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Chiang Rai has been inhabited since the 7th century, but it was not until 1262 that King Meng Rai established it as the first capital of the Lanna Kingdom. The capital was later relocated to Chiang Mai and since that time Chiang Rai has lived in the shadow of its neighboring province, though for tourists this is a good thing.
Chiang Rai town, which tends to be a little more ‘laid back’ than its more popular neighbor, now competes with Chiang Mai as a tourist attraction and is fast becoming a popular escape for tourists wanting to leave their troubles behind.
Chiang Rai, the former capital of the great Lanna Kingdom, is a fascinating province filled with cultural and natural wonders, including the Golden Triangle where Thailand, Laos, and Burma come together; an area that was once the hub of opium production, a trade that had much influence on cultural practices and lifestyles. Chiang Rai had stayed off the tourist radar for many years, its people enjoying very leisurely development and mostly traditional, rural lifestyles. Until this day, entire clans live together in bamboo houses and each village has its own individual character.
Chiang Rai has been inhabited since the 7th century, but it was not until 1262 that King Meng Rai established it as the first capital of the Lanna Kingdom. The capital was later relocated to Chiang Mai and since that time Chiang Rai has lived in the shadow of its neighboring province, though for tourists this is a good thing.Today, Chiang Rai is a traveler’s paradise, endowed with abundant natural attractions and antiquities. Attractions range from ruins of ancient settlements and Buddhist shrines to magnificent mountain scenery and hill tribe villages. For those interested in the natural side of Chiang Rai, jungle trekking is a magical experience; explore the mountains of the north along various hiking trails, many of which access the villages of diverse hill tribes groups, many of whom maintain their traditional lifestyles. Chiang Rai town, which tends to be a little more ‘laid back’ than its more popular neighbor, now competes with Chiang Mai as a tourist attraction and is fast becoming a popular escape for tourists wanting to leave their troubles behind.
Chiang rai Festival
Chiang Rai Festival
#Akha Hill Tribes Mini Light and Sound Presentation
When: The second Saturday of every month
Where: Chiang Rai Social Development Centre 12 on Doi Mae Salong Rd., Pa Sang, Mae Chan
Every second Saturday of the every month, Chiang Rai holds mini light and sound presentation to present the insight of Akha hilltribe’s culture and daily life including hilltribe children’s games and plays, exhibition and handicrafts. The performance ticket costs 150 Baht per person and 300 Baht for the performance and dinner.
#Greater Mekong Subregion Culture Trade and Tourism
Where: Royal Thai Air Force Base, Air Squadron 416 (Old Airport)
A harmony of the 6 countries; Thailand, Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam is called upon in Greater Mekong Subregion Culture Trade and Tourism. There are cultural performances from all countries including local products, exhibitions, Motor Show and many more. There is also a seminar under the common interest topics of the riparian countries. Chiang Rai is a host venue of this event as it is a gate to Thailand’s neighbouring countries. Originally, there were only 4 countries, Thai, China, Myanmar and Laos but to increase awareness in culture, relationships as well as trade, more countries are invited.
#King Mengrai the Great Annual Fair
When: 26 January - 4 Febuary
Where: Royal Thai Air Force Base, Air Squadron 416 (Old Airport), Chiang Rai
Chiang Rai was built by King Mengrai in January 1262. This event is to commemorate the establishment of the town. Lanna Buddhist ceremony is held on 26 January followed by school’s orchestra band, cultural performances. 10 day-Red Cross Fair is held after the ceremony.
#Lahu New Year
Where: Lahu Village in chiang rai
The Lahu New Year is called “Kho Jouw We” . There is no fixed time for New Year but it usually occurs after the harvest, maybe in Febuary, March or April of each year. It is not important for every village to perform the New Year celebration at the same time. When New Year arrives, the members of the village who work away from home will come back to their hometown to celebrate New Year together.
It takes 12 days to celebrate Lahu New Year. It is divided into 2 periods; women’s New Year which is called “Kho Luang or Pee Yai” and men’s New Year which is called “Kho Noi or Pee Lek”. They both last for 6 days beginning with the women’s and ending with the men’s. So, the festival was divided into Women’s New Year and Men’s New Year, after the harvest the women would start the festival allowing the men to continue when they returned home.
#Poy Luang Ceremony
When: February - May
Where: Various provinces in the northern region
Poy Luang is a grand celebration of 3 – 7 days, held in a temple, usually during February to May. The purpose of the ceremony is to celebrate communal religious establishment, to donate the merit to the late ancestors, to strengthen the relationship between the laymen residents and with the religious institution. During this period, there is Buddhist ceremony as well as entertainment. On the first day, the residents will bring bamboo flags and place them on both sides of the entrance to the temple, a parade in which people bring food as offerings to the temple. The northern Thai dancers dressed in traditional clothes accompany the parade. This unique tradition is held only in the provinces in the northern Thailand.
#Phu Chi Fah Dok Sieo Festival
When: 13 – 15 February
Where: Ban Rom Fah Thai, Thueng
The spectacular sight of the white and pink blossoms of Dok Sieo (Bauhinia) at Phu Chi Fah can be admired. Coincidently, it blooms around the Valentine’s Day which makes a romantic getaway. During the festival, there are performances from hilltribes such as Hmong, Akha, Yao, Hilltribe beauty pageant, archery show, hilltribe’s top spinning show, Hmong’s ball games and local products sales.
#Poy Sang Long (Buddhist Novice Ordainment Ceremony)
When: March – May
Where: various provinces in the northern region
Inherited from Shan peoples in Myanmar, Poy Sang Long is held before the end of Buddhist Lent. The ceremony’s purpose is to ordain boys aged between 7 – 14 years old. During the ceremony, they are adorned with colourful clothes, flowers and make-up. Then they will ride on a horse back or on an older male relatives and march along the street. On the third day, they are ordained and enter the monastery. The novices will take monastic vows and stay in monastery life that can take one week to months or more. There are normally more than one novices ordained at the same time.
#Chang Thai Ruam Mitr Day
Where: Ban Ruam Mitr, Mae Yao, Mueang
Elephant is the animal that has had significant roles in Thailand since the kingdom’s establishment. Ban Ruam Mitr holds this event so as to show gratitude to the elephants and preserve the traditions related to elephants. On this day, there is religious ceremony to pay respect to the elephants, food fest for elephants, best mahout award ceremony, elephant shows, elephant exhibition, hilltribe performances, games displays and local product sales.
#Songkran Festival and Chiang Saen Boat Racing
When: 13 – 18 April
Where: Chiang Saen
The Thai New Year is celebrated in April nationwide. Chiang Saen also has splashing water ceremony, water bathing ceremony of Phrachao Lanthong Buddha image and boat races of 4 nations, Thailand, Lao, China and Myanmar. The races take place in mighty Mekong River. The festival is added up with fun by cultural performances and beauty pageant.
#Chiang Rai Lychee and Souvenir Fair
Where: Next to Highway Office, by the bride near Kok River, Mueang
Lychee and Souvenir Fair is held annually in May. The fair is filled with fun and features delicious fruits that Chiang Rai is famous for. It also features agricultural product competition, local food competition, agriculture exhibition, Miss Lychee Orchard Contest, pineapple-peeling competition, papaya salad competition, dancing-cooking competition processed food product sales and many more. Lychee lovers can buy them at very reasonable price in the fair.
#The Swing Ceremony
Where: Akha village in chiang rai
This ceremony is held at the end of August until the beginning of September: the origin of swing playing was from “Ja Dare Long” now is China. There were the leaders named “Kha Bar, Ar Pew, Mhor Loh, Loh Seu” and “Khor Bor Ar Pew Eaw Kor Kor Kong”. It is the day that all plants are growing and they are ready to be harvested in the near future. There is the last time for weeding out in the field and wait for the harvest time which is as same as Chor Lar Bar Lar in Akha’s month. The Swing Ceremony is not only the value ceremony but it is also related with Akha’s life style. There were the leaders named “Kha Bar, Ar Pew, Mhor Loh, Loh Seu” and “Khor Bor Ar Pew Eaw Kor Kor Kong”. They were the respectable leaders for Akha and they said that there was The Swing Ceremony for 33 days in “Jar Dare”.
Everyone in this area both the rich and the poor had to prepare the food for celebrating in the festival. This rite is very important for women; therefore, they will dress properly by their ornaments and stuffs which are prepared all year. The dresses show that they are getting older. They are playing the swing and singing the song alone and in pairs. This rite is held for celebrating the plants which are going to be harvested.
After this ceremony is done, there is no more perennial plants are cut for using in the community. However, there is one exception for it; there must be someone in the village dead. During this time is also known as the Akha’s lent because during the ceremony is also the rainy season. In case that there is no rain in any year, it is not good for Akha because it effete to their plants.
Where: Wiang Gean District Office
Pomelo, the famous fruit of Wiang Gaen is made into a festival for all to enjoy its delectable taste. There are competition of different types of pomelo to find the best taste and shape, singing competition, music performance, dances, cultural performances from 7 hilltribes, swinging on the giant swing, top spinning show, local product sales both day and night.
#Music & Arts Festival
Where: On the bank of Kok River, Mueang
This is a beautiful opportunity to appreciate arts and music amidst the natural beauty of Chiang Rai. The festival features music event, photo and painting exhibitions and special food fair which are organised at 7 leading resorts in Chiang Rai, namely Anantara Golden Triangle Resort & Spa, Dusit Island Resort, Le Meridian Chiang Rai Resort, Rimkok Resort Hotel, the Legend Chiang Rai River Resort & Spa, The Mantrini Boutique Resort and The River House Resort & Spa. Each resort can be connected by boat services along Kok River.
#Mountain Biking in 3 Lands, Tour of Mekong
When: September - October
Where: Chiang Khong Thailand, China and Lao
Get fit, be healthy and enjoy the beauty of nature in the mountain bike journey. The tour starts at Chiang Khong in Chiang Rai then the bikes will be carried by ferry to cross Mekong River passing Chiang Kok, Lao PDR to Soploei, Myanmar to Sipsongpanna, China then along the upper Mekong to Thai Lue Chiang Klang Village, Meuang La, Chinese and Lao borders, Natoei Village, Udomsai, Pakmong and last in Luang Phra Bang. The event is organised by Tourism Authority of Thailand and Chiang Rai Administration Office.
#Blooming Bua Tong Festival (Mexican Sunflower)
Where: Hua Mae Kham Village, Mae Fah Luang
A stunning beauty of the hills covered with golden blooms of Mexican Sunflowers is not a boast but you can witness it with your eyes at Hua Mae Kham Village. These flowers bloom only from the beginning of November to the end of the month. The festival also features hilltribe performances, tribal sport competitions, local products and the hilltribe people are dressed in their traditional clothes.
#Sunflower Blossom Festival in Wiang Chiang Rung
When: November - December
Where: Ban Prong, Moo 1, Thung Gor, Wiang Chiang Rung
In the month of November and December of every year, Wiang Chiang Rung organises Sunflower Bloom Festival at sunflower field in Ban Pong Village with the backdrop of verdant mountains. The visit to the sunflower field is arranged with a tour on a Thai vintage truck. The festival also features music performance, cultural shows, dance competition, sunflower painting contest, Aerobic competition, local food sales, various career exhibition by vocational students and many more.
#Chiang Rai Food Festival
Where: Banphaprakran Rd., Amphaoe Mueang
Chiang Rai Food Fair features a wide variety of traditional Lanna (Northern Thai) cuisine, ancient Thai sweets as well as international cuisines at very reasonable prices. During the fair, there are Lanna cultural performances, art shows, concerts from well-known artists, demonstrations, fruit carving and Thai desserts contest, sales of local products (OTOP) from 8 provinces in the region.
#Chiang Rai Flower Festival
When: 26 December - 4 January
Where: Suan Mai Ngam Park, on the bank of Kok River
The colourful flowers of various kinds are on display in Chiang Rai amidst the breezy atmosphere of Kok River, near Chaloem Prakiat Bridge. The stars of the festival are tulips and Lilies. Roses, orchids and other temperate flowers are featured in the festival. There are also beauty pageant, flower processions, flower gardens, Lanna cultural performances as well as evening food market. A number of flower and plant stalls offer their products at reasonable prices.
#Tea, Sakura and Tribal Food Festival of Doi Mae Salong
When: December - January
Where: Ban Satakhiri, Doi Mae Salong
Admire the beauty of Sakura blossom while sipping a nice cup of tea made in Chiang Rai. Organised by Mae Fah Luang and Doi Mae Salong Local Administration Organisation Offices, the festival also features the sales of quality tea, tribal performances, food competition, food cooked with tea leaves competition, singing competition, light and sound presentation. On New Year’s Eve, there are fireworks display, lantern floating and food offering traditions to the monk on the New Year Day.
#Tea and Fresh Coffee-Tasting and Tribal Culture Promotion
When: December - January
Where: Doi Chang, Mae Suai
Doi Chang, a coffee aficionados’s destination, is one of the best coffee plantations in Thailand. During the month of December and January, Mae Suai District Administration invites all to taste the quality coffee of Wawee from Doi Chang in this event. Cultural performances and tribal sport competition are also held to promote and sustain the northern cultures. This is a chance to experience and admire the beauty of the landscape that is filled with temperate flowers in full bloom. What could be better than a cup of coffee and picturesque view!