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Chiang Rai ,Thailand
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Chiang Rai Thailand in green
Impenetrable tropical vegetation, traditional villages and beautiful flowering cherry trees make Chiang Rai a slightly adventurous-but-perfectly attractive destination
It is the northernmost province of Thailand and is located about 780 kilometers north of Bangkok, in the basin of the Mekong River. The province covers an area of about 11,700 square kilometers with an average elevation above sea level of 580 meters. The limits of the province is the area of the "golden triangle" or "triangle of opium", ie the point where the borders of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand meet. The area is also known as the gateway to South China.
The population of the province of Chiang Rai amounts to more than a million inhabitants. Approximately 12% of the population belong to different mountain tribes, a term used to group small ethnic groups residing in the north of Thailand such as Karen, the Lachou, the MMF, the Lissos etc. The mountain tribes retain a different yet charming lifestyle. In the area, and many of which originate from China which own many of the businesses in the area.
The city of Chiang Rai was founded by King Meng Rai in 1262 and was the first capital of the Thai kingdom of Lanna Thai - the "Kingdom of 1,000,000 paddy fields," as it was called. An impressive monument to the memory of the founder King is just outside the city. Soon Chiang Rai lost glory as the king himself built near a more impressive city, Chiang Mai. The Chiang Rai was conquered by the Bourmezous (Burma) and remained under their rule for several hundred years. Once in 1786 reunited with Thailand and later proclaimed province under the reign of King Rama VI. Today it is a small town mainly extends alongside the river and is the capital of the homonymous province.
Has its own leisurely pace, the quiet life of the province and the good climate - with less humidity and more fresh air coming from the mountains. If a visitor does a morning walk in the city, you will see the monks with orange simple costumes to flood their places of worship. Many Buddhist monasteries and temples, with "exotic" architecture, raise their gilded spiers in the sky. The Buddhist monasteries - temples, they are active communities of monks are true oases of tranquility, unique retreats in meditation in anyway calm city.
In the evening a small shopping street turns into beer market comes alive with hundreds of vendors. It is the night market which lasts until late and make this place look festive. A lot of people, locals and tourists come and go between the benches by haggling and buying all kinds of merchandise. Vendors selling delicious local fruits or food made on the spot and fill the air with their characteristic smell.
The Chiang Rai is a tourist paradise, endowed with abundant "natural" attractions and antiquities. The area itself is evidence of ancient civilizations. The word attractions include unique mountain scenery, ruins of ancient settlements, historic sites, Buddhist temples and tribal villages. Those interested in the natural beauty that surrounds Chiang Rai, always run short distances on trails through breathtaking nature, but with great caution. The paths are often inaccessible or hidden under the thick impenetrable green or waters argokylane, and can easily "trap" and lead you on the other side of the border. The orientation without driver is very difficult.
Boating on the river in Chiang Rai
The short our ride in the river that runs through the Kok Chiang Rai, started from the small dock next to the hotel. There he boarded the oblong boat with curious outboard. Such boats but no engine was not until a few years ago the only means of transport in the river. Sailing in the calm waters of the river did a short stop to see the daily life of various tribes residing in small villages along the river. The diminutive but very capable driver of the boat with great skill overcomes some shallow or narrow places. Directs between small obstacles encountered in some passages, which however alternated with calm or large openings. The path to our destination is just over an hour. Pass by isolated houses villages tucked in the lush jungle and seeing half-naked children floundering on the shore and greet us. At some point elephants take their bath and beyond grandmothers in traditional dress with long smoking pipes and our gaze, rather casually, sitting in front of their huts. We cross the water through a uniquely beautiful landscapes and arrive at our destination is a classic riverside village. Here we welcome women who wear colorful clothing characteristics, we see huge snakes in cages for the snapshot visitor, tourist shops with souvenirs downmarket, while our drop a bunch of kids selling handmade bracelets. In the village we come across many weavers who weave in their backyards and buy small rugs and a whole area is famous for its weavings.
The next day our destination is the botanical garden Mae Fah Luang Garden is under the protection of the royal family and is located on a hilltop. Early in the morning we prepare our backpacks and start. The road soon becomes very steep for this and change car. Leave the bus and embark on three small vans with seats configured in the flatbed. Our new transport fail, puffing, climb the winding road to reach the small flowery paradise "Thai-European aesthetics", with incredible color feast. The vegetation until we reach our destination is dense and bare light reaches the road, make him wet and slippery. Finishing our tour of the gardens, directly opposite the exit, we saw the store that has unexpectedly beautiful handmade objects and clothing.
Sights in Chiang Rai
The Mansion of the Princess Mother and the faraway village Mae Salongk located in the northwest of Chiang Rai and you can reach up there through a graphical, beautiful and sometimes steep road. The royal palace Doi Tung (Doi Tung) was the last residence of the mother of the King of Thailand, also known as Princess Mother. Located in the twelfth kilometer avenue 1149. This truly elegant, beautiful and unique building, built on the mountain, he manages to seamlessly combine two different architectural styles, the Swiss (the Princess Mother has lived in Switzerland) and Lanna (traditional architecture). From the palace one can admire the breathtaking view of the surrounding hills and valleys to create a unique backdrop. Next to it there is a garden full of wonderful flowers, as well as a room dedicated to the memory of the Princess Mother.
In the "old opium den of smugglers," Mae Salongk, you can visit the Museum of the Chinese Nationalist Party, known as Kuomintang (political group of the bourgeois democrats ideologically Triptych nationalism - democracy - people's welfare), to see the odyssey of members after the banishment of Mao's China. Then track their expulsion from Burma, from where they managed to get to Thailand and eventually settle here permanently. In Mae Salongk there are good hotel facilities, fine restaurants as well as opportunities for tours and excursions on horses and elephants. This area is amazing especially during the months of November and December blooming cherry trees.
Also a remarkable place to visit is the "Chapel of Guatemalan, Ham Rong Kun" or commonly known as the "Silver Temple". This temple is located thirteen kilometers south of Chiang Rai and not at all like the average Buddhist temple. In has designed one of the leading artists Thais, the Chaloemchai Khositphiphat, and is truly a masterpiece. The entire temple is "dressed" in white and has carved on it with incredible detail, various designs and styles that give the feeling that you are in paradise (in a version of it).
The Gate of Siam is a location on the border with Laos, where one can climb up and far away from tall Laos stretched out before his eyes, while below lies the Mekong River. Worth visiting are the Buddhist temples Wat Phra Kaeo, Wat Long Khun and Wat Phra Singh, the Cultural Center mountain breeds like the Zoo Doi Tung Zoo.
Festivals and Exhibitions in Chiang Rai
In the area of Chiang Rai occur several interesting festivals and exhibitions. The first of these, in chronological order, is the Festival of King Meng Rai, which is in honor of the founder of Chiang Rai and lasts from January 25 to February 1. This festival features parades, cultural events and competitions. The next festival is the Songkran during which celebrates the Thai New Year, from 16-18 April. In this festival take place outside the other three countries Thailand, China, Myanmar and Laos, and during the competitions are held on boats along the Mekong River.
Also, celebrate the taste of fruit. Specifically, there is exposure of the fruit "Lychee"-the most delicious in the region-in which one can observe the ways of culturing, admire local handicrafts, hear traditional songs and watch beauty pageants. The exhibition lasts from 19 to 28 May.
In Chiang Rai can be reached by bus from Bangkok-Travel time is approximately ten hours-or about an hour by plane.
Golden Triangle in Chiang Rai
The city is a good base to explore the surrounding mountainous area. With a minibus headed north to the Thai border with Myanmar and Laos, the Golden Triangle. The name "Golden Triangle» (Golden Triangle) conjures an area once flooded by the drug trade. But now things have changed significantly thanks to the efforts of many countries and especially Thailand and the USA for training of indigenous and tribal hills. The drug trade has almost disappeared from the area, however, and it is the main occupation of the inhabitants.
In the once notorious Golden Triangle, we went by car, we saw on the way the small town Chiang Saen on the banks of the Mekong River. Continuing our journey we passed through beautiful scenery and arrived at the village of Mae Sai (Mae Sai), on the border with Burma. On the way we stopped at a nursery where it is cultivated orchid, the national flower of the country, at incredibly wide variety of colors and sizes. The famous flower of Thailand exudes something of the beauty and sensuality of the country. Shortly after we visited one of the local training elephants that locals love them and care for them carefully since they constitute an important source of income.
In the "Golden Triangle" the Mekong River demarcates the borders of three countries. Arriving there, the village SOP Rouak, a huge gold Buddha that dominates the riverside side of Thailand, welcomes us. With the first images Marveling by lush tropical vegetation, large yellow-brown river and the eerie calm. Only a few boats carrying tourists crossing the waters. Relax in the tranquil surroundings of the great river admiring the beautiful scenery.
Opposite Laos where we expect the local market to the small tourist town borders. We arrived there by boat crossing the Mekong calm and back and forth constantly between water three countries. In the small market you can buy folk art in wood carvings, souvenirs, fine weaving and a weird whiskey in the bottle which is a cobra and a huge scorpion (possibly aphrodisiac ...). If I was not afraid lest he should break will buy to treat my friends. For food we chose a traditional Thai restaurant, with a menu spicy hues on the banks of the river.
In the villages of opium - Knowing the tribes of the North
The eerie golden triangle opium, this mysterious region with impenetrable jungle, hidden paths and "invisible" settlements seem to hold even today, well-kept secrets. We met the tribal villages living in the jungle which, until recently, were dependent on opium production. There we saw women in traditional uniforms through their wide smile appear red from chewing tobacco teeth.
Most of the settlements in the region are losing literally surrounded by greenery and only sounds are the happy voices of children splashing in the water. People here live quite isolated and therefore have retained many of the traditional habits.
The development of roads to bigger villages and the creation of schools are the first steps to integrate these people into society of Thailand. The government is making great efforts to change "bad habits" and indeed the bulk of opium poppy cultivation has now turned into tea crops, vegetables and medicinal herbs. The potential price of success of such an effort is perhaps the gradual loss of their cultural identity. But anyway, it seems that more and more of the population abandons mountain villages to city life.
Tribal Institute of the country has recorded about six different tribes, each of which has its own language, clothing and religion. Most of them have their roots in China, Tibet or in Laos, they moved many years ago. Themselves do not seem to feel citizens of Thailand or another country despite the efforts of the rulers. Some groups continue even today to move regardless of the existence of borders following their own "laws" imposed by life in unspoilt nature.
The tribe of Karen has white skin, Asian features and live in low-lying areas. Originating from Myanmar and left there as persecuted by the government. Every morning you see the kids make a great ride through the jungle to reach the nearest organized village located their school.
The village of Karen though not particularly long, is well "hidden". Labyrinthine paths crossed in every direction. All the houses are made of bamboo and are supported on thick wooden stakes high enough off the ground. Their contact with the outside world about tourism and through the "lens". The smoking pipe was for many years a traditional ritual. Most women wear long skirts and narrow striking ornaments alpaca covering the head and chest. The sight of women asimostolismenon the reed pipe in his hand is a completely cinematic scene.
The tribe of Lachou has narrow, almost religious relationship with Nature. They believe the spirits of the forest, the rain of monsoon and power of rivers. Traditional cultivate rice, corn and opium as they say is for their own use.
Another way to explore the 'golden triangle' is the hiking. Some of the hotels in Chiang Rai organize marches usually include hiking, overnight stays in villages, forest trails or elephant rides rafts in navigable rivers of the region.
Little about the weather in Chiang Rai
In this northern region of Thailand one can distinguish three seasons. Between March and May the prevailing heat, between June and November the weather is warm and wet and the end of December to February there is enough cool weather.
HOW TO GET TO CHIANG RAI
After the withdrawal of Thai Airways from Greece, Athens was not connected anymore directly with Bangkok. At last you can now get with most companies traveling east through an intermediate station. In this search we found better prices with Qatar Airways via Doha (www1.qatarairways.com), the Singapore Airlines via Singapore (www.singaporeair.com) and Turkish Airlines via Istanbul (www.turkishairlines.com).
In Chiang Rai's airport which case you can take your flight Bangkok - Chiang Rai lasting about one hour. The Thai Airways departs daily flights from Bangkok.
WHERE TO STAY IN CHIANG RAI
Phowadol Resort and Spa (excellent), Dusit Island (riverside), River House Resort & Spa, Anantara Golden Triangle, Imperial Golden Triangle Resort, Golden Triangle Paradise Resort, Teak Garden Spa Resort, Legend Boutique Resort & Spa, Phu Chaisai, Suanthip Vana Resort, Golden Pine, Wiang Inn, Wangcome Hotel.
WHERE TO EAT IN CHIANG RAI
All the hotels in the area, such as the hotel restaurants Phowadol Resort and Spa and Dusit Island, have restaurants with very good quality Thai cuisine. Some of them offer international cuisine which facilitates guests who do not prefer spicy foods. Also within the city and around it (as is the restaurant Yoong Khao) there are several restaurants. Keep in mind that because the Thais eat earlier than us and noon and evening, the restaurants serve these up some time.
Note: a full list of hotels, rooms and nice restaurants you can get from the offices of Thailand Tourism Organization, Street Singhakhlai. Open daily from 8.30 am to 4.30 pm.
USEFUL INFORMATION ABOUT CHIANG RAI
Identity of the Country - General Information
Thailand covers an area of 510,000 square km, bordering Myanmar, with Laos and Cambodia and Malaysia.
Population: It reaches nearly 60 million
Religion: The official religion of the country is Theravada Buddhism and covers 90% of residents.
Currency: Baht. Parity: One (1) are approximately 40 Baht.
Passports are required and must be valid for at least 6 more months.
Language: Thai and English (in tourist places).
Safety: It is generally a safe country.
Vaccines: It is not necessary for the tourist areas.
Water: You should drink only bottled.
Time: The time difference from Greece is 5 hours ahead in winter and four summer.
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