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Chiang Rai and Golden Triangle

The Golden Triangle where Thailand meets Laos and Myanmar

Chiang Rai is a comfortable three hour scenic drive from Chiang Mai on an excellent road.
Either private car or  by comfortable GREEN BUS service departing several times a day from
Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Station.
The town of Chiang Rai is a sleepier provincial capital but offers quite a few interesting places to visit.
A short drive out of the city brings you to the beautiful hill country of the Golden Triangle.

Wat Phra Keow with a replica of the Emerald Buddha now housed at the Grand Palace in Bangkok. It was here in Chiang Rai that this precious Buddha image was re-discovered in 1391 after being hidden away in a chedi for protection from  outside invaders. The Emerald Buddha was then quite a traveler residing in Lampang and Chiang Mai before moving to Laos for over 200 years after Lao King Setthatirat married a Chiang Mai princess. Finally when the Siamese sacked Vientiane in 1778, the Emerald Buddha has been housed in Bangkok.

Close by is the small  Hilltribe Museum and a restaurant called
Cabbages and Condoms which is part of a Thai NGO and PDA-
People’s Development Association
supporting HIV/Aids awareness:

Tribal Music Asia:

Victoria Vorreiter has been documenting traditional music of the Golden Triangle. Very beautiful:

Mae Fah Luang Art and Cultural Park
under Royal Patronage is a beautiful place to visit in Chiang Rai town  and often overlooked by visitors.

Baan DamThe Black House Museum is another interesting place to visit seeing the work of local Thai artist Thawan Duchanee.
More information from Travelfish.orgClick Here

The White Temple-  Wat Rong Khun created by Thai national artist Chalermchai is located just south of Chiang Rai City- an easy stop on the way from Chiang Rai.
See what  has to say, Click Here.

Charin Garden and Pies!
    also along the way from Chiang Rai and not far from the White Temple-  a wonderful garden stop by the river with the best pies in Northern Thailand. We are so lucky to have a branch in Chiang Mai on  Nimman Soi 17.

Accomodations in Chiang Rai City:
There are lots of small hotels and guesthouses close to Night Market area but a short drive away to:

The River House Resort:   lovely and quiet

North into The Golden Triangle:
Mae Sai:  Thailand’s northern most town where the border crossing is into Tachilek in Myanmar is approx 1.5 hours drive from Chiang Rai town.

Border crossing into Myanmar at  Mae Sai:
Post MILITARY COUP in Myanmar-  no Updates available

The Triangle itself is about half an hour drive to the east where Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meets along the Mekong River. The official border crossing into Laos is further south of the Triangle driving along the Mekong and the historical town of Chiang Saen-  or  northeastast of Chiang Rai town at Chiang Khong on the Thai side-  Houixay on the Lao side.  More below.

Enroute to Mae Sai is the town and area known as Mae Chan.  About an hour north of Chiang Rai city, turn left at Mae Chan into the hills which brings you to Doi Mae Salong where former Chinese KMT have settled.  Following the years of trying to fight the Chinese communists during World War II, these families are now peacefully growing tea on the mountain slopes.

Phu Chai Sai Resort  is a lovely place to stay.
Traditional bamboo cottages overlooking the mountains with a pool and spa.

Nearby places to visit:
Hikes and walks to nearby ethnic Lahu and Yao villages.
Enjoy tea around Mae Salong.

Golden Horse Monastery  (Wat Maa Tong)  where former Thai boxer turned Buddhist monk established a temple to look after the welfare of children while battling the drug trade.  Today you can visit this monastery to see the morning alms round of monks on horseback.
Buddha’s Lost Children: a beautiful documentary film was made in 2006:

Doi Tung Mountain and Mae Fah Luang Gardens and Villa
the last residence of the late and beloved Princess Mother of the Late Majesty King Rama IX.  A gorgeous place to visit and learn more about the Doi Tung Foundation which under Royal Patronage established sustainable agricultural and handicraft projects as an alternative to growing opium.
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Akha Swing Festival:  if traveling around end of August you may get a chance to see this fun event with several ethnic Akha villages around Mae Salong honoring ancestors for their upcoming harvest and taking to the giant swings!

Akha Mud House – guest accomodations created by a local Akha Tour Guide at his village of Mae Salong Noi.  Find it on

More on the Akha Swing Festival:
Click HERE

Accomodations at The Triangle:
Imperial Golden Triangle Resort:

Elephants and High-end Luxury:

Golden Triangle Elephant Foundation at Anantara Golden Triangle Resort
and Four Seasons Tented Camp:

Chiang Saen:
located along the Mekong south of the Triangle on the way to Chiang Khong.  This is the entry port for Chinese trading boats entering Thailand. Often overlooked, Chiang Saen was an ancient capital with interesting old chedis and sites to explore.

Chiang Khong

the border town where you cross to Laos from Thailand.

From Chiang Rai town to Chiang Khong, it is an approx 2- hour drive to the east.
Coming from the Golden Triangle-  approx 1.5 hours drive south along the Mekong.

There is also a direct comfortable GREEN BUS from Chiang Mai ARCADE Station directly to Chiang Khong if you do not wish to stopover in Chiang Rai city.  Approx 6 hours by bus.

Accomodations in Chiang Khong:

Lots of small traveler guesthouses are found in town.
Nam Khong Riverside Resort
is a nice, clean, right on the Mekong.  Find it on

Lanjia Eco Lodge:   a wonderful oasis 30 minutes from the border crossing.

lovely and comfortable eco accomodations located right in the village supports traditional Hmong and Lahu villagers on a hill with a splendid view.

Each traditional house has 4 rooms with own private bath with hot water and share a common living space where meals are served.
Learn about village life with Lanjia’s resident guide and participate in

More on:

Asian Oasis also runs the lovely Lisu Lodge north of Chiang Mai in the Mae Taeng valley.

Crossing into Laos:

Border Crossing into Laos is now via the new bridge at Chiang Khong.  Clear out of Thai immigration and a shuttle bus is available to cross the bridge.

Lao Visas are available upon arrival for USD 35 and a passport photo. The visa cost may vary slightly according to nationality.  Shuttle transport is available from the bridge into Houixay– the border town on the Lao side where there are lots of simple but clean guesthouses.

Boats down the Mekong to Luang Prabang:

A beautiful 2-day  journey down this river where you can unplug and re-charge!

Public Slow Boat can be very basic and crowded and best AVOID the Speedboats which can be very dangerous travel.

Wonderful Join-in Cruise operation; 

or Arrange Private local boat charter via local agent.

Clear Immigration in early morning by 0800am if you wish to continue directly by boat harbour.  If a private boat has been arranged, confirm timings with your local agent or guide. Important to also check the Mekong water levels during the drier season.

You need to break up the trip half way at the market town of Pakbeng where lots of accomodations from budget backpacker places to more upscale are available.

Upscale  Pakbeng Lodge:

Budget: lots of local guesthouses can be found on arrival just up from the boat landing.

Private boat charter down the Mekong and arrangements for northern Laos can be arranged by a great local guide in Luang Prabang, Mr. Khamsouk of Meuang Lao Tours.  Email:

For More on Laos: click here

Copyright 2006 by all rights reserved.