Chiang Rai attracts more and more visitors each year, and it's easy to see why. Six hill tribes—the Akha, Yao, Meo, Lisu, Lahu, and Karen—all live within Chiang Rai Province. Each has different dialects, customs, handicrafts, and costumes, and all still venerate animist spirits despite their increasing acquaintance with the outside world. You can learn about their cultures and lives at a museum in town, and as in Chiang Mai, they make daily journeys to the markets of Chiang Rai, where you can meet them and enjoy their handiwork. The best of the markets is a night bazaar, just off Phaholyothin Road, which has a cluster of small restaurants and food vendors.
Despite having luxury hotels and sufficient restaurants and bars to keep night owls happy, Chiang Rai comes off as quieter and less flashy than Chiang Mai, and therein many find its charm. It's also a city with far more greenery, a pleasant contrast to Chiang Mai. Climbing to the top of Doi Tong, a modest hill on the northeastern edge of Chiang Rai, is a great way to learn the lay of the land. From the grounds of the 13th-century Wat Doi Tong, you'll have a fine view of the Mae Kok River and the mountains beyond.