Chi Fa.
This peaceful and scenic 1,638 meter mountain is home to a number of ethnic groups including the Chinese Haw, the Hmong and the Yao, many of whom have largely maintained their own unique culture and way of life. If you get the chance, be sure to experience some of the local food. There are many Chinese restaurants and the roadside stands selling preserved fruits such as apricots, peaches, red cherries, and Chinese pears are not to be missed. The climate here is much cooler than the rest of the country allowing the local farmers to produce many fruits that cannot be found elsewhere in Thailand.
Historically the term 'the Golden Triangle' applies to the opium growing region covering northern Thailand, eastern Myanmar (Burma) and western Laos. However, since the production and use of opium has been illegal in Thailand since 1959, the term is now more widely used to mean the meeting point of the Thai, Burmese and Loas borders. On the Thai side, this meeting point is at the small town of Sop Ruak.
Some 18 miles from Chiang Rai, Sop Ruak is not only situated on the border of three countries, but it also sits on a junction between the Mekong and Ruak rivers. The town has a small museum dedicated to all things opium and here you can get a feel of what an opium den was like.
At the southern-most point of the ‘triangle’ lies the ancient city of Chiang Saen. Now, just a small village, it was once a major crossroads and trade route. Today remnants of the ancient city walls and moat are still visible in the ruins.
The Golden Triangle is now a popular tourist destination with visitors typically visiting Sop Ruak, Chiang Saen and (when the border crossing is open) a small town in Myanmar (Burma) for some shopping. The whole area is very picturesque – the vistas across the river to Laos and Myanmar are breathtaking and there are several pleasant open-air restaurants offering panoramic views.
A place not often visited by Western tourists, Phu Chi Fa or 'the Mountain that Points to the Sky' is a wonderful place to experience the sunrise in Chiang Rai Province. To get the best from the experience, you either need to get up pretty early and take a tour bus or stay overnight. There is a campsite available or you can opt for local village accommodation in Ban Rom Fa Thong.
From the car park at the base of Phu Chi Fa there is a steep 1.8 km climb to the viewing point at the top of the mountain. At the summit you will discover a large grassy plain, which ends in a small peak (that points towards the sky). The climb maybe steep, but it is worth it when you are rewarded by spectacular views over the Mekong River and deep into Laos. The sunrises here are particularly wonderful as in the early morning the valley is covered in a sea of clouds. As the sun rises the morning mist swirls and subsides and the green mountain tops below begin to peak through – the effect is incredibly breathtaking!
The Royal Villa at Doi Tung was the residence of Her Royal Highness Princess Srinagarindra, the Princess Mother. The villa was built in 1987 and constructed under Her Majesty's supervision to incorporate architectural elements from Switzerland (where Her Royal Highness lived for many years) and from Lanna culture.
When the villa was first proposed the Royal Forest Department planned to give the land that it was to be constructed on as a gift to Her Royal Highness. However, Her Majesty declined the kind offer, stating that as no other Thai could own property in a forest preserve then neither should she. Her Majesty had chosen to build a villa in the area so that she could have a base for her work on the Doi Tung Development Project – a project that works to sustain the lives of local people and the forest in the area. The Royal Villa is therefore not owned, but leased, under a 30 year term – that being the length of the Doi Tung Development Project.
The villa was very much thought as 'home' by Her Majesty. Indeed on the Royal entrance there is an English saying written in Thai which translates as 'A house is built of brick and stone, a home is built of love alone – Home sweet home.' The exterior of the villa was decorated with reclaimed teak wood, while the interior is paneled with recycled pine wood that came from shipping crates. The highlight of the Royal Villa is on the ceiling of the main hall. Designed by the Astronomy Society of Thailand, the handcrafted wood inlay is dotted with tiny lights representing the position of the constellations on October 21, 1900, the day the Princess Mother was born.
The Mae Fah Garden in Doi Tung is located on the hillside just below the Doi Tung Royal Villa – Royal residence to the late Royal Highness Princess Srinagarindra, the Princess Mother. The name of the garden is derived from the nickname Mae Fa Luang (meaning Royal Mother from the Sky or Heavenly Royal Mother) given to Her Royal Highness by the Thai people.
Covering 25 rai (4 hectares), the garden was created with support from the Tourism Authority of Thailand and was opened to the public in 1992. The climate in the area is quite different from the rest of the country and so it is possible to grow a range of plants from different environments. Throughout the year, flowers adorn this hillside, making the Mae Fah Luang Garden one of the brightest and most colorful sites in Thailand.
At the center of the garden is a statue of children climbing on top of each other, forming a human pyramid that reaches up to the sky. The creation of one of Thailand's leading artists: Misiem Yipintsoi, the statue is called 'Continuity'. Her Majesty believed that continuity was the success of any endeavor and so the statue was given the name 'Continuity'. Today, it stands as a symbol for the efforts of the Princess Mother to improve the lives of the people of Thailand. The garden brings substantial income to the area, directly as job opportunities for the locals, and indirectly as a tourist destination.
Doi Tung Mountain is located very near the border between Thailand and Myanmar in Chiang Rai Province. The mountain has a wonderful history of transformation. The mountain was used for the growing of poppies in the middle of this century when the mountain was deforested to make way for fields of poppies to support of the drug trade at that time.
Then through the efforts of the royal family and intervention of the King of Thailand, the mountain was transformed to a garden paradise, supporting amazing gardens and orchards of tasty fruit trees and coffee. The story of this huge achievement is being told in the Hall of Inspiration, a building dedicated to the remeberance of this amazing transformation. Today, several ethnic communities live on the mountain in harmony helping to provide it’s visitors a botanical garden paradise to enjoy.
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