Although having existed somewhat in the shadow of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai is rapidly moving ahead. This northern outpost is sprawled along the south bank of the Kok River and it’s a great gateway to hilltribe trekking and perfect for a spot of handicraft shopping.
Chiang Rai was founded in 1263 by King Mengrai of Ngon Yang. Tradition has it that the city prevailed as capital of the north for 30 years, although historians now believe Mengrai moved his court directly from Ngon Yang to Chiang Mai in the 1290s.
Thailand’s two holiest images, the Emerald Buddha and the Phra Singh Buddha once resided here, although now replicas can be seen here.