For centuries, the Thai city of Chiang Rai was part of Birma (now: Myanmar), before the city and the province of the same name were annexed by Thailand in 1933. The city is an excellent base for trips through the impressive green and mountainous surroundings.
Officially about 65,000 inhabitants live in the city, but the urban area of Chiang Rai and surroundings is much larger and houses over 200,000 people. More than 10% of the inhabitants belong to the so-called hill tribes, a collective term for several ethnic groups in the north of Thailand.
Chiang Rai is located in the far north of Thailand, 200 kilometers northeast of the larger city of Chiang Mai and over 60 kilometers south of the border with Myanmar. The border with Laos isn't far either: about 60 kilometers northeast of Chiang Rai. North of the city center runs the Mae Kok River.
Tourism is one of the main sources of income of Chiang Rai. The city also develops itself more and more as the region's commercial center, stimulated by the so-called Economic Quadrangular Zone, consisting of China, Myanmar, Laos and Thailand. The province of Chiang Rai produces agricultural products like rice, corn, longan and litchi.
The city's airport is called Mae Fah Luang-Chiang Rai International Airport in full and is situated 10 kilometers north of the center. Although the name suggests otherwise (until now) there are only domestic flights to and from this airport. Chiang Rai Airport is easily reachable by rental car from the city center via the freeway, Phahonyothin Road. Alternatively you take the less busy Vhiangburapha Road.
As for transportation within the city, public transport in Chiang Rai consists mainly of so-called tuk-tuks (a motorbike with a type of coach attached to it), songthaews (a covered pick-up with on both sides a bench) and taxis. Buses run to other destinations within and outside the province.
Finding your way around Chiang Rai isn't difficult nor is finding a parking place most of the time. Don't be intimidated by the 'guards' wildly blowing their whistles: most of the time they want to guide you to a free place, although it seems they're forbidding you something. Obviously these guards expect a small compensation when you return to your rental car.
Chiang Rai has a large choice of accommodations ranging from basic guesthouses to luxurious hotels and everything in between. Because of its high altitude, the city draws Thai and foreign visitors all year round (in winter months it can even be cold at night). We therefore recommend booking your accommodation in advance.
For more information about Chiang Rai, we recommend Google and the following sources: