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Chang Rai sounds like Chang Mai, but it is just a little bit more North. Chang Rai is the most Northern town in Thailand and is in the heart of the golden triangle. Many travelers find them selves staying here for a couple of days while traveling to or from Laos via the Mekong river. It is certainly worth staying in Chang Rai for a few days as there is a renowned market and bazaar and a number of Wats including Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Doi Thong that are all worth a visit. Wat Phra Kaew is famous for it's Emeral Buddha which was found in Bangkok back in A.D. 1434.
There is certainly something about Chang Rai that makes it so popular with people who have been. Some would describe it as a smaller version of Chang Mai but it has certainly got it's own individual qualities about it. Many a traveler who started off in Bangkok and has been in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos while traveling on the Indo China loop will be very happy to return to Thailand and Chiang Rai is a great town to come back to.
You can travel to and from Chang Rai by bus from either Chiang Mai or Pai. Travelers traveling to Loas via the Mekong river will have 2 options, the fast or slow boat The slow boat is a painful 2-3 day journey, which could be very borin depending on who you are sharing the boat with or the other alternative is the fast boat which is a nail biting 7 hour journey in which you hammer it down the Mekong all the way to Luang Prubang in a very loud small speed boat traveling at break neck speeds and wearing a crash helmet. You have very little leg room and sit on nothing more than a thin cushion on a wooden floor, if you have long legs your knees will touch your ears so be warned.
Chiang Rai Thailand Tip:
The night bazaar in Chiang Rai is awesome, some would say that it is perhaps the best in Thailand. After long months of hard traveling through Cambodia, Vietnam and Loas it is a great feeling to get back to Thailand and some decent spicy food. If you have caught the fast boat back, make sure getting a Thai massage is one of the first things you do.