Day trip from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai

Rental car Chiang Mai

My car rental in Chiang Mai, booked through Cheap Car Hire.en*

Exploring northern Thailand by rental car is one of the best travel experiences in Thailand.

This time I wanted to go by car from Chiang Mai via Chiang Rai, to the Golden Triangle, then on to Mae Sai and back to Chiang Mai again. The complete round trip was approx. 650 kilometers (map*) I wanted to cover in one day.

As a rental car I chose a Toyota Altis, which is well suited for this route, it is not too big, offers enough space and is good to drive especially on narrow side roads. The rented car was booked like already often before in Germany over the well-known rented car price comparison portal Billiger-Mietwagen.en*.

From Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai:

To cover this distance in one day, I left Chiang Mai already at 6 o'clock in the morning. Chiang Rai is only about. 260 kilometers from Chiang Mai, due to the fact that the road goes over the mountains and early morning fog is to be expected, you should allow about three to four hours driving time.

A leisurely ferry ride would be appropriate here to enjoy the beautiful views of nature, especially the forests and mountains surrounded by mist offer beautiful photo opportunities:

Fog Chiang Mai

Halfway I stopped at a rest area where there was a lot of tourist kitsch to buy. In the parking lot there were even some hot springs where you could buy eggs for 10 baht to cook them in the hot spring:

hot spring Chiang Rai

Boiled eggs in a hot spring in Thailand

After a small breakfast we continued our journey, driving was really fun, little traffic and the beautiful landscape made the trip a pleasure.

After a total of approx. 4 hours I reached Chiang Rai, where also the first excursion destination was reached: The temple Wat Rong Khun, built in white, which is located just before Chiang Rai.

Street sign Chiang Rai Wat Rong Khun Chiang Rai

Arrival in Chiang Rai:

In Chiang Rai there is a lot to see, but since I had to keep my schedule to be back in Chiang Mai in the evening, I drove 70 kilometers further north to the Golden Triangle, which is located in the small village of Ban Sop Ruak.

Golden Triangle:

The famous Golden Triangle is actually just a viewing platform overlooking the Mekong River and the tri-border area. Souvenir stores and restaurants, which serve for the mass handling of the large tourist groups, may not be missing here also.

But the main attraction of the Golden Triangle is just the view on the Mekong River. The offered boat trips on the Mekong with 50 people on a longtail boat I gave up, because it was too stressful for me. I didn't stay long at the Golden Triangle, it was rather boring, but the view was great. So I quickly bought a T-shirt at the Sovenir stand and drove on to Mae Sai.

Golden Triangle Thailand

From the Golden Triangle to Mae Sai:

From the Golden Triangle we continued to Mae Sai, the northernmost city of Thailand. Only 25 kilometers from Ban Sop Ruak, the border town could be reached in half an hour. The road conditions on this stretch were quite good, even a section that was just renewed was passable:

Road construction Thailand

In Mae Sai itself there is not much to see, except the huge markets, where you can buy all kinds of junk from China for quite cheap prices. The main attraction in Mae Sai is the border crossing to Myanmar, which many long-term tourists use for a visa run. In Mae Sai I stayed for about two hours, watched the hustle and bustle at the border crossing and did some shopping, T-shirts are quite cheap there.

Mae Sai border

Mae Sai border market

Mae Fah Luang Garden:

Since it was early noon, I decided to visit Doi Tung Mountain on the way back to Chiang Rai, which is home to a beautiful park called Mae Fah Luang Garden. The Mae Fah Luang Garden is located about 50 km south of Mae Sai on Doi Tung and can be reached from Mae Sai by car in about an hour's drive.

The entrance fee was 100 baht and well worth the money. A beautiful park on the top of Doi Tung with breathtaking scenery. Since I was up there at the end of November, it is also a bit cool at this altitude, here you should have long pants and a thin jacket in your luggage.

Mae Fah Luang Garden

From Mae Fah Luang we drove back via Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai. I drove the route except for a short stopover, where I arrived back in Chiang Mai at 20:00 in the evening. I did not make much more in the evening, because such a tour is quite strenuous, but also very beautiful. You can see a lot of land& People in the north of Thailand.

Worth a day trip from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai?

To drive the route in one day is a bit exhausting, because you have to keep your schedule. Here an overnight stay in Chiang Rai would be useful to see everything at your leisure. You get to see a lot on the way and apart from the gasoline costs, it is even a cheap trip, because I had paid entrance only in the Mae Fang Luang garden, the rest was all for free.