Last updated 2008-02-11
Chiang Rai has an expatriate population that appreciate the quiet, laid back atmoshphere of this little northern city. Quiet, stress free streets, incredibly friendly locals and warm atmoshphere make a winning combination for those in search of the quiet life. However, Chiang Rai is not the traffic free place of years ago when the only smells were buffalo dung and incense... The two stroke moped and pick up trucks also add to the atmosphere in contemporary Chiang Rai, yet it's still a better choice than Chiang Mai by far if you need to get away from it all.
The expat numbers are much lower than in nearby Chiang Mai and the farang oriented bars and clubs are noticeably absent, making for a much more 'Thai' exparience. The winters are often quite cool and it's not unusual to see light coats being worn, especially at night when on the back of a motorbike. That said, as I write this article, it is a very sunny and hot Feburary afternoon.
It's close proximity to Burma, Laos and the not so distant China make a fascinating cultural mix and many of the street signs are tri-lingual. There is not a great deal to do in what is an unremarkeable place but that's primarily what people love about it. Beyond the city limits, there are rich forests, rivers, and mountains to explore with trekking and golf to entertain and relax. This is life in the slow lane for the laid back expat. It's safe, quiet and clean.
There is even an international airport just 15 minutes out of town if you need to go anywhere in a hurry. There are a few supermarkets for the luxury items, all the major Thai banks are represented and the low cost of housing and day to day living make it a very attractive long term option. There are plenty of cheap but clean hotels available while you look for a place to live, or you can stay long term in a serviced apartment for far less than Chiang Mai or Bangkok.