780km (484 miles) NE of Bangkok; 180km (112 miles) NE of Chiang Mai
Chiang Rai is Thailand's northernmost province. The Mekong River makes its borders with Laos to the east and Myanmar to the west. The smaller yet scenic Mae Kok River, which supports many hill-tribe villages along its banks, flows right through the provincial capital of the same name.
Chiang Rai City lies some 565m (1,885 ft.) above sea level in a wide fertile valley, and its cool refreshing climate, tree-lined riverbanks, and popular but more subdued Night Market lure travelers weary of traffic congestion and pollution in Chiang Mai. Chiang Rai also has some good accommodations choices, and many travelers use the city as a base for trekking and trips to Chiang Saen and the Golden Triangle.
Note: Some trips include a stop at the Mae Rim valley on their way north to Chiang Rai (30 min. north of the city on Rte. 107). Mae Rim is an area popular for elephant trekking, rafting, and bungee-jumping.
Just over 100km north of Chiang Mai on the way to Chiang Rai, look for little Suanthip Vana Resort (49 Chiang Mai-Chiang Rai Rd., Tambon Takok; tel. 05372-4226; www.suanthipresort.com), a semi-luxe property with cool honeymoon bungalows that overlook a river valley.