Founded in 1262, Chiang Rai city is the capital and name sake of Thailand's most northern province and often known as the "gateway to the Golden Triangle". Most travellers use Chiang Rai as a base for trekking in the northern mountain range towards Burma where many of Chiang Rai's old Chinese and Hill tribe villages can be found. The tribes that can be found in the mountains and by the Kok River include the Akha, Yao, Blue and White Maeo, Karen, Hmong, Lisu, Lahu Shi and Skaw. In town the Hill tribe Museum and Eduction Centre has a slide show describing the 8 main tribes, their customs, style of dress and animist belief system.
The city has some lovely Wats dating back hundreds of years, surrounded by tranquil gardens to relax in.
Only 60km from Chiang Rai, and close to the Golden Triangle, Chaing Saen is one of Thailand's oldest towns which since its inception has been influenced by Buddhism. Situated on the banks of the Mekong, this was once a powerful fortified city that dominated the surrounding lands. Today it is known not only for its fascinating history which can be seen reflected in its ancient buildings, but also for its beautiful mountainous scenery.
There are many interesting temples and ruins of archaeological interest which are well worth a visit as well as a branch of the National Museum. On a hilltop overlooking the town is Wat Phra Thart Jom Kitti from where you can enjoy panoramic views of the Mekong River and surrounding lands.