Getting There and Around
Chiang Rai has a small airport, located about 10 minutes out of town. Daily flights from Bangkok and Chiang Mai are operated by Thai Airways. A taxi into town costs ca. 250 Baht (700 Baht to the Imperial or the Baan Born Hotel at the Golden Triangle). Some hotels offer shuttle buses.
You can also drive to Chiang Rai from Chiang Mai - a good road leads to it. The trip takes about 4 to 5 hours and is very nice - a good opportunity to observe normal, everyday Lanna life.
In Chiang Rai and other towns in the province tuk-tuks (trishaws) and songthaews (a kind of collect taxi) are available for transportation, if you want to visit places outside the town areas you will need a car or a motor bike.
The best time to visit is from November to April (April is already very hot) - while the vegetation is lusher in the rainy season and more trees and flowers are in bloom, the air is clearer in the dry season and the mountains views are better.
The climate is much cooler than in the rest of the country and for this reason it is very popular with people from Bangkok who like to vacation there or even have weekend homes.
It is not really cold, however, except on the highest mountains.
In general, the Thai are friendly and polite, and you should try to act the same way. It is very bad behavior to start loud arguments or challenge someone in public. Harsh criticism, shouting, or other displays of anger or rage will not get you anywhere in Thailand. A person's head is considered sacred and it is an insult to touch it. The feet, on the other hand, are considered very impure, and you should never point at a person, or a religious object with a foot or step over somebody. The king of Thailand and royal family are held in genuine respect by the people and you should never speak derogatively about them or act disrespectfully with regard to them (for instance, never step on a Thai bank note - it depicts the head of the king. People have been known to be arrested for this!)
It is still unusual for a female tourist to travel alone, but you will probably not run into any problem because of it. The Thai women themselves have considerable influence, especially in business life, and are respected members of society. A tip: observe the Thai "dress code" - long skirts or pants, shoulders covered, everything clean and ironed. It will help you to get along with the locals.
The standard of hygiene in first class hotels is in general o.k., but you should not drink the tap water (though it can be used for teeth brushing). The better hotels provide bottled drinking water for free. You should be careful with the food from food stalls or in simple restaurants. Eat only things that have been thoroughly cooked and are served really hot. The large amounts of chili that are part of nearly every Thai dish may have a disinfecting effect, but you should not rely on this! (The people themselves are nearly always neat and clean, but sometimes they use dirty water for dishwashing, etc.) Northern Thailand is still a malaria area, so consult you doctor before your trip. (You can look up details about Prevention of Malaria Infection at the web site of the University of Leicester). Vaccinations against tetanus, hepatitis, and salmonella infections are also advisable.
Thai Cuisine is very spicy and includes curries, stir fried dishes, interesting salads (e.g. a salad made of pomelo with shrimps), and of course many rice and noodle dishes.
A large variety of sweets, most of them based on rice flour and coconut milk are produced. If you have a "sweet tooth" Thailand definitely is your place! A favourite Thai dessert is Sweet Sticky Rice with Mango, or you can try a platter of sliced local fruit like pomelo, melon, pineapple, rose apple, papaya, etc. (By the way, Thai food recipes can also be found on the Internet).
Thailand is generally considered a safe country. Of course there is criminality, but it is unlikely that you will encounter it. The worst that could happen to you is that you get pick pocketed. Something else that happens quite frequently is that touts wait in front of major sightseeing spots, approach the visitors and claim that the temple etc. is closed. Instead, they offer to take you to a jewelry or carpet shop where, you guessed it, sensational "special deals" are available - only today, of course. Just ignore these people.
As everywhere, of course, it is better to avoid carrying large amounts of cash; credit cards or travelers checks are preferable.
Trekking and hiking tours should only be tried in the company of experienced guides. You might unknowingly cross the often unmarked border to Burma (Myanmar). The Thai side is safe, but beyond the border the land is under the control of the drug lords, a lawless country where no one, neither the Thai nor the Burmese government can help you. This is no exaggeration, so please take this advice seriously.
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Last Updated 10.02.2007