Hilltribe Museum: Since one of the major reasons people come to Chiang Rai province is to visit hill tribe communities, it stands to reason that museum dedicated to them exists in the city. If you don’t have the time to make it up to the surrounding hills to see these communities in person then a stop here is a must, but a visit here before you venture out into the forested jungles is also highly recommended. Run by the nonprofit Population & Community Development Association (PDA), the museum’s exhibits contain a wealth of information on Thailand’s various tribes and the issues that surround them. Admission is B50, and the museum is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 6pm, and weekends from 10am to 6pm.
Temples: Significant religious landmarks include Wat Klang Wiang, one of the city’s most ornate and heavily decorated temples, and Wat Phra Singh (pictured), which was built in the 14th century, about 100 years after the city’s founding. Another historic site is Wat Phra Kaew, which dates back to the founding of the city and is also the temple where the original Emerald Buddha—now at the Grand Palace, Bangkok—was discovered following a mysterious bolt of lightning (or so it is said).
Shopping: When night falls shoppers flock to the Chiang Rai Night Bazaar, which is much more modest than the one in Chiang Mai, and less clogged with sweaty tourists haggling over fake watches. While browsing for souvenirs and looking for late night street eats, be sure to catch the dazzling and colourful automated light and sound show at the nearby Golden Clock Tower, which takes place nightly at 7, 8, and 9pm.
Oob Kham Museum: Located about 1 km out of town, near the Den Ha market, this museum is a charming little place filled with costumes and ornaments from all over the Lanna region. For some it might be beguilingly chaotic, but it’s home to some genuinely impressive artefacts and offers a comprehensive thousand-year history of the Tai people and Lanna culture. The highlight is the 400-year-old golden throne of Tai Yai royals from the Shan State in Myanmar (the only one of its kind left in the world). The museum is open daily from 8am to 5pm, and admission is B300.
Tel: 05 371 3349