Chiang Rai is the most northern of all Thailand cities. It was originally a capital city way back in the mid 13th Century. It was founded by King Mantra and was the capital of that dynasty. It was conquered by and fell the rule of the Burmese for hundreds of years. The Province of Chiang Rai was finally declared a province of Thailand in 1933.
It was here that the famous Emerald Buddha was discovered. An earthquake struck and an average looking plaster cast statue of the Buddha fell to the ground. Local monks were astonished to discover the immaculate jade statue underneath. The statue was relocated several times before eventually finding its now permanent home in Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok. It is considered one of the most important Buddhist icons in the country.
The city has several Buddhist temples and an important Buddhist cave, called Lion Hill. Hikers come to visit and walk in the surrounding hills. The Ubiquitous Night Market in the centre of town is a terrific Chiang Rai destination comprising of souvenir stalls, performance areas and about 40 restaurants.
The city of Chiang Rai is a full 500 miles from the nation’s capital Bangkok. Getting there without flying is not easy. There are no direct rail links as the line ends at Chiang Mai. Talk of extending the line does not carry much weight as the lack of serious tourist numbers here make it highly unlikely.