Set in the northernmost province of Thailand, Chiang Rai is a small, delightful city that continues to live in the shadow of local capital, Chiang Mai. But there are plenty of reasons to visit this charming destination. It has a relaxed atmosphere, an excellent selection of guesthouses and riverside hotels, great local food, and an abundance of Lanna art and architecture.
Chiang Rai is an excellent base for exploring the more remote corners of the province. To the north is the infamous Golden Triangle, the border of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar where opium warlords once nurtured the largest poppy cultivation in the world. Jungle trekking is magical in this lush landscape, where you can visit diverse hill tribes without negotiating hordes of other tourists and spot exotic wildlife in the mist-shrouded mountains. There are several golf courses in the region, including one of the finest in Thailand, and a zoo and animal park to entertain the children.
Our Spin: If you're a second-time visitor to northern Thailand (having stayed in Chiang Rai before), or are looking for a quieter base from which to explore this region, then Chiang Rai is a great choice for you. The Opium Museum and various visitable Royal Project sites are an interesting insight into how far this city has come.