Chiang Rai, founded as the capital of the Lannathai kingdom in 1262 AD, has become the capital of Northern Thailand. This animated city is on the edge of the Ping River. Some Thailand travellers have noted that the city seems to have more motorbikes than inhabitants. Popular destinations in Chiang Rai include Meo Baan Huay Luk Chiang Dao Cave, Mae Kok River, the Long Neck hill tribe villages, the Akha hill tribe villages, and the river confluence known as the “Golden Triangle”. Thai tours also come here for Chiang Rai’s unique spiritual history: it was here that Thailand’s most revered Buddha figure, the Emerald Buddha, was discovered in 1432.
The Akha Hill Tribe
The Akha are an ethnic group from China and Tibet. Most of the
remaining Akha population lives in small villages distributed along
the mountains of China, Laos, Myanmar (Burma) and northern
Thailand, where they are one of the six main hill tribes. About
80,000 Akhas live in Thailand's northern provinces of Chiang Rai
and Chiang Mai at high altitudes. Tourists can visit many of these
villages on trekking tours from either one of these cities. They
speak a language in the Tibeto-Burman family.
An Akha village consists of bamboo houses on low wooden stilts with traditional thatched roofs. The Akha are expert farmers and hunters. In more touristy areas, the Akha supplement their income through the sale of handicrafts and woven clothing made using traditional skills.
The Karen-Paduang Hill Tribe
The Karen-Paduang (long neck) hill tribe originated from the KayaState in Myanmar
(Burma), but many fled to northern Thailand during the 20th century. They speak a
language that belongs to the Kenmic group in the Tibeto-Burman language family.
Karen-Paduang women wear brass rings around their necks. These do not actually
make their necks longer, but distort the image of their neck to look longer. Grown
Karen-Paduang women wear up to 20 rings, and start adding them as early as age
The Mekong River
The MaeKok River flows into northern Thailand from Burma just
north of Thaton. This river forms the border with Laos. In the past,
the Thaton area was a busy trading post thanks to its convenient
location on the river. Now, boat services carry passengers, especially
on Thai tours, more than cargo. The cruise takes Thai travellers
through scenic areas by hill tribes and bathing elephants.