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Geography & Climate  



Chiang Rai province is Thailandís northernmost province situated between north latitude 14º and east longitude 49º. It covers an area of some 11,678 sq km making it the twelfth largest province. The provincial capital, Chiang Rai city, is approximately 785 km north of the nationís capital, Bangkok.

Similar to other Thai provinces, Chiang Rai is administratively divided into Amphoes or districts and King Amphoes or sub-districts. There are thirteen in total as follows; Muang, Chiang Kong, Chiang Saen, Mae Chan, Mae Sai, Mae Suai, Pa Daet, Phan, Thoeng, Wiang Pa pao, Wiang Chai, Phaya Mengrai, Wiang Kaen and three sub-districts of Mae Fa Luang, Khun Tan and Mae Lao.

For a long time Chiang Rai province remained isolated from the rest of Thailand. Such isolation, however, has afforded the province itís unique culture, as well as making it one of the countryís most rural of areas.

Chiang Rai province is bordered to the north by the neighbouring countries of Myanmar and Laos. The Myanmar border is mountainous, cleaving Myanmar from Thailand, with the Sop Ruak River converging with the Mekong River at Thailandís peak. The border with Laos is formed by the natural boundary that the Mekong River takes, as it travels south before heading further inland towards the Laotian town of Luang Prapang. To the west is Chiang Mai province, with Lampang province to the south and Phayao province to the south and southeast.

The general landscape consists of a large fertile plain, set within a midst of crisp and scenic mountain ranges. These form into a pan shape with elevations at approximately 580 m above sea level.

In 1995, the total land area of Chiang Rai province was classified as follows:

Forest land - 33.1%
Farm land - 30.8%
Unclassified land Ė 36.1%

Although over 30% of the land area is officially classed as farmland, only about 19% is really considered suitable for cultivation Ė and most of the cultivatable area is located along the Phaholyothin highway, which runs through the districts of Phan, Muang and Mae Chan and ends in Mae Sai.

Chiang Rai province is also home to the Doi Luang National Park and the Doi Mae Salong mountains. The most important waterway and transportation artery is the scenic 130 km long Mae Kok River that flows from neighbouring Chiang Mai province. The River flows through the town of Tha Ton (180 km north of Chiang Maiís provincial capital) and passes by several hilltribe settlements and elephant camps, until it reaches and passes through the heart of Chiang Rai city. Long-tailed boats make the three-hour plus journey every day.


Similar to Chiang Mai and because of its higher elevations, the climate in Chiang Rai province is generally somewhat cooler when compared to the rest of the country. However, there are still three distinct seasons; the hot season, the rainy season and the cool season. The mean temperature in 1997 was 24.5º C.

Throughout the winter months, nighttime temperatures can drop considerably from the average daytime figures. At other times during the year, day and night temperatures do not vary significantly.

In Chiang Rai, the monsoon or rainy season starts around May and ends in October - earlier than in Central Thailand. Average daytime temperature is 25.5° C. The average rainfall in Chiang Rai is considerably higher than its neighbour, Chiang Mai province. So much so that during the months of August and September, (when rainfall is heaviest), many of the streets throughout the province will flood. At most other times the rain will normally fall sporadically.

Annual rainfall (1997) - 1,645.4 mm
Number of days rain (1997) - 132 days

The Cool Season lasts from late October until the end of February with temperatures ranging from 13° C to 28° C. Average daytime temperature is 21º C, but cooler at night - especially in the hills and mountains. The coldest months are December and January.

The Hot Season begins at the end of March and lasts until the end of May, with temperatures ranging between 17° C and 36° C. The hottest month is April. Average daytime temperature is around 29.9º C.

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